Time to support Innovation in Washington, D.C, not Milking the Government


Washington, D.C. has the money, we have the top universities, we have smart coders spin off the AOL, we are recession-proof,  we have ton of smart tech people in the region…We have all these, but why the hell have we been struggling to position Washington, D.C. as a technology hub? Although, we have Clearspring, OPower, LivingSocial, ComScore, Micros Systems, PointAbout, the creators of AppMakr and AOL, and of course awesomize.me 🙂 but will they be able to position DC like the way Google, Facebook, and others defined Silicon Valley?

I sort of addressed the problem back in December of last year, but I am sure there are more to this.  So, I just felt like addressing a few more challenges or obstacles hoping the local investors read this and do something about it.

We need to define DC tech scene more than just top secret clearances, government contracts and billing hours. These are NOT innovation. Clearance locks you in. Maintaining Top Secret/SCI clearance requires you to continue work in that field. You can always get reinstated, but it’s a pain. Once you get a TS job, you have strong disincentives to get out of the game.

Although, we have the largest educated population in the country and perhaps even the world, but regretfully,  it’s geared toward milking the government; not toward producing value or innovation.

Come to think of it, that’s how Yurie systems started their business – government contractor. As an employee number 8, we started milking the Pentagon by building them a proprietary video protocol to support US servicemen in Bosnia via UAV predator back in mid 90s, but then we went commercial in 97, and finally Lucent bought us in 1998 for over $1.23 B when we had the revenue of only $51 m (23x) 🙂  But then again, that was the pre-bubble days 😦

As you can see, it’s going to be very difficult to build a robust high tech scene from scratch in DC area when you are competing for talent against Government contractors.

On the positive side, I believe the DC Entrepreneurial scene is definitely growing. Thanks to the Entrepreneurial programs initiatives by a few of our local universities including the George Washington University that I have been involved with, University of Maryland, DC tech event meetup, and in particular the DC Founder Institute I previously covered.

Feel free to connect with me via awesomize.me

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and telezoo.com that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @ awesomize.me

2 Responses to Time to support Innovation in Washington, D.C, not Milking the Government

  1. Thanks for the positive testimony, Elias!

    We’re definitely amazed by all the great talent we come into contact with here in the region!

    By the way, 1410Q (http://1410Q.com) will be hosting a StartUp/Investor mixer in early september. If you know of any orgs that are in the market for various levels of prospective funding, please have them shoot me an email and we will consider and invite for anyone that’s interested.

    Keep doing what you do!

  2. Jim Howard says:

    Elias: Thanks for mentioning the role GW is playing in helping to foster entrepreneurship in the DC area. You have been a big part of it. On October 26, here on the GW Foggy Bottom Campus, we launch our second year of Entrepreneurship Seminars, hosted by the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science. These are free and open to the public are geared toward anyone who has started a business, is thinking of starting a business, is an investor, or who just wants to learn more about entrepreneurship and meet some great people. Please stay tuned to our website (www.seas.gwu.edu) for details, or send me an email at jphoward@gwu.edu to get on our email list. Keep up the great work, Elias!

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