We Did It! Awesome Washington, DC No.1 on Forbes List Of America’s New Tech Hotspots

Washington DC tech hub

Back in December of 2009, Elias Shams launched AwesomeDC blog with mainly One MISSION to accomplish:  To wipe out  all those Politics, corruption, and scandals crap from the face of Washington, DC.  Then to position the Nation’s capital as a city of technology, partying, clubbing and fun! Mainly  as a Tech hub. Read the 2nd paragraph right below the video of his interview with CNN where he says “My intention with this blog is to show the world Washington, DC is much more than just Politics, corruption, and scandals. Frankly, I am not sure of that myself either, but I will try  I will be covering everything happening in awesome DC, with the focus on the technology, parties, clubs, events, and of course the awesome Washingtonians” Read more of this post

If You Build It Awesome…They Will Come

Minus the “Awesome” part, this was the line from the 1989 classic movie “Field of Dreamsthat inspired me to become a risk taker and an entrepreneur that eventually drove me to build telezoo.com in 1999 and awesomzie.me in 2011. Certainly people are coming… I’ve included a few of them all the way at the end of this article:

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Awesome Washingtonian of the Day Aug 31, 2010

Name: MarK Walsh
Live in: Maryland
Originally from: Charm City, or, as you non-natives call it, Baltimore

Profession: co-founder and ceo of GeniusRocket and local angel-investor

What I love about DC area the most: Change.  To the rest of the world it seems like a stodgy, entrenched city.  But, I think it has a constant flow of amazing people from all over the world coming here, and people from here go out all over the world.  It is one of the most interesting combinations of local/global I have ever seen.   Oh… and GO CAPS!

About me: I got into the internet business in 1986, before most people even knew it existed.  It has never failed to entertain, enthrall, and sometimes shock me.  I love my job and my career.  Read more of this post

Tips for Marketing your Business via Online Video

Here are five great tips I just read on an  article by Morgan Brown on Reelseo about how to market your business using online video:

  1. “Aim for Authentic, Actionable Content”

You’re looking to be genuine and personal. If you don’t believe in the message you’re portraying, then no one will. You also don’t want to come off as being corporate but rather want to show the human side of your company so that your viewers can better connect with your products or services. Lastly, keep the video somewhere between 15 to 120 seconds in length. People get bored quickly, so you want to keep it short so as to keep them intrigued and interested for the entirety of the video.

  1. “Optimize Video for Google Search”

Using video to market your business will help you climb the rankings on Google. Video will always beat out plain text and has a 50 times better chance of getting to the top of the search. Read more of this post

The George Washington University Entrepreneurship Seminar

Elias Shams
Here is the full coverage of the GW SEAS Seminars on Entrepreneurship last month. The panelists were:

. Mark Walsh, my former investor and board member at searchles
. Doug Humphrey
– my former board member at Telezoo.com
. Marie-Louise Murville
– my former VP of Marketing at Telezoo.com
. Dan Gordon with the local VC firm, Vallhala Partners

Excellent tips and guidance by all four of them.

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The Love Fest At The George Washington University This Week

Elias Shams
As part of  the great initiative by the George Washington University to boost entrepreneurship in the region, their  School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) will host the third of the four SEAS Seminars on Entrepreneurship this week.

The main topic will be “access to capital“. The discussion will be topics ranging from getting an idea off the ground to accessing start-up capital, and will feature successful entrepreneurs working in many different fields. Here is the good part – the Awesome panelists I have personal stories with. read more…

Washington DC Potomac River vs. California Silicon Valley

Every one is talking about change these days. As a serial entrepreneur who would like to position our nation’s capital as the technology hub and center for entrepreneurship, I have been thinking of the changes I would like to see take place.

My proposed changes are based on my educational and professional background as a Washingtonian since 1986 – working for startups like Yurie Systems (acquired by Lucent for $1.23 Billion in 1998), Newbridge Networks (acquired by Alcatel for $440 million in 1999), working for a several government contractors, and dealing with a wide range of both venture capitalists and angel investors while raising a total of $7 million for my two internet businesses B2B telecom marketplace Telezoo in 1999 and social media & search company Searchles in 2006.

Let me address the problems first before I start talking change.

If you contact our census bureau, they will tell you that DC has the second highest technology population after Silicon Valley. In addition, we have the nation’s highest concentration of advanced and post graduate degrees – meaning there are more entrepreneurs in DC with advanced degrees than in Silicon Valley. So then, why are Washingtonians not even close to Silicon Valley in terms of technology, funded startups, and investment opportunities? Three reasons:

1. Our local media companies have not been particularily supportive of the little startups these past ten years. Take the Washington Post as a classic example – they don’t provide enough coverage of our local small ventures. They mostly cover the big boys with deeper pockets, possibly in anticipation of future advertising revenue. And when they do cover a couple of the larger players like Sprint Nextel or AOL, their coverage is hardly positive. They do a good job covering government contractors though, which I think explains why 80% of all businesses in our town originate from the US government and why our government ends up buying products and services that are “proven” and have been operational for years.

The other reason I think our local media holds back from covering the little guys is their bad experience from covering startups prior to the 2001 bubble. We all know what happened then – most of them ended up shutting down. Our media may have simply concluded that it wasn’t worth their while covering startups with no future. If that is the case, it is worth noting that the same situation existed in Silicon Valley during the Web 1.0 era. But you didn’t see it stop their local media from covering the startups popping up throughout their region.

2. Our VC (Venture Capital) Community has never been as involved with their portfolio companies. Their classic mistake is asking entrepreneurs the financial and business model question during the very first meeting.

Don’t bother. Most first-time, young entrepreneurs lack business and financial experience. They typically have an idea and have built only the prototype. If interested, like most VCs in Silicon Valley, you need to a) Do your own part to evaluate the market and its potential for the product, and b) Tap into your rolodex and help them bring in the business-minded management team to execute the company’s vision. This way, the entrepreneur/founder focuses on the technology. So, spare them the business questions. Unless they intend to stay as the CEO or you intend for them to stay on as the CEO.

3. There have been only a few great local entrepreneurs from Web 1.0 era like Mark Walsh, Steve Case and Doug Humphrey helping new entrepreneurs in the Web 2.0 climate, but given the number of potential entrepreneurs our local schools – University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Virginia Tech – matriculate annually, we need many more successful mentors active in the community. This “grooming” deficit has contributed to a shortage in quality managers who are supposed to run our region’s emerging growth companies.

I believe a combination of these factors have been killing the culture of risk that existed in the 80’s and 90’s in the DC area. We tend to be more conservative on this cost anyway – it doesn’t help that a budding entrepreneur coming out of our finest universities has to weigh the benefits of operating solo in this unpromising environment with tossing his/her hat in with an established firm offering a good starting salary. Referring to my earlier comment about DC with highest concentration in the country of advanced and post graduate degrees compare to the people in Silicon Valley, think about it. Why would someone who has invested many years of his or her life in an advanced degree program, wants to risk it to start a new company as supposed to working for a well established company with a much higher pay. It is easier for a person to take such risk if he/she has not gone through all that years of schooling. just a thought.

In terms of a solution, we need some robust team work between our universities, VCs, local media, bloggers and the Gov 2.0 folks. Here is my message to each one of them:

1. Local media – in particular, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, and Washingtonians – large and small alike – need to place more value on coverage of startups. They may not have the advertising dollars to help your revenue stream initially, but with your support, many of them will in future. So, think big PLEASE. We need you as much as you need us.

2. The VC community needs to lighten focus on Excel spread sheets and la-la land exit strategies and hone in on ideas, technology, market potential and entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi. Do your homework on our inventions and craft your own analysis of its business potential. Then, use your own business and financial experience to identify key executive hires like the CEO, CFO and VP of sales. As an entrepreneur – particularly a first time entrepreneur – don’t depend on our vision of an exit strategy to close your deal. We have probably never done it, and are dreaming a Google dream on your dime.

3. Washingtonian Bloggers… if our online media and VCs drop the ball, it is your job and mine to create the buzz desperately needed by our startups – blog, baby, blog. Stay positive though. We need to work with our local universities on this.

4. Local universities – particularity the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University – all offer some sort of entrepreneurial program. Well, please ramp it up. I myself am a member of the GWU NAC (George Washington University National Advisory Council) and am working on several initiatives on this matter.

5. Washingtonian Gov 2.0 gurusMark Drapeau, Alec Ross, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra – you heard the problem. There’s a way to figure out how Gov 2.0 efforts and initiatives can fundamentally shake up DC’s startup environment, and there are some best-practice examples across the country for you to draw on. Do it quickly and efficiently please. Our region needs an injection of entrepreneurial opportunity, fast.

I look forward to working with all of you to make our nation’s capital a truly Awesome technology town.

For start, someone has to tell our DC CTO, Chris Willey to smile a little bit when giving speech in front of a large audience or speak with enthusiasm as supposed to putting them to sleep 🙂

Feel free to connect with me via awesomize.me

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The Rocketeers in GeniusRocket

One Washington, DC based company certainly deserves the buzz, is GeniusRocket founded back in 2007 by the internet pioneer Washingtonian, Mark Walsh, the founding CEO of Air America, the former CEO of VerticalNet, and Internet adviser for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., during his presidential campaign in 2004. Advertising is in Mark Walsh’s DNA. Both his father and mother come from similar background.

First time, I heard about Mark, was back in 2000 when he was heading VerticalNet and I was heading my first internet company, telezoo.com. His company offered me $20 m for mine and I wish I had took it. In stead, I made the classic first time entrepreneur decision – the wrong one of course. I will spare you all with the details. In a nut shell, I was an idiot for turning it down.

So, now that you know my connection with Mark, back to his present amazing company, GeniusRocket. The company is the destination for all your creative marketing needs because it uses crowd sourcing – tapping the wisdom of the masses for ideas and solutions, rather than paying high-priced agencies to do that work. It’s like “American Idol.” If the talent is out there, a wide casting call gives it the chance to rise to the top. Believe me, it is all true. I am saying that from my own personal experience when I was heading my D.C based social search company, Searchles.

They have about 13,000 Creative artists who have registered for free on GeniusRocket’s site as “creative collaborators.” Businesses like mine who need creative talent issue project proposals known as RFB (Requests For Brilliance), attach prize money and open the competitions. Here are the steps on their site.

Prior learning more about GeniusRocket services, I spent about three month meeting and talking with various traditional advertising & marketing companies about the right online video we wanted for Searchles. We needed something to position searchles the right way in the world of Google, facebook, and Digg. The price quotes we received from the companies were from $25k to $45k. With limited budget we had in the bank, paying that kind of money was totally out of question. Not to mention the time it would take them to create it for us. With a small fraction of the price quotes from traditional marketing media companies, we got the following videos made by four different creative collaborators of GeniusRocket in two weeks:

SearchlesSocial Threesome Game Show

Searchles Music Video

What Brought the Social Threesome Together

A Very Social Threesome

Based on the votes from their audience and of course our own taste, we picked the first one titled “Searchles – Social Threesome Game Show”

They have been adding more cool stuff since then. They recently launched a new service called GeniusRocket Select. It is “curated crowdsourcing” which means before anyone creates anything, they are screened for their concept and ability, and only then the small few that meet your creative needs are able to move forward with direct feedback during the production process.

As for what GeniusRocket gets out of this, they take 20 percent of the total award.

So, if you are going through the same challenge I was going through two years ago, I strongly suggest you give them a try. They worth every penny.

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