April 18, 2017

The Signature Program Class of 2017 came together at 1776 in Crystal City for its Entrepreneurship Day – a program all about taking risks and encouraging diverse growth for the region’s future.

Our program began with breakfast and a warm welcome from Angie Fox (’03), President and CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District – our sponsor for the event – who discussed the development of Crystal City to create an all-needs-met community supportive of entrepreneurs in the region. We also heard from Evan Burfield, Co-Founder and CEO of 1776 – a local startup incubator – who shared their mission and work to support the next wave of business innovators in Greater Washington.

Next, LGW turned to a passionate debate between Johnathan Aberman (’15) and Mark Walsh about the advantages of driving innovation in Greater Washington over Silicon Valley, advantaged by this region’s proximity to financial resources, diverse talent driving innovation, the federal legislature, and major research institutions. We also explored latent sexism within the startup and investment cultures.

Osiris Hoil, Co-Owner and CEO of District Taco, joined us before lunch and presented leaders with his experience building the brand from an idea into a successful business that now employs over 400 people across the region, and in Philadelphia now as well. District Taco also provided our Signature Program class with the opportunity to sample their delicious tacos for lunch.

Signature Program leaders then headed out of the 1776 offices to tour TechShop, a cooperative workshop with over $1 Million in tools and resources offered to community creators as place to build prototypes for businesses, work on industrial projects, and access expert support in metal fabrication and design, woodworking, sewing, laser cutting, and even 3D Printing.

When we returned to 1776, Tien Wong (’15), a serial innovator, introduced three start-up leaders to the Signature Class of 2017 for a Shark Tank-inspired session to present new companies and ventures borne in the region. Jenna Reese introduced her app Untangle to help consumers source health and beauty products, as well as expert recommendations for their proper use; Dr. John Holaday demonstrated his product DisposeRx for safely disposing of prescription drugs; Sarah Photowat was joined by her two sons, Aidan and Daniel, to share Immigrant’s Nightmare, a board game created by 10 year-old Aidan to teach about immigration issues in a fun way. Each pitch was followed by a question and answer period where class members vetted the proposals through questions and gave feedback to their developers.

WeWork Crystal City welcomed the class for a closing reception and tour of WeWork/WeLive, where leaders mixed, mingled, and reflected on the day’s major themes. 

As a reminder, applications for the Signature Program Class of 2018 are due at 5:00 PM on Friday, April 7, 2017. More information about the Signature Program and its application process is available here.