What made DC one of the biggest East Coast startup hubs?

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Our town has not always been as lively as it is today. If you or your family lived in the capital just two or three decades ago, you may have some memories of an older, quieter DC where the most exciting industry was… the federal government. That Washington is a far cry from the mecca for tech and service startups we see today.

What changed? Not as much as you’d think. DC’s rise to startup prominence was caused by a confluence of good ideas and pre-existing demographic advantages. Here are three of the biggest factors.

Educated People

The DC metro area is home to an unusually high number of universities, many of them quite respected. As a result of this, the city has a large concentration of certified smart people walking around– one of the highest concentrations of PhD’s per capita in the nation, for example. In an environment full of intellectuals with exciting ideas, a vibrant startup industry is bound to develop.

Great Local Accelerators

Much of the 2010s startup boom has been made possible by effective incubators. Many industry legends, such as Dropbox and Airbnb, grew up in these specialized shared offices. DC and its satellite cities are home to several accelerators with impressive success rates, such as 1776 and Affinity Labs.

The DC Startup Vanguard

Many strategic thinkers want to see proof-of-concept before they invest themselves in a project. Among the reasons for the development of a startup market in the DC area are the success stories of local startup pioneers like LivingSocial, Blackboard, and Everfi. These early adopters of the DC scene have brought publicity and credibility to the idea of a tech/service industry capital in our nation’s capital.

In many ways, the business renaissance that’s underway in DC was inevitable. The conditions and resources in our city were too good for this not to happen. As a result, Washington entrepreneurs now find themselves in an invigorating environment full of bold ideas, enticing opportunities, and challenging competition.

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