Ecosystem: Washington DC

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Ecosystem: Washington DC
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Project Information
Has title Ecosystem: Washington DC
Has owner Elisabeth "Libby" Bassini
Has start date 2019/03/12
Has deadline date 2019/03/28
Has project status Active
Subsumed by: Incubators in Five Ecosystems
Has sponsor Kauffman Incubator Project
Has project output Content
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Research Pages

Obstacles in Finding Incubators in the Washington DC Ecosystem

Process Notes for Identifying Incubators in the DC Ecosystem

Spreadsheet with Process Notes for Identifying Incubators in the Washington DC Ecosystem with Incubator List

Introduction to the Washington DC Project

This page shows the progress, findings, and relevant information on the Washington DC Project that belongs to Kauffman Incubator Project. Washington DC for this project includes: Washington, D.C.; Arlington, Virginia; Alexandria, Virginia; Bethesda, Maryland; Fairfax, Virginia; Frederick, Maryland; Gaithersburg, Maryland; Reston, Virginia; Rockville, Maryland; Silver Spring, Maryland (Principal Cities of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area).

For additional information on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Washington DC, please refer to the following reports: Rise of the Startup City; Innovation that Matters; and Kauffman Indicators or Entrepreneurship. Since most DC incubators are government-funded, university-funded, or both, most do not directly provide seed funding or other resources to their clients, but connect their clients to existing government resources for services, such as mentoring and seed funding (i.e. Example DC Government-Funded Incubator).

Information regarding incubators in Washington DC can be found on the Economic Development Council websites for each of the cities within the Washington DC metropolitan area: Rockville; Bethesda-Maryland; Washington DC; Arlington.

What is the assessment of the performance of that ecosystem for entrepreneurship?

Analysis: Washington DC has largely been assessed as a low-performing ecosystem for entrepreneurship, in particular for the success of privately-owned incubators. Privately-owned incubators have difficulty succeeding in Washington DC due to a variety of factors, including: the complexity of arranging funding from public and private sector partners due to the metropolitan area spanning two states and the District; the difficulty of meeting target objectives for funding due to the complexity of determining metrics, such as job creation, in each state. More information.

Poor Early-Stage Capital Investment. A 2017 study conducted by a large DC incubator in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Washington DC as 23rd out of 25 in terms of entrepreneurship, 23rd in density of startups, 20th in talent, 13th in culture, 18th in capital, 14th in industry specialization, and 19th in connectivity. In particular, the report found that DC has relatively low levels of total capital investment and investment in next wave startups relative to other cities. Previous annual reports by these same organizations have found that DC has been declining in its ranking for entrepreneurship, rather than improving.

Lower Venture Capital Availability Per Capita. A separate 2018 study led by the non-partisan Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE) designated DC as an ‘Advanced Global Startup Hub,’ which is the third tier and is comprised of seven other hubs in the U.S. (Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Raleigh-Durham) (pp. 8). This designation is based on Washington DC performing in the top 10 percent of startup hubs globally, but lacking the level of activity, growth, or balance to rank among the Elite (pp. 39). DC ranked 16th out of the 50 global cities for venture capital deals (pp. 49). Between 2015 and 2017, Washington DC had a total of 660 venture capital deals (1.3% share of global total), according to PitchBook, out of the total 50,704 (pp. 49). As a point of comparison, San Francisco had 4,900 total deals during this time period (9.7% share of global total) (pp. 49). Moreover, Washington DC ranked 19th in Capital Invested ($M) (2015-17) with $4,359M invested during this time period in comparison to the global total of $512,097M and San Francisco’s total of $81,808M (pp. 52). However, DC ranked poorly (47th out of 50) in number of venture deals per 1M residents and ranked 39th out of 50 in venture capital invested per capita (pp. 58). These findings suggest that DC has a great deal of venture capital activity to fund the entrepreneurship ecosystem, but the lower ranking in venture capital per capita suggests that DC’s higher amount of venture capital funding is normal for a city of its population size.

High Levels of Entrepreneurship in Biotech & Culinary Industries. I have observed that the Washington, DC metropolitan area has incubators, accelerators, and shared workspaces concentrated in the biotech and culinary industries. A.) Biotech: Biotech entrepreneurship is primarily found in Bethesda, MD and Rockville, MD and these areas are ranked highly nationally in biotech. This prestige in the biotech space can be attributed to the number of federal research facilities and BioHealth-focused agencies located in Bethesda and Rockville and the number of strong, local research-focused universities, such as Johns Hopkins University. However, recent 2015 reports by the U.S. Economic Development Administration found that these areas are very highly ranked in research and development, but are lowly ranked in terms of business creation (IPOs) from this research, partially due to low-levels of seed stage investment in the area. B.) Culinary: Culinary entrepreneurship is primarily concentrated in the city limits of Washington, DC. DC has 6 food-focused accelerators and incubators, including Mess Hall, Union Kitchen, Tastemakers, Eatsplace, and Tastelab. Moreover, DC has the DC Food Policy Council, which identifies regulatory burdens for local food businesses and entrepreneurs.

Most Incubators Are Affiliated with Larger National Incubator Networks or Are Government/University-Backed. I found that most incubators in the DC metropolitan area are government-supported (i.e. FedTech and the Rockville Innovation Center) or are university-affiliated (i.e. MEC Fairfax, In3, and the AU Entrepreneurship Incubator). I noticed that most incubators unaffiliated with a government entity or a university were usually a part of a larger national incubator network (i.e. 1776 and the Global Development Incubator). I identified very few incubators that existed solely in DC that were not university or government-affiliated, except culinary incubators. While are there are relatively few incubators, Washington DC has many accelerators.

Sources: Rise of the Startup City; Innovation that Matters; Kauffman Indicators or Entrepreneurship; Innovation that Matters Spreadsheet; Central Maryland Biohealth Innovation Index; and 2014 Innovation Brief.

What are the factors of performance of the Washington, DC ecosystem?

Metrics primarily fall into four categories: 1. Capital; 2. Talent; 3. Startup Density/Culture; 4. Startup Success. Common metrics used to assess entrepreneurial performance for DC include: 1. Capital: Annual number of venture capital deals; Annual venture capital invested ($M); Total investments in all startups and next-wave startups; Annual venture capital invested ($M) per 1M residents; Annual venture capital invested per capita; 2. Talent: Number of R1 Institutions (Very High Research Institutions); Percentage of educated millennials; Percentage of millennials in urban areas and percentage change of millennials in urban areas from 2000 to 2016; Percentage year-over-year change in educated millennials; 3. Startup Density/Culture: Number of startups; Percentage of startups to total population; Percent of new entrepreneurs who created a business by choice instead of necessity; Percent of population that starts a new business; Number of next-wave startups; Percentage of next-wave startups to total startups; 4. Startup Success: Average number of jobs created by startups in their first year (normalized by population); Unlocked capital ratio for all startups and next-wave startups; Exit count of all startups and next-wave startups); Rate of startup growth (jobs created by startups over a five-year time period); Number of startup acquisitions; Startup acquisition value; Startup acquisitions by industry; Percent of startups that are still active after one year.

Sources: Innovation that Matters; Kauffman Indicators or Entrepreneurship; Innovation that Matters Spreadsheet; Tech Cities 1.0; and file:///C:/Users/elisabeth/Downloads/Tech%20Cities%20Report%2020.pdf - 'Tech Cities 2.0'.

What is the relative presence of incubators there?

Moderate Incubator Presence that is Sector Specific. So far, I have identified 23 active incubators in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This number is relatively low in comparison to the 74 incubators located in the San Francisco Bay Area. 2 are located in Arlington, VA; 3 are located in Rockville, MD; 1 is located in Bethesda, MD; 2 are located in Alexandria, VA; 1 is located in Springfield, MD; 13 are located in Washington, DC; and 1 is located in Fairfax, VA. The Washington DC-based incubators are primarily in the culinary and social-impact industries. The incubators located outside of DC are primarily in the biotechnology sector. 2 of these incubators focus specifically on assisting veterans incubate companies.

Relative Impact of Incubators is Unclear. I have been unable to identify the impact of incubators on the larger Washington DC economy. The clearest impact on the economy is identified by reports on the success of incubators in Bethesda, MD and Rockville, MD. Recent reports by the U.S. Economic Development Administration identified a positive impact of biotechnology-focused incubators on creating jobs in the Washington DC area. I plan to look further into this impact next week.

Sources: Central Maryland Biohealth Innovation Index and 2014 Innovation Brief.

Next Steps.

My further research will focus on: 1. Identifying more incubators in Washington DC through reaching out to local U.S. Chambers of Commerce and economic development councils; and 2. Locating assessment reports of the DC entrepreneurship ecosystem through reaching out to the local U.S. Chambers of Commerce and economic development councils. In particular, I will analyze the Center for Innovative Technology's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System (IEMS) for Virginia and Arlington Small Business Resources.