Social Tables CEO addresses employees’ social needs

DC entrepreneur Dan Berger describes how building a rapidly-growing startup is strengthened by making sure employees know how to be socially engaged.

D.C. remains a hidden entrepreneurship gem as many of its success stories go unnoticed. Some young D.C. startups have grown at a blistering pace in the past few years, and the area’s entrepreneurs are looking to spread the word.

Dan Berger, founder and CEO of Social Tables, says this region is prime for entrepreneurship, with technology companies in particular, for three reasons. “First one is: there’s more than meets the eye here industry-wise,” he said.

“Second is: there’s a great population here that will be happily employed outside of the government, and third, there’s a lot of potential customers here,” said Berger, the head of the D.C.-headquartered software-as-a-service startup, created in 2011, which serves granular event management to companies like Hyatt Hotels and Goldman Sachs.

The greatest impediment to getting businesses to see D.C. as a startup opportunity is marketing, said Berger. “I think the perception for D.C. is the fact that we’re the nation’s capital. So people automatically assume it’s suits, writing law, and lobbying,” he said. He said Mayor Muriel Bowser and companies working are starting to better market the area.

Social Tables, is an example of the area’s opportunity. Originally developed as a software to allow those who attend events to learn about the people they’ll be sitting with,“it really started with a need for connection. And that need for connection sparked an idea, which I built on my own very early on, and then as a result we now have multiple products for serving event planning needs from a software perspective,” Berger said.

The same way Berger built the original software for Social Tables himself, he said he has a lot of respect for entrepreneurs that have the skills to solve their problems. “If I was an investor, I think it would be hard for me to put my money behind somebody who’s not somewhat technical, or at least can speak that language.”.

Striking the balance between being able to do every job in a business and delegating some of them is extremely difficult, Berger said. “My executive coach says that the best leaders do the least amount of work. And that’s certainly something I strive for, certainly not even close to being there.”

Currently, Social Tables is working on outreach. “Over the last few months, I’ve organized a group of other D.C. tech entrepreneurs in an effort to bring awareness to the issues we care about,” Berger told What’s Working in Washington.

For example, the Trump administration’s original immigration ban served as a catalyst for this group to act. “[It] was really the driving force when we realized, hey, this can impact us and our people,” said Berger.

“More and more, leaders have a responsibility to meet the social needs of their employees, and employees are making decisions based on those positions,” he said.

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