Startup Census sheds light on entrepreneurial activity

Fosterly is once again conducting a startup census, with a form that is now easier to use, according to Adam Zuckerman, founder of Fosterly.

Fosterly collaborated with research experts from Virginia Tech to increase the scientific rigor of the 2017 census. The census report is a collaborative effort with commentary and analysis provided by some of our region’s leading subject matter experts.

“A lot of people think that D.C. is just a government town, and startups are here to service the government. And the reality is, that’s not true,” said Zuckerman.

“The reality was, we didn’t have stats. Last year, we created the first startup census, the Fosterly Census, to find out that information,” he told What’s Working in Washington.

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The first thing they found, Zuckerman said, was that the vast majority of D.C. startups weren’t at all focused on government contracting. “We’ve got a lot of niches,” he said. This includes services in the hospitality industry, a lot of food startups in the “fast casual” category, and the huge cyber industry.

In the past year, the census has been updated and refined to collect better information. “What that’s doing is, the responses we’re getting are more informative,” said Zuckerman. This includes adding anonymized open-ended questions and area for feedback.

Fosterly also runs programs that helps connect people to internships. “I think there are unbelievable programs in the region… The challenge is, though, we need that virtuous cycle where the students are leaving the universities and actually staying in the region, and the schools need to work more closely with the startups and the companies in the region to figure out what their needs are,” Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman hopes programs like this will help remedy D.C.’s position as an exporter of talent, and spur the region’s graduates to stay in the area.

Another problem, however, is the number of people being trained for relevant jobs internationally. “If you look at AI or machine learning, there’s really only 50,000 people in the world that are educated and have the background necessary for those fields, and they get snapped up at unbelievably fast rates by companies that have financial resources,” said Zuckerman.

“We need to figure out a way, if we can’t get those companies to open and start here, to at least open branches here, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to identify,” he said.


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