Dispatch from the Tech Party Scene in Washington
The idea of bridging the gap between D.C.'s tech crowds has hit quite a nerve.
Last night, Twin Tech II was held at Avenue, a nightclub near the Convention Center downtown. It was the second networking event aiming to bring together the more-established government contracting firms and the new generation of social-media-minded start-ups.
It's been two months since the inaugural get-together was held in response to Post reporter Zach Goldfarb's observation that Washington was a tale of two very different tech towns that rarely mingle. About 600 people showed up to the first event, and it was declared a wild success.
Last night's sequel drew a crowd twice that large, with 200 people on the waiting list. Avenue's three floors were filled with groups of chatting schmoozers. Some clusters clogged the staircases and narrow hallways with impromptu meet-and-greet sessions. Like the first event, TwinTech II attracted a varied mix of people: investors, entrepreneurs, bloggers, public relations consultants and contracting execs. Beverages flowed freely from the open bars on all three floors.
"The way things are going, we're going to have to hold the next one at FedEx Field," said Art Swift, director of communications for the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which sponsored both events along with iStrategyLabs and is planning a third.
Sohale Razmjou, director of business development at software company Leverpoint, said he was impressed so many people came downtown, especially from the far reaches of Northern Virginia, on a Thursday night.
A few people hinted they'd like to see the event take place in Virginia next time--if the goal is truly to bridge the gap between the two communities.
A good number of attendees commented that the good turnout bodes well for the Washington tech scene. Gary Honig, president of Creative Capital Associates, a commercial real estate firm in Silver Spring, said it was the first serious networking event to foster hand-shaking and deal-making since the days of Mario Morino's legendary get-togethers during the dot-com boom and bust.
So many of the other networking events in the area cost an admission fee, which deters a lot of people from coming to check it out, he said. "It's all about forming relationships, making introductions and getting deals done," he said. "That's what you're starting to see some of here."
NVTC's Swift noted that the balance of old-tech staples and new-tech groupies seemed more balanced at this event. The first seemed to skew more on the young side.
Earlier in the evening, though, the scene was dominated by the younger set. After a brief introduction in the hallway, Kevin Antler, executive vice president of KnowledgeBank, a McLean -based human resources consulting firm, remarked that he "looked a little older" than some of the other attendees. "Everyone looks like they're in their 20s," he said. Half an hour later, though, the age distribution began to even out.
Ryan Spahn, who founded a start-up called Sleep FM, an alarm clock that syncs with social networks and other online alerts, made the trek from Baltimore to check out the event. He missed the first one, but said such events are ideal for keeping in touch with others in the community, which is growing more tightly knit. "Twitter is the glue," he said, referring to the way they stay updated on each other's lives and--more importantly--business ventures.
And as elevator pitches were swapped, friends and acquaintances found out a bit more about each other.
Dave Weinberg, who runs a social media consulting firm, was telling a small group about his work with non-profits, helping them embrace the benefits of Facebook and MySpace to grow fundraising and membership. He slipped in the fact that he is a founding member of The Save Darfur Coalition.
"What?" exclaimed Bob London, who runs marketing firm London, Ink. "We've talked, like, 50 times and I never knew that about you. That should be part of your elevator speech."
Maybe that tidbit will work its way into Weinberg's pitch by the next TwinTech event.
September 19, 2008; 10:09 AM ET
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