Lunch With the Head of the NVTC
It's only noon and Bobbie Greene Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, has already had a full day.
She was up until 2 a.m. the night before, preparing for a remodel of her McLean home. Then, on just a few hours sleep, she was rushing to moderate and speak on a panel for Lead Virginia, a series of meetings for local business, government and non-profit leaders on the future of the state. On the way to meet me for lunch, she stopped back home to drop off Nationals Tickets for her husband, Bill Kilberg, to give to partners at his law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Then she rushed to a hair appointment, where she was so late she could only fit in a curl.
"I feel like I've been going 20 hours," Kilberg sighed.
At the member-only Tower Club in Tysons Corner, we dined on lobster wraps and fresh strawberries and discussed the continued expansion of the local high-tech community. From our corner table we could take in the restaurant's skyline views featuring tall cranes in every direction -- evidence of Northern Virginia's economic boom.
Kilberg said the local high-tech industry is undergoing a shift, one that has pushed her and other business leaders to rethink the direction of the local economy. Federal spending on contracting services from private companies continues to grow, but not at the pace it did just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now, companies that grew rapidly as federal and local governments bought new technology are retooling their businesses to focus on customers outside the government.
"Companies aren't saying any more than the federal government is the end all and be all, they are now thinking of their business-to-business strategy and how to commercialize their products," Kilberg said. She mentioned security software provider Sourcefire in Columbia and surveillance equipment maker ObjectVideo in Reston.
Yes, startups are being created quickly. Yes, venture capitalists are spending more and more on local technology and biosciences company (PricewaterhouseCoopers, NVCA and Thomson was scheduled to come out with their quarterly local venture capital report next Monday, but announced earlier today it will be postponed because of a technical glitch with the data.).
I asked her about the depth of innovation coming from the high-tech industry in the Washington region. Kilberg said that innovation in this area is different from that of Silicon Valley because the biggest local technology customer -- the federal government -- is most concerned about solving its immediate needs. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, has also used its local universities -- Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley -- to great effect to commercialize research projects.
"There is no tolerance for the futuristic that doesn't solve homeland security issues at hand," Kilberg said.
Running the 1,100-member technology trade group during an industry shift can be a demanding job, and Kilberg is ready for a respite. A few weeks ago, she hosted the group's annual Hot Tickets party at her home for the sixth straight year. It's a popular event, where local entrepreneurs, financiers and high-tech veterans rub elbows by Kilberg's pool. Now she's looking forward to getting away with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren in early August at her Santa Fe vacation home (which, as a side note, she rented out to Robert Redford between 1986 to 2002).
-- Cecilia Kang
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