The Twin Tech Towns Come Together

Here's Zach Goldfarb's weekly update on the local technology scene.


It was a melting pot of the Washington technology community.

They came out--hundreds of them--from all sides: venture capitalists, Web developers, government contractors, online marketing pros, consultants and bloggers.

The goal of the "Twin Tech Party" was to bring together the area's two tech towns -- the old tech consisting of government contractors and Beltway bandits and the new tech consisting of social media players -- under one roof. (In this case, they filled virtually every corner of Local 16, a spacious bar on U Street in the District.)


Doug Brown of PNC Bank (left) talks with Jean-Luc Park of Calvert Group Mutual Funds. Photo by Richard A. Lipski


There's no question that the goal was accomplished. The name tags on people's chests read: Booz Allen Hamilton, LivingSocial, Clearspring, Core Capital, PNC Bank, Leverpoint, WilmerHale, Ozmosis. Here's what those companies focus on, respectively: government consulting, Web 2.0 development, online widgets, venture capital, retail banking, enterprise software, law, online health.

There was a question, however, of how much one side was talking to the other. On Local 16's first floor, a scattered set of people in suits, ties removed, were talking. These were the old tech people. Up on the second floor deck, the new media people mingled. That's an oversimplification, but the separation was clear as like-minded folks talked to like-minded folks.

"When there's so many people, it's hard to make introductions," said Jared Goralnick, who calls himself a "productivity evangelist" and founded a Web site to cut down on e-mail traffic, Away Find.


Tony Cord, of BDO Seldman, (left, foreground), talks with Limor Schafman of KeystoneTech. Photo by Richard A. Lipski

That said, it was a step toward bringing these towns together. Bobbie Kilberg, head of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which represents many old tech companies, shook hands with Elias Shams, founder of District-based Web search company Searchles. "Those guys are going to be the next Google," an onlooker said, referring to the company, Searchles.

By the entrance to Local 16, three product demonstrations were set up. One was for Zippyjobs, a campus jobs site. Another was for the MIT Enterprise Forum, a business group associated with the university. Jean-Luc Park, a venture capitalist with Bethesda-based Calvert Group, was giving a presentation about it. A third was for Deliv, a new online food delivery service. Sharing a table with evDeliv was a collection of items labeled a "Beer Pong Kit."

The party was the brainchild of NVTC and a motley crew of new media types. It came three weeks and one day after two big parties were held at the same time on the same night for the NVTC and for the new media community, symbolizing the gulf between Washington's two tech towns. Sponsors for Thursday's party included NVTC, a developer group known as Widget DevCamp, Social Times, Potomac TechWire, among others.

"It's about time they got together," said Limor Schafman of Arlington technology consultancy Keystone Tech Group, who has worked with new media firms such as Red Aphid and government contractors such as Scia Solutions. "I think particularly the NVTC group has a lot to learn from the Web 2.0 crowd."

When they arrived, "each side was kind of shocked by each other," Schafman said. "They didn't see there was a common language."

Shana Glickfield, who works in public affairs but also runs the D.C. Concierge (an advice site for going out in the District), said that when she was talking to Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs, one of the hosts of the event, they thought about using different name tags for old tech and new tech. "You can put us in the same basket but you can't make us mingle," she said jokingly. The idea was nixed.

Regardless of what it was doing for mingling old tech and new tech, the party seemed to do a little mingling when it came to one of Washington's other big divisions: politics. Glickfield introduced her friend Marco Nunez, a former John McCain staffer, as "the token Republican" of the social media crowd. After all, Washington's social media community largely overlaps with the "netroots," the liberal activists who have found a big voice online in recent years.

Robert Neelbauer, who runs tech job company StaffMagnet, noted that the social media community is divided itself between PR types, bloggers and personalities, and hardcore developers who tend to skip networking events such as Thursday's and instead meet up for geeky programming sessions, meeting regularly to discuss PHP at the offices of Greenpeace or Ruby on Rails at George Mason University.

Neelbauer said among the social media types, there's a race to be the star of the community, the person who brings together venture capitalists and startups in the same way that Michael Arrington does in Silicon Valley at his site, TechCrunch. "It' like a race for mayor of Techville," he said. "You have people who want to be the connect, the influentials, much like in Malcolm Gladwell's 'Tipping Point.'"

Art Swift, the new communications guy at NVTC, was proud of the event, and said the old-fashioned organization is definitely planning on ensuring that it won't be an "isolated" happening.

"I've only been here five weeks and I've been able to co-create a party," he said. "We're re-examining how we do things [at the NVTC]. We don't need to plan everything six months in advance. It's a testament to the social media community how fast they got things out."

Another testament to the social media community was on display downstairs at Local 16. Sarah Lacy, a popular writer and a big personality in the Silicon Valley scene, was visiting as part of her "user generated book tour" to promote her recent tome about the Web 2.0 era, "Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good."

Lacy said that when a she was planning her tour--where she visits events based on requests she gets from fans--she said Washington was the first stop because it had an enthusiastic community that sent her messages in droves urging her to visit. Boston's tech scene, she said, is dead. New York's ebbs and flows. Washington's, she said, is on its way up.

After the event, naturally, she wrote about her visit on Twitter, the minute-by-minute blogging site. Excerpts of her posts, at 1:45 p.m. Friday:

sarahcuda Had loads of fun in dc but if it's this hot this early i'm glad i'm not sticking around!! Off to nyc (where maybe it's a degree cooler?) about 6 hours ago from txt

sarahcuda still buzzing from the great night with everyone in DC and can't sleep. watching golden girls in my hotel room. from web

sarahcuda Amazing night in DC!! Thanks to all the people who bought books! about 14 hours ago from txt

sarahcuda once again: http://twintech.eventbrite.... I have about 30 books left to sell and sign in DC so bring $20 if you want one! about 22 hours ago from web

UPDATE 1:

* Aaron Brazell has written up his encounter with Sarah Lacy:

"Last night at the Twin Tech Party in DC, Sarah Lacy of Business Week and I had a chance to meet for the first time. What transpired has been spun unbelievably out of control by attendees of the party. Phrases like 'Battle of the Titans', the 'Apology of the Century' and labels of me being her "arch-nemesis" have been bandied around."

By Zachary Goldfarb  |  July 18, 2008; 2:17 PM ET  | Category:  TechPost
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Definitely good times. Met a ton of people and got a book signed to boot. And to think the Post is actually beginning to write about the local tech community again...sweet. Keep up the good work, Zach!

Posted by: Frank Strong | July 18, 2008 3:30 PM

Great write-up. The DC Ruby on Rails crowd meets up on the George Washington University Campus. Northern Virginia's group meets up at FGM in Reston. These are just a few of the DC tech scene events, most of which can be found on Ross Karchner's DCTechEvents.com. Most of the companies in the DC tech community who are hiring share their jobs on the list that I host over at Jobmatchbox.com.

Posted by: Robert Neelbauer | July 18, 2008 3:34 PM

sounds like a cool event. who are these searchles guys? sound interesting

Posted by: sarge4 | July 18, 2008 3:40 PM

DC Rocks! We need to do more of this.

Posted by: Elias D Caveman | July 18, 2008 3:42 PM

I thought it was great to see all the different people at the event. Definitely look forward to future events and continued mingling.

Posted by: Nick O'Neill | July 18, 2008 3:50 PM

When is the next one? I never made it off the rooftop.

Posted by: Eddie Frederick | July 18, 2008 4:45 PM

Great write up Zach. As always, I had a great time meeting others who are interested in social media. 1Piazza is hosting a Social Rockstar dinner at the James Hoban retaurant in Dupond on July 31st. There is only room for 30 people. http://web.meetup.com/59/calendar/8205445/

Posted by: Kadidid | July 18, 2008 5:27 PM

Thanks for the write-up, Zach, and it was great to meet you!

What I was saying (in case it wasn't clear) was that when there are 600 people and you many of them, it's easy to get caught up in your friends and not mingle with the other folks (even when that's what the party is about).

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more events like this though, maybe with fewer people.

You want the whole truth? Only when new tech folks end up on the board of the old tech organizations is when they'll catch up and we'll really have "synergy." Washington, for better or worse, is run by older organizations. It's not networking but involvement with leadership that truly makes an impact. I'm not saying that won't happen, but I'm saying that's the real big step.

Posted by: Jared Goralnick | July 18, 2008 8:07 PM

Appreciate your coverage of the story surrounding the event. Nice to read the recap, especially since time didn't allow me to find everyone last night... although I did meet a lot of new folks, mostly in new media tech.

We announced DCPiazza, a new portal site, at the event. And there is a mashup page with videos, photos, live twitter tweets, and links to as much as I could find online about last night's event - http://dcpiazza.com/twintechdc

Posted by: Paul Worsham | July 19, 2008 1:28 AM

Thanks for setting the buzz going, Zach, and getting these two crowds - vitally important to this region and its competitive position in the US with Silicon Valley and Alley and others - to talk to each other. This will only make the broader Washington DC Region stronger and having greater impact in tech both in the US and abroad.

For more pics of the event that a non-professional took (aka moi), check out www.diginblog.com.

Re Searchels.com - very cool company - user tagged, social search video.

Posted by: Limor Schafman | July 19, 2008 12:12 PM

good job capturing the buzz.

The party felt like a great start: "Speed-dating" between the 1.0/2.0 people, followed by everybody hanging with their "real" friends afterward.

The two groups do need to get closer. I'm thinking one of those "team building" events like paintball. No, more "Fear Factor," where the NVTC folks and the Ruby crowd have to eat live beetles together.

Or not. I do think more parties would be a good idea, though. In Virginia, next time.

And let's hashtag the pix!

Posted by: Craig Stoltz | July 19, 2008 2:49 PM

@Craig and others: there are pics/vids/blog posts/twitter reactions here:

http://www.istrategylabs.com/twin-tech-recap-and-future-events/

Thank you to everyone who came out, sponsored and posted about this. Thank you especially to Zach/The Washington Post who started this whole thing in the first place by highlighting the gap between our communities, and thank you to the NVTC for working with me to begin bridging it. There will be a lot more to come i'm sure.

Posted by: Peter Corbett | July 20, 2008 6:30 PM

Thanks for the write up, Zach. I was on vacation so missed it, so appreciated your report.

Interesting reading about the lack of interaction between the groups, but not surprising. You need people with a foot in each camp to broker conversations.

Both sides will have to get beyond their insider codes -- 2.0 speak and gov't contracting lingo -- to really understand each other. It may not happen until they decide they need each other.

Posted by: Chris Parente | July 20, 2008 8:25 PM

I just wanted to clarify what was meant by my comments about the people who want to be connectors and influentials. The analogy was meant to describe the social media culture, not any one person. The social media community, here and elsewhere, is very conscious of influence and mindshare. Sites like Technorati rank people's blogs by influence and Google rank people's sites using a page rank algorithm. People work very hard to to earn readers for their blogs, followers on Twitter, Friends on Facebook, connections on Linkedin, etc.

The reference to Michael Arrington was referring to a discussion that took place at SocialDevCamp East, held in Baltimore recently.

Posted by: Robert Neelbauer | July 21, 2008 11:50 AM

Zach, great review! Sorry we didn't get the chance to meet. Next time!

I think the DC tech community is only starting to come into its own. While angel investors have a strong play here, VC's dolling out money in stronger form is needed. The community loves the area and wants to see it grow and prosper, with its own "celebrities" and companies.

Posted by: Dave Weinberg | July 21, 2008 2:29 PM

It was a great event. I certainly met several people I'd like to interview for my emerging growth podcast series.

http://www.LooneyExecutive.com/looneyexecutivepodcasts.html


As someone with a foot in both camps, I found it interesting talking to reps from both sides at the event.

Seems to me that partnering is a great way to go here, since system integrators and gov't tech contractors need to integrate web 2.0 technology into their offerings.

This would also provide additional revenue for emerging growth "new tech firms" that, via partnerships, will get access to the government market.

Also, many of the new tech firms should consider the SBA's SBIR and STTR programs to help fund tech development efforts.

Posted by: Blake Glenn | July 21, 2008 9:06 PM

For those who missed it, here's a quick little video I created from the event:

http://www.jonnyspartay.com/?p=68

And for folks who didn't get a chance to meet Peter Corbett, one of the organizers of the Party, you can catch him on my live interactive internet talk show "Jonny Par-tay" Weds, July 23, 9PM Eastern at jonnyspartay.com

Love it if you could sit in on the show one of these days Zach.

Posted by: Jonny Goldstein | July 22, 2008 2:47 PM

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