Tag Archives: DC

Entrepreneurship Professor Talks Innovation Opportunities in the Nation’s Capital

Recently, Jonathan Aberman, adjunct entrepreneurship professor in the MBA program and managing partner of Amplifier Ventures, was joined by Ed Bersoff, a veteran in federal contracting, on Federal News Radio to discuss the huge opportunity currently facing the nation’s capital: federal innovation and technology adoption.

aberman photo

With the vast amount of tech firms and high concentration of software engineers in DC, Aberman suggested that the DMV should be seen as a tech region that rivals (and in Aberman’s eyes, in many ways exceeds) Silicon Valley. This creates a unique opportunity for tech entrepreneurs given the industry’s juxtaposition to the federal government.

Aberman went further to discuss the significance of the federal government’s adoption of new technologies, and the huge opportunity for the region to be a national leader in tech innovation. While Silicon Valley is very well known for tech products, the DC-area is driven by tech services. Smart entrepreneurs and firms may consider investing in R&D and investing in the shifting trend toward national security innovation, cybersecurity and fed-tech entrepreneurship. Aberman’s latest venture, Tandem NSI aims to do just that: accelerate growth of technology entrepreneurs and link them with the government.

Listen here for the full interview with Tom Temin.

If you’re interested in learning more about tech innovation and the government, be sure to check out Aberman’s latest white paper: Building a Bigger Tent for Technology Innovators: The Government Is More Creative than You Think.

Tagged , , , , ,

MBA Students Work for DC Startup Homesnap in Venture Practicum Course

Dingman Center recently launched the second year of Venture Practicum, a course that provides MBA students with hands-on experience at startups. Selected students are paired with a local startup based their skills and interests. We invited Jimpei Harada, second year full-time MBA student from Tokyo, Japan, to share his experiences thus far in the course. Along with part-time MBA student, Tadhg Moriarty, Jimpei will be consulting for Homesnap, a real estate search platform for people to explore homes online or from a mobile phone. Dingman Center Board of Advisors Chairman, Mark Walsh serves as Executive Chair of this D.C. based startup. You may also remember Homesnap from last year’s Cupid’s Cup Showcase.

Grant Lee (GL): Tell me how and why you decided to participate in Venture Practicum?jimpei
Jimpei Harada (JH): Last summer I interned in the Amazon Japan leadership program in the Supply Chain Department. My role was more of a consultant than a supply chain intern. Traditionally, in the business world, people tend to collect and analyze data and then come up with possible solutions. However, at Amazon, my boss, who was an experienced consultant in McKinsey, taught me a different framework which is to develop the potential solution first and then prove that work by gathering and analyzing data. For this project, I want to leverage the skills I have learned through my internship and MBA coursework and apply them to Homesnap. Plus, I have never worked in the US; I believe it will be a valuable experience.

GL: Describe the startup will you be working with this semester?
JH: Homesnap is a real estate broker platform. Users can download the app, take and upload pictures, and search information using the property search.


GL: Describe your project. What is the goal?
JH: The goal is to create a platform to measure user engagement. The company wants to know how users test, track, and behave with the website and app. Tadhg Moriarty and I will investigate website analysis like Google Analytics and create tutorials in the end.

GL: Do you think working at a startup will be unlike any other job you’ve had?
JH: Definitely. Prior to beginning MBA, I had ten years of corporate experience as an IT engineer in Japan. Through the MBA program, I have learned that startup companies have a fast decision-making process, and now I am going to see how it works.

GL: How do you think the project will help your future career?
JH: I hope I learn to have an “entrepreneurship mindset” while doing this project. This project will help me to ease the pain of transition period from a student into a full-time employee.

Founded in 2008 and based in Washington DC, Homesnap is a trusted real estate search platform for people to explore homes and search real estate listings online or from a mobile phone. Using the Homesnap app (available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices) you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to find out all about it. For listed homes, you may be able to see interior photos too! When you’re ready to buy or sell real estate, you can contact a real estate agent within Homesnap to schedule a showing or list your home in the Multiple Listing Service.

Follow the Dingman Center blog for updates on the other students and startups participating in Venture Practicum.

Tagged , , , , ,

Worth Reading 8/2/13

The summer has flown by – it’s officially August! This week we welcomed our newest team member, Alyse Carter. If you stop by the Dingman Center, say hello! She’ll be sitting at our front desk. Now, let’s get into what’s worth reading this week.

A lot of college students and recent graduates think they have it all figure out, but there are a lot valuable lessons young people can be learning. Here are 20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get. Are you in your twenties and disagree with this list? Leave us a comment and tell us why!

We all know how painful it can be managing multiple schedules for work, school, sports, doctors appointments and more. Check out this impressive 14-year-old entrepreneur that got funding for his startup that simplifies the way parents can coordinate calendars for all of their children’s activities.

A controversial topic on the startup scene is the comparison of successful male entrepreneurs vs female. Entrepreneur.com tells us why Lack of Confidence, Fear of Failure Hold Women Back From Being Entrepreneurs

Why are celebrities drawn to investing in travel startups? Actors, athletes and singers are becoming investors or brought in as brand ambassadors for companies such as Airbnb, Skype and Trippy.

Stay connected with the Dingman Center FB-f-Logo__blue_1024 twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Tagged , , ,

Worth Reading 7/26/13

This week at the Dingman Center, board member and successful entrepreneur Andrea Keating was in the office mentoring students with business ideas. We also released a must-read post by Elana Fine, managing director, about the importance of being a global entrepreneur. Now, let’s end our week with what’s worth reading.

Entrepreneur Matt Garrison and his startup Energy.me are contracted to make $180 million in revenue over the next 18 months by buying and selling wholesale electricity. Find out the secret to the company’s technology in Lightning In A Bottle: Starting Up In A $190 Billion Market.

Investors in other cities may have more money to spend, but they don’t have the experience you’ll get from a DC investor. Tech Cocktail shows us why Angel Funding Opportunities Are Soaring in Washington, DC.

VCs don’t want to hear entrepreneurs pitch ten different ideas hoping one will sound good enough to invest in. Instead, they look for entrepreneurs that are passionate and convicted. Here’s why Successful Entrepreneurship Is Not About Winning A Popularity Contest With Venture Capitalists.

Is your startup having trouble pushing people to your website? Take a look at How PolicyMic, A Startup With A Handful Of Employees, Gets 6 Million People To Read It Every Month.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Worth Reading 7/19/13

This week, the Dingman Center hosted a group of Chinese MBA students from Peking University and exposed them to innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and throughout the region. Make sure you like the Dingman Center Facebook page so you can see photos from their visit when they are posted next week. Also this week, Elana Fine participated in another Live Chat with the Washington Post and we posted an interview with student entrepreneur, Ayana Cotton, discussing her startup Evlove. Now, here’s what’s worth reading this week.

At the Dingman Center, we believe that entrepreneurship can be taught. This is proven by the number of student entrepreneurs that come through our office every day. The average undergraduate entrepreneurship course doesn’t offer the kind of experiential learning opportunities that students get through programs offered by the Dingman Center, and Forbes agrees. Explore this controversial topic with 5 Reasons Why Undergrad Entrepreneurship Courses Aren’t Producing Entrepreneurs.

If you’re starting a company, where should you live? Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston are the top cities on the east coast. Here is an infographic of The 7 Hottest Startup Scenes in the U.S, with Austin, TX taking the #1 spot.

One of the hardest things about starting a new company is finding the perfect name. It should memorable, easy to say and hopefully not already taken. Check out these tips for naming your startup from The Wall Street Journal.

There are more resources for starting a business than ever before. From online resources to countless networks of entrepreneurial thinkers, the current generation of young-adults  are better equipped than the successful business leaders of our past. Here are 5 Reasons Why Millennials Are Born Entrepreneurs.

Stay connected with the Dingman Center FB-f-Logo__blue_1024 twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Worth Reading 7/12/13

This week at the Dingman Center we got some great news about one of our portfolio companies, CirrusWorks, who recently received funding from CIT GAP Funds. We’re also excited to host a group of Chinese MBAs from Peking University next week! We will be introducing them to entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and in the Washington D.C. region. Now, let’s end the week with some news worth reading.

Our first topic has been buzzing all over the news headlines this week. As part of the JOBS Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has released the ban that prevented hedge funds and private firms from advertising investment opportunities; originally established to protect small investors. Now, firms can advertise publicly via email, billboards or even Facebook, making it easier for startups to raise capital. Check out coverage of this popular topic from The Washington Post and Forbes.

Typically, people only think of their accountants during tax season, but if given the right amount of financial data, accountants can be extremely valuable to a startup. Forbes tells us How Entrepreneurs Should Use Their Accountants.

Startups sometimes overcompensate when pitching to investors. According to a nationwide survey of investors representing all sectors, the worst thing you can do is be a liar, a rambler, or a drama queen. The Huffington Post tell us the Top 8 Things That Make Investors Cringe.

The Seattle Times is addressing the question; can a multi-billion dollar company with 98,000 employees act like a startup? See how Startup culture is stirring at Microsoft.

Some people say the most successful entrepreneurs are brown-nosing over achievers. Others say they lack self-control and make impulsive risky decisions. No matter what your involvement is in the startup world, it’s easy to fall for some of these stereotypes. Here are Six Whopping Lies Told About Entrepreneurs … Sometimes By Entrepreneurs Themselves.

The Washington Post released its annual list of summer reading recommendations from experts at the Smith School of Business. Check out what Elana Fine, Ken White, Brent Goldfarb and more in Summer reads for business leaders.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Worth Reading 7/3/13

With the 4th of July holiday just one day away, we’re sending you Worth Reading a little early this week. Enjoy your vacation with some good reads.

The goal of many entrepreneurs is to have a successful exit and sell their startup for hundreds of millions of dollars. But, is this the smartest approach? Business Insider tells us Why It’s Better To Sell A Startup For $20 Million Instead Of $200 Million.

There is much to be learned about entrepreneurship from the legendary Superman! Although he never started a business, he embodies many of the principles of entrepreneurship. Here are 7 Entrepreneurship Lessons From ‘Man Of Steel’

Millions in funding doesn’t always equal long-lasting success. Better Place founder, Shai Agassi, knows this all too well. Check out these Lessons From a Startup That Scored $836 Million in VC — and Failed.

Venture Beat recently released an article on the startup tech scene in Las Vegas, including a harsh critique of the DC technology sector. Take a look at InTheCapital’s reaction to the article in Venture Beat Tales Unfounded Jab at the DC Tech Startup Scene.

Finally, we’re including an article on a topic that we’re all tackling—growing and strengthening our Twitter accounts. We talk about it a lot at Dingman. How can we get retweets? How can we get more followers? How is all this affecting our brand? Check out PR Daily’s recent infographic on how to get more re-tweets.

Stay connected with the Dingman Center FB-f-Logo__blue_1024 twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Tagged , , , , , ,

Fine Observations: The Entrepreneurship Dive

School is out; the pools are open, and July 4th is upon us so what better time to write a blog post equating entrepreneurship to diving? On a recent panel at InTheCapital’s DC UpFront event, I had the opportunity to comment on the debate about teaching entrepreneurship. I offered a metaphor that might seem simplistic, but effective and timely.

Teaching entrepreneurship is like teaching someone to dive off the high dive. Let me explain. Let’s first look at one approach to finding dive talent: you line up a bunch of kids who appear to have the right stamina and grace, march them up the ladder and have them attempt a 2 ½ somersault cold. If they don’t appear to be Greg Louganis or surprise you with a perfect Triple Lindy, you suggest they go back to the baby pool. Or, you do what I did this weekend with my 6-year-olds; baby steps. I took them to the side of the diving well and taught them some basic skills – hands out, heads down. They watched some older kids on the board – the approach, the takeoff, the execution, and the rare perfect entry.  They have models. When they showed some progress I cheered them on, celebrated their small successes. When they belly-flopped I laughed with them and encouraged them to try again.

Will they be Olympic divers? Probably not, but as the adage goes, they won’t know if they don’t try. If I never expose them, never show them how to start, never help assuage some of the fear, never give them a small taste of that plunge, they certainly never will. Failure and mistakes often intensify passion and drive. Look at the stories of legendary entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Larry Ellison to understand how their setbacks fueled their successes. V 1.0 of a product is never right, neither is V 1.0 of an entrepreneur.

And so, this is how we are teaching entrepreneurship at University of Maryland’s Dingman Center. The same way we teach diving, or even medicine or math. We are exposing thousands of students through competitions like our Cupid’s Cup (named for Kevin Plank’s student business Cupid’s Valentine —a perfect illustration of starting small) and course offerings like our Real 660. We are equipping them with basic skills to identify opportunities, talk to customers, test assumptions on new business models, prove big concepts in small ways. We are connecting them with a community of seasoned entrepreneurs, sophisticated investors, local startups, subject matter experts, researchers and more importantly each other. Most importantly, we are celebrating them for their entrepreneurial spirit.

Do all entrepreneurs start this way? No, of course not. We know that Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Jobs didn’t enroll in entrepreneurship classes. We know all entrepreneurs have a unique path. We also know that our economy is desperate for more entrepreneurs than we have now and we can’t rely on luck that they stumble across the high dive. The more students we expose to the entrepreneurial mindset and process, the more we support to prove their initial concepts, big or small, the better our chances of seeding an innovation economy.

Be fearless.


ElanaFineElana Fine (@elanafine) was appointed Managing Director of the Dingman Center in July 2012, after joining the team in 2010 as Director of Venture Investments. As Managing Director, Elana’s primary focus is leading the Dingman Center in support of its mission and strategic plan. Key responsibilities include oversight of our student venture incubator, Dingman Center Angels investor network, business competitions, and technology commercialization efforts. Elana also develops and maintains relationships with donors, board members, EIRs, the Smith School community and other campus and regional partners. She is also serving as co-chair of the Dean’s Task Force on Entrepreneurship and Innovation and will be working with our Academic Director to expand the Dingman Center’s research activities and curriculum development.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Center Stage with Glen Hellman ’78, Principal at Driven Forward

Glen Hellman is an active member of the Dingman Center Angels investor network and an expert on startups. Mr. Hellman is frequently quoted on corporate governance and entrepreneurship issues in print and broadcast media. In print he’s been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Week, The Washington Post and USA Today. He has been featured on radio programs including NPR Marketplace and Voice of America. Television appearances include NBC and FOX news.

Keep reading for Center Stage with Glen Hellman.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I work with experienced CEOs to improve their businesses. Essentially, I’m a coach and I help them learn from their experiences. We work together in groups, we hold each other accountable, and we try to avoid big mistakes. In addition, I’m an Angel Investor and an advocate for DC regional entrepreneurship, primarily focused on working with startups and small businesses that have a desire for growth.

As someone who provides guidance to entrepreneurs, what are the biggest mistakes they make?
The primary thing that causes a company to go bad is a lack of focus or casual, frequent changes in focus. One of the most common ways entrepreneurs do this is by chasing nonstrategic cash. Being too opportunistic by chasing a deal out of one’s chosen niche distracts from the mission and for a small company to be effective, they need to make a lot of noise in a very small time. You do that by sticking to your chosen niche.
Once you start chasing cash that doesn’t help your core business, then there’s an opportunity cost. And if you have to chase cash outside of your strategic goals, then you need to change your strategic goals because you either don’t have the wherewithal to execute or your strategy is flawed.

What do you think of the DC startup scene right now?
It’s as hot as it’s ever been in terms of numbers. There’s a hot, very healthy startup scene particularly in technology and software. It’s because there is strong momentum in companies that already exist, such as Living Social. There’s also the government scene which brings tech expertise. We’ve got a well-educated workforce and a tech-savvy population. The whole downtown scene for young entrepreneurs is a nice environment for people who want to start a business. DC has the quirky, hipster, SoHo feel. It’s happening in NYC and it’s happening here.

You maintain a blog, http://blog.drivenforward.com/wordpress/. How important are social media outlets for today’s entrepreneurs?
Social media has shifted the power from the marketers and providers of product and service to the consumer. Advertising and marketing are less effective than they were 10 years ago.  Reputation is no longer managed by press releases, its managed by being a good corporate actor, delivering good product.

Companies must engage in social media. They must monitor social media to understand what’s happening in their field. Social media is the new source for market research on the market, competitors and the market perception of a company’s products. Companies must monitor conversations, engage in the conversations honestly and transparently and fix product flaws based on feedback.  You must build a better product, you can no longer PR your way out of having a crappy solution.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center and why is it a special place?
For me, the Dingman Center is one of the few places that’s not set up around making somebody rich and famous. It’s about doing good work for the entrepreneurial community. It’s truly the unselfish pursuit of promoting entrepreneurship.
When I decided I wanted to get out of corporate turnarounds, I decided I wanted to create employment and because of that I was naturally attracted to the Dingman Center. I got very active in the Dingman Angels and we have developed a healthy community that funds startups in DC. I think we’re the most active angel group in the city and we do as many deals in DC as the most active venture capital firms.

Glen is a Principal at Driven Forward LLC, a firm that supports entrepreneurs and venture investors by providing strategic guidance, interim executive leadership services, and executive coaching.  In addition he is a Chair for Vistage International where he serves as a professional facilitator for CEO advisory boards. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Driven Forward and on the Board of Advisors for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. He is an active member of the Dingman Center Angels investor network where he is responsible for deal flow, deal selection and coaching corporate executives seeking capital and in his spare time he writes for Tech Cocktail. Mr. Hellman has experience running operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Connect with Glen:   @glehel   http://blog.drivenforward.com/wordpress/

Tagged , , , , ,