Check out the February 2019 digital Town Hall. We go over some of the Week Celebrations and events coming up this year.
#GEW2019 Greater Washington, D.C. Region
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Hey hey welcome everyone to the second regional DMV Entrepreneurship Town Hall. My name is Steven Rodriguez. I’m [Steven A. Rodriguez] one of the community leaders here in the Washington, D.C. region.
Thank you again for joining us. We’re going to be talking about a few different things every month, the reason for these regional town halls. We’re going to be going over a little bit more today about some of the Week celebration that everybody’s talking about. What’s happening with National Entrepreneurship Week, what’s happening with D.C. startup Week, Global Entrepreneurship Week, so we’re going to be talking a little bit about those.
Looking at some of the stats we’ve actually, we’re very data driven so we love to see what’s working what’s not based on your feedback. We’ll also answer some questions as we go along, and then we’re gonna have some amazing guest speakers.
You’re gonna be able to get in touch with Joey Arora from the U.S. Air Force Innovation and AFWERXS, and also Diego Mariscal who runs 2gether-intenrational.org doing amazing work for people with disabilities around entrepreneurship. Alright, so we’re gonna go over a little bit on what we’re gonna be doing. So as you can see here we’re just gonna be going through this little PowerPoint presentation and let me just get my bearings.
So again we’re gonna talk about the week, then we’ll go into the guest speakers and of course the next town hall which is March 20th.
But first, National Entrepreneurship Week is happening this week. It’s actually February 16th to the 23rd. It’s whole focus here is to kind of highlight the amazing organizations that are doing entrepreneurship events and activities for the entire DMV region. So already today we hosted seven speakers across different organizations like BlackTech Week, Get Found Get Funded, 1863 Ventures, so this week is already done. It happens every year. Third week of February, so for next year if you wanna get involved we’ll put in some more information on how you can do that.
The next one’s coming up are gonna be D.C. Startup Week and then Global Entrepreneurship Week. D.C Startup Week is more for inspiration stage. If you’re learning about entrepreneurship, how to get involved if you’re starting to toy around with a business idea, how to form your idea, and then how to launch that idea. So it happens now for the fourth year in a row.
It’s gonna be September 9th to the 13th in September. Alright, so it’s five days of action packed. Last year we had about 200 more than 200 events throughout the five days that week, so we’re gonna have some more information posted on how to get involved with that.
The next one is Global Entrepreneurship Week. Big distinction here, D.C. Entrepreneurship Week a bit more about how to start your business, how to get inspired, and how to launch. Global Entrepreneurship Week focuses more on the other side.
Once you’ve started how do you manage the business now that you’ve transitioned from a startup founder to a business owner, and then how do you grow and accelerate that business so that you’re not just stuck with one person, it becomes more of a team, how do you manage that cultural environment, and then how do you grow and accelerate? How do you think of different revenue streams? How do you expand beyond your local area and even beyond just the national area.
So that’s the main purpose of Global Entrepreneurship Week. November 11th to the 17th. It’s going to be happening this year and of course we’ll be joining cities from all over the world. More than 172 countries participating in this year celebrating entrepreneurship.
But like we said, we are very data driven so for the Weeks this year what are we gonna do to change? So we asked you all what where some of the things that you wanted to see? So we did a little survey and we were trying to see who actually comes to the events.
Lots of people that are service providers from the startup community, lots of people that are ideation stage that have a working prototype, I’m just curious and things of that nature. Especially as it relates to D.C. Startup Week this is very valuable just to know that that’s actually the demographic that we’re trying to hit.
What type of event interests you the most? Last year again we had more than 200 events for D.C. Startup Week, close to 150 for Global Entrepreneurship Week, so what are people actually interested in seeing? So apparently people want to see more industry focused types of events. They’re looking for more row focused type of programming, focusing more around CEOs or something more for marketers and more for Chief Operating Officers, for processes so we’re thinking more along those lines as well. Challenge areas, hiring, finance, we’re getting a little mix split here. I know for Global Entrepreneurship Week we focus a lot on the entrepreneurs journey and what are the growth challenges people face. So it’s good to see that some of these might be resonating with the community so we’re gonna think about these a little more for this year.
Again I think this happens every year. The biggest thing for the Weeks is that people love to connect. They love to see that there’s a community out there because let’s face it, entrepreneurship is a lonely, lonely road but you don’t have to go alone. There’s people out there who can help you along the way, whether it’s programs and initiatives or even other entrepreneurs who are just as passionate, just as interested in getting involved. And it’s that support network that you need to find as a entrepreneur. Finding that tribe. So that’s good to see. And how do we build more networking related events into the program is something that we’ll be thinking through as well.
What type of event formats do people prefer? It sounds like they like these interactive experiential workshops so that’s good to know. Not just listening to a speaker talk but how to make sure that the speakers are interactive and engaging. Panel discussions obviously that’s where we have three or four people actually sitting on a panel, sharing their insights, getting different viewpoints which is very, very important. So good to see that people seem to be interested in that.
Speaker presentations with Q&A. Again that’s been a staple since we’ve first started the Week celebrations all these years ago so good to see that there’s still interest in that there. One on one sessions, okay. It seems like how to do we some type of maybe mentorship matching like speed dating but it’s more mentor matching type of sessions. I know we wanted to see how we could partner with organizations like SCORE or some other great organizations that can provide some type of one to one mentoring. So that’s good to see and we’re exploring that.
Social gatherings and just knowing enough. So I guess more back to that networking how to make sure that we not just have networking events but build that into the workshops that we’re actually gonna be seeing later this year.
And of course a few different things, which best describes your week scheduling strategy? So it sounds like people just they carefully curate their own schedule, as you notice that we use a platform called sched.org although we may change but as long as you have a schedule with 200 events it’s just a little hard, right, to try to go to all of them. You gotta pick and choose which ones make most sense for you and where you are in your entrepreneurship journey. So it’s good to see that people care for the curate but then again even me I feel susceptible to this, I just say yes to everything and then I pick and choose whatever makes sense for me that day. So that’s also okay.
Event follow up, we haven’t done this as much and I think it’s something that people want to see more as what’s the next step. It’s nice that we what I’m taking away from this is that it’s nice that we come to these events but what’s the next step afterward so that it’s not just once a year. And that’s very true. I think you need to be involved throughout the year not just once a year to make the most use out of building relationships and helping move your company forward.
So something that we’ll have to figure out is the follow up and being better at that this year. It sounds like basic demographics people obviously tend to live in the DMV area. We are getting a few from outside the DMV so New York tends to be one of those areas that people seem to be gravitating from for our week in the region.
It’s good to see that we have some diversity when it comes to gender. I mean D.C. is the capital, right, for female entrepreneurship and in our weeks we’re glad to see that it’s the same, that we’re seeing a good healthy female to male ratio.
How old are people? Well for the ones that disclosed, they’re in that young professional stage so the 25 to 34 area. Then aging up a little bit but I think an opportunity here is how can we actually focus a little bit more on that younger crowd, those college age professionals especially as we have so many universities in the area and potentially maybe some high school folks granted that we can make sure that everything is legally in place to support them.
And so that was pretty much it in terms of what to expect. As you saw based on the data that’s how we’re kind of formulating how we wanna shape the rest of the week so that’s gonna be our major focus point. Right now are there any questions that people may have, let us know, we’re happy to answer.
Any questions before we move on to our guest speakers? Let’s see.
I know some of the questions is are the dates set? The dates are set already so but don’t worry. They change every year a little bit, but for the most part this helps us kind of plan ahead and make sure that we get everything organized in time. So yes they are set. D.C. Startup Week again is September 9th to the 13th. And then Global Entrepreneurship Week is more November 11th to the 17th.
Other questions that may come in I know we’ll have something from the back office here.
How do you get involved in these weeks?
Well there’s kind of three or four ways to get involved. One very basic level, participate. Come to the event, network with other folks, learn from some of the workshops and events, and then seeing what makes sense for you. What can you absorb and apply to your own entrepreneurial ventures. I think that’s the most basic way and you’ll see that there’s so much energy and excitement for entrepreneurship in the region. Even though you may not see it these weeks are the ones where we gather everyone together and you get to see the huge community behind this.
The second way is maybe you wanna volunteer. Learn how things operate, how does something massive like five days with 220 events, how does that happen? It’s because of volunteers honestly. It’s more of a #GiveFirst #LaborofLove type of thing where we’re all just giving. Nobody’s getting Bentley’s and Ferrari’s out of this, right? We’re doing it to help the community especially as we think about inclusion and making sure that communities across the diaspora across different segments, race, religion, ability, make sure that everybody has access to entrepreneurship resources if they want to pursue it.
Third way to get involved is if maybe you’re ready, you’re at that stage where you have lots of knowledge and you wanna share. You wanna give back to the communities. Maybe you’re good at marketing. You wanna do a presentation on marketing. Awesome, you should definitely apply to be one of our speakers and again our speakers are curated from partly by the people that submit applications and also from our network of partners that we know and trust over the years.
But hey if you have something to say don’t be afraid to say it and then share the knowledge. Just give back to the community. That’s how thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems work. We all have to give our part. As we become successful how do we help those that come after us?
For those that are really interested in just being super involved you can organize or be part of the DMV Coalition Team. And what I mean is these are the people that are kind of coordinating the day to day logistics. They are the ones securing the partnerships, they’re securing the funding, all these things that go behind the scenes, these are the folks that are leading it. Last year we had close to 12, 13 DMV Coalition leaders. They are amazing. Everybody does a lot of work but we love what we do. So if you have some time and you wanna give back at such an involved state then definitely apply to be an organizer.
But those are some of the ways to get involved. Any other questions coming in? And I know we can answer more questions as everything progresses so we’re probably gonna move on to the next stage and any questions that weren’t answered, we’ll definitely try to answer them afterwards and we’ll put it in the webpage following the video.
But we are gonna transition over to our speakers now. We’re gonna start with Joey Arora from the US Air Force Innovation so just give us a second while we buzz him in.
Hey hey, Joey? Hey awesome so I’m just about to segue you in so let me just make sure that everything’s working and for everybody on the live video, we are now speaking with Joey Arora from the US Air Force Innovation and one of the lead directors for the AFWERX program so without further ado Joey, welcome.
[silence for 60 seconds, mic issues]
…at AFWERKS. That’s where you can find out all the information about what it takes to apply, what you need to put in your 15-page slide deck and your five page paper, and what that takes so it’s a really neat opportunity for you guys to get engaged with what the Air Force wants and needs. The really cool part about it is that phase one grant that you can get is 50 grand for up to three months worth of work of what you’re doing with customer discovery, have you found anybody in the Air Force that actually needs your product.
So you’re actually taking the time to do customer discovery and figure out who your Air Force customer is. And during that phase one your whole goal is to work with a company or work with an Air Force customer to just write up MOU. It’s a memorandum of understanding where the whole point of this is to say this is the customer we have identified and this is what they wanna prototype and test with us. Let’s prove that our solution actually works.
Let’s prove that it actually solves a problem and creates something better. And you apply for your phase two and that’s up to 15 months of work and up to 750 grand so what we’ve really done is really lower the barriers of entry for folks who work with us
Additionally we have afworkschallenge.com, and this is where we post some really really big challenges that we have for the startup world to help us solve. So right now we have a micro-electronics challenge going on, we’ve had a helmet challenge before, and we’re really compressing the government contracting timeline from these six to 18 months down to three or four so it can better fit into your traditional sales cycle as you do with commercial companies.
So those are some key ways for the startups to get engaged with what AFWERX does and how we do business. The other really cool thing about AFWERX is that we’re also working at how to shift the Air Force culture so we want more folks around the Air Force to be excited and engaged with companies that talk to their startup ecosystems, not only here in the DMV but in any startup ecosystem that there’s a base.
Folks should be able to reach out and connect and say how can we solve your problems. And so it’s been a big focus of what we’re doing. So Steven I think that gives us a pretty good overview of some of the things that we’re up to. I’m happy to answer some of the questions or how ever you’d like me to take it from here.
[Steven] Yeah, no and Joey I just got a ping that the first minute was without sound while I was in transition so I guess if you could intro yourself one last time for the people that couldn’t hear.
[Joey] Yeah absolutely so I’m Joey Arora. I’m with AFWERX, it’s one of the Air Forces innovation organizations and my job is to help foster the ecosystem of the startup world and the DOD and in order to do that we have a few tools that are very relevant to startups. We’ve have our website. It’s www.afworks.af.mil, we have our SPIR program then our challenge site. So AFWERX is a methodology. We’re not a process where a set of tools that the Air Force bring to the table to change the relationships that we have with the startup communities.
[Steven] Nice and are you originally from D.C. Joey? How did you get involved in all of this?
[Joey] So I was born and raised in Denver and then I joined the Air Force so I’ve been in for six and a half years. I’ve been stationed all across the U.S., deployed, and then I started a couple of companies as well and that turned into coming to be a part of AFWERX and I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to work with a phenomenal team of people to make the Air Force a better place and better build relationships across startup ecosystems.
[Steven] Yeah and for veterans in particular how are you seeing them involved? Are they involved in entrepreneurship or what’s your sense there?
[Joey] The really cool part about veterans is they actually have an intimate understanding of what problems that set the military bases. So they’re in a unique position to truly solve those problems and create a solution that not only works for the commercial world but also works for the DOD. And they can speak the language, they understand the culture, and those are the really cool things about veteran entrepreneurs and working with AFWERX. And overall in general veteran entrepreneurs are really disciplined, they’re focused, and they understand that a it’s okay to fail and we have to learn and improve, improvise, adapt, and overcome. And that’s a really great trait for veteran entrepreneurs to have in general.
[Steven] Nice and then I know there’s a few programs in the area. I know Bunker Labs comes out as one so if they wanna get more involved or if they wanna learn what are some of the top programs that I guess come to your mind that they can check out?
[Joey] Yeah so Bunker Labs is one of the most phenomenal resources available for any veteran entrepreneur to get involved in their community and also get in touch with a cohort of veteran entrepreneurs that want to you to succeed. They have an online program, there’s also the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, and this is another community of folks that are passionate about entrepreneurship in the national security space. I think we worked in Bunker Labs and also has a veteran and residence program that’s really active all across the United States.
There’s patriot boot camp as well and that’s a great program for veteran entrepreneurs. So there’s a ton of opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs to grow their own business, and lots of people and organizations want to help support them as well. And then there’s organizations inside of the DOD that want to work with startups and we think that entrepreneurs have a really key piece of that as they have deep experience in the military space. So whether it’s DIU, Army Futures Command, all the military organizations are really interested in how do we foster a startup ecosystem of folks.
[Steven] Nice and I guess that’s it for time but any last parting words or advice you have for the community whether it’s veterans or just a general comment?
[Joey] Yeah so the big any entrepreneurship the biggest thing is hey explore your markets figure out where you’re spending your time and make sure you’re focused on what your ROI is. So figure out is this something that’s going to move my business forward today and if it is then deep dive into that focus on that and continue pursuing testing and validating that that works.
[Steven] Awesome well thank you so much Joey. We really appreciate your time and for some of the awesome opportunities and the work that your doing within the veteran space and in particular with the US Air Force and AFWERX innovation.
[Joey] Yeah absolutely. Thanks for everything you’re doing as well Steven. It’s good to be here.
[Steven] Alright so thank you again. That was Joey Arora. We’re now gonna switch over to our good old colleague Diego. So without further ado we’re just gonna segue in. Hey hey Diego welcome welcome. I’m about to segue you in.
[Steven] Welcome, everyone this is Diego Mariscal, CEO of 2gether-international.org. Doing some amazing things with people with disabilities. Something that we may not hear about but Diego can tell you a lot more about the stats and the awesome work that’s being done.
[Diego] Appreciate it, appreciate it, thank you. Let me, there we go. Alright hello everyone I’m very exited to be here. Well you know there’s a lot of interesting things around disability and entrepreneurship and a lot of intersections. I think the best way to describe it is to just talk about some of my own life and my own personal experience and then kind of go from there. So I was born with cerebral palsy which for me it means that I have trouble walking.
There’s different forms of cerebral palsy so you might different people with various variations of CP. But that just means that growing up in Mexico, ’cause I’m originally from Mexico, was significantly harder because there wasn’t as many regulations and there wasn’t as much access as there is in the States regarding disability. And so everything was harder, right? Since going to school, using public transportation, things like that. And so my parents always had to advocate on my behalf and I always saw them sort of being entrepreneurial in that way.
Because my brother also doesn’t have a disability, my brother is 10 months and a half younger than I am so we are very close in age. And so it was this dichotomy of seeing access to all these things that a non-disabled person has versus all these things that a person with disability had to struggle with. And so from a very early age I understood the hustle experience and the sort of finding value and being resilient.
And so when I was in high school I started my first company which was educating students about disability. So we would do things like eating without being able to see or using public transportation in a wheelchair or communicating without speaking, and in four years we were in 15 high schools across the country. 80% of it was corporate funded and it continues to be one of the largest youth-led programs in Mexico surrounding disability.
And so when I moved to the States everybody started telling me that I was an entrepreneur because I had built this organization. And I didn’t even really know how to spell the word entrepreneur. And when I started to do more research I realized that people with disabilities are indeed inherently entrepreneurial. From the moment we wake up we have to figure out how to get dressed how to drive, how to communicate, and so now what we do with 2gether-international.org is use that sort of innate entrepreneurship skills with people with disabilities and translate those skills into work force development skills because also the challenges that people with disabilities face are the highest levels of unemployment and so to me that doesn’t make sense, right? You have this community that’s resilient, tenacious, innovative, and then you also have a lot of job discrimination. So we use entrepreneurship to kind of break the gap between the stigma around disability and discrimination.
And what’s great about this story is that Steven was one of the founders of this initiative. Steven I’m just gonna put you out there. We were both at 1776, it was an incubator and we were already thinking how can we educate people about disability and we said there’s a lot of entrepreneurs that come come in this incubator and yet we don’t see a lot of people with disabilities. Is it because they’re not interested or is it because or what’s going on?
And so we just decided to do a meet up around disability and entrepreneurship and within five months we had about 25 members. I think the deputy mayor got involved, and it just sort of snowballed from there. And so I share this story to say well first of all to give credit to Steven ’cause it wouldn’t happen without him. But also to say that I think entrepreneurship is really about solving a problem.
Often times we get so bogged down in but my products gotta be amazing and there’s really no market there. Nobody uses your product and as entrepreneurs we can get sort of married to a product or service. And I think what I’ve learned throughout the years is that it’s really not about a product or service it’s about serving a need.
I originally set out to refine disability, right, and it just happened to be that entrepreneurship was the way to go at it. So yeah. So it’s pretty exciting. If anybody is interested in the work we’re doing feel free to reach out. Our meet up is Disability Startup Network and the Facebook page the website and the Facebook page I believe are linked here 2gether-international.org, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out. My email is [email protected] The caveat there is that it’s together with a number two.
Awesome and so any other questions.
[Steven] Yeah no we definitely wanna ask some questions. So one thing is for people with disabilities in general how are you finding through your work are they getting more involved? How is that community in particular when it comes to entrepreneurship? What are you finding?
[Diego] Yeah good question. I mean I think a lot so a lot of people with disabilities are unemployed and live in poverty, right? And even in D.C., right? And so I think entrepreneurship has become a vehicle for people, not only to find sustainable ways of living but also a way to make friends, and build community and things like that. so I often say that entrepreneurship isn’t really a job, it’s like a way of life. So yeah it’s been great. It’s been really good to see people come out of their shells in the process of building a business.
[Steven] Yeah, I know you mentioned the opportunity with D.C. Disability Startup Network, kudos to you. It wasn’t just all me. Thanks to your leadership for that to making some of that happen and building it to what it is now. But for people with disabilities what are some of the key resources that come to mind if they wanna learn more and getting more involved?
[Diego] Yeah so key resource is definitely us, right? So reach out to us. We definitely wanna help. I would say that’s definitely your number one, number one key resource. And the other thing is if you’re in D.C. feel free to reach out to the Department of Small Local Business Development. I know Kate was on one of these hangouts before. Feel free to reach out to the Department of Disability Services. We’re working closely with them so they’re familiar with some of the issues and the landscape of what’s going on and we’re working really hard to make sure that they’re providing quality services for entrepreneurs with disabilities.
[Diego] And as far as the rest of the world, in case there’s people form different parts of the world, we are coming to you probably not any time soon but it’s 2gether-international after all, right? So we wanna expand. So if the idea of providing people with disabilities an alternative way of employment through entrepreneurship sounds appealing to you, feel free to reach out and we can start conversations. Yeah the idea is to expand this beyond just D.C..
[Steven] Awesome stuff and now for the audience and people with disabilities in general, any final thoughts or remarks that you have for them?
[Diego] Good question. Yeah so I mean the number one thing that I don’t think people realize and it took me a long time to figure out is being proud of your disability and sort of embracing your disability and seeing it as a strength. When I first moved to D.C. I have trouble walking, right? So I would never use a wheelchair because I was like no, no, I can walk, I can walk, I don’t need to use a wheelchair. And it wasn’t until I met other people with disabilities and I started seeing that there wasn’t they weren’t ashamed of using their wheelchairs or they weren’t ashamed of using their canes that I started to use a cane or I started to use a wheelchair. And it opened so many more doors for me to sort of embrace that part of my life. And so I recognize that living with disability is a difficult experience. Its a hard experience. At the same time I also recognize the power of sort of embracing it accepting it an recognizing it as a strength.
[Steven] Awesome well thank you so much Diego. We really appreciate all the work you’re doing and you’re one of the few people that I’ve seen in the nation just doing anything around people with disabilities and helping them kind of bridge that gap to explore entrepreneurship and see if it’s a good fit for them. So kudos to you for what you’re–
[Diego] Yeah no I thank you so much, I’m very exited. And I’m happy that you were a part of this from the beginning.
[Steven] Awesome so that is Diego Mariscal everyone. Now we’re gonna be switching over to well I guess pretty much the end. We had two really amazing speakers involved. Joey Arora with the U.S. Air Force innovation and AFWERX, Diego Mariscal with 2gether-international.org and again the weeks that are coming up still in development, still an opportunity for you to get involved.
Participate at the very least, join the community because there’s so many people out there for you to just get to know and inspire you to keep on going. Entrepreneurship is lonely but that’s by choice. Get out there make the friends and get inspired and the drive to push your idea forward. The next town hall is gonna be on March 20th. So we’re gonna do it from Portland, Oregon.
So we’re gonna be a little bit far away from the DMV but again all of our efforts will be geared towards the DMV region at this time. So again thank you so much for joining in for the second regional town hall. Obviously it’s a work in progress. We’re gonna be going through the feedback, we’re gonna be refining the program in the upcoming weeks and months, and again we love everything about entrepreneurship, we love all the work and the activities that the people do when it comes to building new business and at the end of the day it’s building wealth not just for yourself but also the communities and the local economy.
So it’s just a great thing overall and anything we can do to help out, that’s what we’re here for so if you haven’t joined, join the DMV startup Facebook group. It’s the largest free entrepreneurial community in the Washington D.C. region. We have more than 1.6 thousand members to date and it’s active and the whole point there is to just ask questions to some of your challenges, get involved and then see how as a community we can help each other out to grow and accelerate our own business ventures.
So thank you again. We really appreciate you taking the time. More resources will be posted after the video with everything we talked about including how to get involved. Be an organizer, be a volunteer, be a speaker or presenter, alright? And then any other questions left unanswered we’ll also put them in the show notes below. So thank you again everybody. Enjoy your snowy day and we’ll see you in the upcoming events. Ciao.