Last night, Alex Hawkinson, the CEO and one of the founders of DC-based SmartThings, spoke at a StartupGrind DC about how the city has been influential toward the company’s success and the role it wants to play in showing the rest of the country that DC tech is, in fact, a force to be reckoned with. The company is anticipating a lot of future growth, and it hopes to leverage that into helping the DC tech scene get the attention it deserves from the rest of the country.
“I really want to see DC on the map…we’ve seen it start to change a little. I think [DC] is in the ‘top 5′ of the country to build tech [companies], but I don’t think it’s seen that way, yet; I think it’s seen as ‘top 10,'” says Hawkinson.
In order to do that, Hawkinson says that DC will need to develop more companies like AOL that had a huge tech presence and left cascading effects on the overall development of other tech companies in DC. Having recently closed a successful Series A round of $12.5 million and with the recent news of Google’s acquisition of competitor, Nest, SmartThings itself is expected to be a huge influence in the overall tech ecosystem. However, despite beckoning calls from Silicon Valley, Hawkinson insists on keeping the company in the District – hopefully fulfilling this AOL-esque role.
“We want to keep [SmartThings] in DC. I think DC is this sort of underappreciated market on the technology map, and I think it’s fun building a consumer technology company here.”
When asked why the company chose DC instead of staying in Hawkinson’s home city of Minneapolis or instead of moving it to the Valley or NYC, Hawkinson points out the tremendous talent pool available in DC:
“We have resisted the urge – despite SmartThings [doing] really well – to, you know, [move to the Valley]. We’ve had people push us into the Valley: ‘do it now,’ ‘it’s the technology center,’ and the rest of [those claims about Silicon Valley]. I think people don’t appreciate, you know, that the world is shrinking from a marketing and communications platform – you can sort of do business from anywhere, and what really matters is assembling the right core team of people that’s getting work done day-to-day. So the talent pool – it’s not the other, like, consumer and electronic startups in the DC area that we’re networking with [to grab talent]…[rather] it’s that the [overall] talent pool is really good.”
That being said, Hawkinson shared that SmartThings is looking to hire for lots of good talent in the area, anything from business or technology development to design, marketing, and quality assurance support. So, if you’re looking to be part of the next big influencer in DC tech, definitely consider applying.
Startup Grind DC provides a monthly meetup in the DC area, bringing together local founders, innovators, educators, and investors.