AOL Launches Fishbowl Labs Startup Incubator in DC Area

July 31, 2012

3:00 pm

AOL has opened up a free, 2,000-square-foot coworking space and incubator for startups at its campus in Dulles, Virginia, near Washington, DC.

Fishbowl Labs accepts startups on a rolling basis, and they can stay and receive mentorship for around six months. They receive no funding, although AOL Ventures is always nearby if a promising venture pops up.

A first-floor, glass-enclosed space, Fishbowl opened in mid-June and is now home to six startups: Speek, Villagize, Lifepages, Acertiv, Cont3nt, and RYO Media. The program is accepting other consumer Internet and mobile startups with the following criteria:

– Teams of approximately 2-6 people with at least half being local developers

– Management team and majority of employees working full-time on the startup

– Startup has not yet raised Series A but has at least 25K in funding

With other incubators at its Palo Alto and New York offices, AOL hopes to improve its company culture by learning from startups and helping its employees – who spend long hours at the Dulles campus outside of downtown DC – contribute to the local startup community.

“It’s terrific because you can spend all your time here, but it’s also isolating,” says Fletcher Jones, AOL’s senior director of strategic partnerships, who cofounded Fishbowl with Brian McMahon and Bud Rosenthal.

AOL employees may encounter Fishbowl entrepreneurs at the cafeteria, meetups, and monthly, company-wide “town halls,” where departments report on their progress. Jones says that it’s always possible AOL could do partnerships with or acquire the startups, but that’s not part of the selection criteria.

“We felt like it was appropriate for AOL, with the success we’ve had over the years, to give back to the tech community here,” says Jones.

Fishbowl could hold a dozen startups or so; interested entrepreneurs can apply here.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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