Inspired By DCWEEK To Help Build Community

February 9, 2012

8:00 am

Through the years, Tech Cocktail has inspired a number of people to take action in different ways, whether it’s to start a company, get involved in local events or share their entrepreneurial experiences right here on

So we’re excited to share this story from one of our new writers, who was so inspired by the events at our festival, DCWEEK, that she not only decided to stay in DC, but to get more active in the local startup scene. Here’s Gulnara Mirzakarimova‘s story in her own words. 

Gulnara Mirzakarimova

Gulnara Mirzakarimova, Founder of Two-Side Brain

In late October of 2011 my mind was set to leave Washington, D.C. and move either to NYC or to San Francisco. By accident I stumbled upon a happy hour my alumni group organized during Tech Cocktail’s startup showcase (don’t miss the next one on Feb 16th!). Tech Cocktail was co-organizing DCWEEK 2011, and until that moment I didn’t know of its existence.

It was shocking, exciting and reviving to see this flurry of activity happening in the tech community in Washington, D.C. It felt as if I was blind and didn’t see an “elephant” in the room. I was so focused on getting into VC in the Valley or in NYC that I was oblivious to everything that was happening in my “backyard.”

The decision was made to go to as many events during DCWEEK as possible. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I discovered an amazing group of people who are working very hard to make the D.C. tech community stronger.

In mid-November, I made the decision to stay in D.C. and help reshape it into a vibrant startup playground. At this point, I didn’t know how, but I saw some broken links between startups, investors and mentors. So, my goal became building an infrastructure strong enough so that startups do not have to leave the area and investors pay more attention to our region.

In early December, I was flying to Lake Tahoe to snowboard and “thanks” to global warming, which left us with no snow, I escaped to San Francisco to interview a few startups there. One of my goals was to see why SF is so good for startups and compare it with D.C. Elias Bizzanes, the “driving force” behind the StartupBus (no pun intended) and Silicon Beach in Australia, gave me a number of suggestions on what I should focus on.

By late December 2011 my plan finalized, and there are 2 parts to it so far:

1. To build a website that would allow startups to talk about their companies in their own words, mentors to share their experience and investors to share their secrets.

Video interviews are the first out of three features I created. The other two will be rolled out in the next few months. My website,, has been officially live since the end of December and video interviews have been posted every single day since the beginning of January 2012.

2. To make Washington D.C. a 24/7 tech city for collaboration. In other words, I am tired of being kicked out of every coffee shop with a free wi-fi after 10 pm. There are only a couple which let you stay till midnight. That’s just unacceptable! I am starting by hosting events once a week as part of Weekly DC Nightowls & DC ACM meetup group in different locations.

So, what does it mean when I say my life has changed? It means that I sleep on average 3-4 hours a night. Saturdays and Sundays are as busy as my weekdays, only I do not have to juggle my day job in between. My computer and my phone got humanized and are almost as dear to me as my cat. It also means that you will most likely run into me at every tech event, but don’t worry – I will not ask you to pronounce my last name. And most importantly, it means that now I can proudly call myself the Founder of Two-Side Brain, LLC, which I hope will help change the Washington, D.C. metro area for the better.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups.

Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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