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Networking is probably the most important thing you can do when you're looking to find investors, grow interest in your company, or simply further your career. There's a lot of truth in the saying “It's not what you know, it's who you know.”
Luckily, if you're in the DC area there are approximately one million opportunities for you to meet up with other people who share common interests and goals. There are official Meetup groups, networking events hosted by companies (like Tech.Co) and professional organizations, and coworking spaces that put you in the same room with motivated and like-minded people. And if you're not finding what you're looking for in these settings, it's relatively easy to create your own get-togethers, either through Facebook groups (ones that already exist, or by starting your own), Meetup, or by just branching out through your own established contacts.
Once you've found a group that you're interested in networking with, there are a lot of options for where that meetup can take place. Since these kinds of events are so common in the DC area, it's easy to find a bar, coffee shop, or similar venue that is willing to reserve a space for you at their establishment. Or if it's nice, there are outdoors options as well. You could even host a professional meetup that involves some kind of outdoors activity so you can network and get some exercise at the same time. The possibilities are truly endless.
Here is a list of groups, organizations, and places around DC where you can get your networking game on.
Organizations/Companies that Host Events
1776 is a global incubator and seed fund that has quickly grown to be one of the hottest companies in DC Tech, with campuses in both downtown DC and Crystal City. They host the annual Challenge Cup where startups from all over the world pitch their ideas in the areas of energy, health, education, transportation and smart cities. They've also expanded to the west coast and opened a campus in San Francisco. 1776 is a great spot to be if you want to catch a pitch competition, participate in a hackathon, or hear from thought leaders in the startup world. See their calendar of events here.
General Assembly offers part-time and full-time courses in many technology-related fields, including coding, digital marketing, and data science. They also host multiple events every weeks such as information sessions on their courses, networking happy hours, panels, presentations, and lectures. You can find out about all the happenings at their DC campus here.
Halcyon is a Georgetown-based incubator that is committed to solving 21st Century problems throughout the world by helping social entrepreneurs transform their innovative ideas into scalable and sustainable ventures. They are first and foremost an incubator that supports early-stage startups through an immersive 18-month fellowship program, but are also active in the DC Tech community. They host speakers (most recently chef entrepreneur Jose Andres), intern fairs, and the occasional pitch competition. Follow them on Twitter to learn more.
TechShop's DC-Arlington campus has some prime real estate in the heart of Crystal City's tech corridor. It's a community-based workshop and prototyping studio where makers can come and access the tools necessary for innovation. They have all of the cutting-edge tools, equipment, and computers loaded with the latest design software that your heart could desire. It's also a great place to meet other innovators. TechShop hosts regular demos, workshops, and other events geared towards creating, learning, and networking.
Canvas is Washington DC's largest co-working community. Their space is designed to be an inspiring environment for creatives, freelancers, independents and start-ups to work and collaborate. It's the collaborative nature of Canvas that makes it unique. They put community first and believe that collaboration is at the heart of creativity. They regularly host host industry events, presentations, meet-ups and have even transformed the space into an art gallery
WeWork is an international coworking organization with six locations in the DC area – including a new WeLive space in Arlington. Similar to most coworking spaces they offer common area desks, dedicated desks, and private offices. They also host a lot of events for those starting up or wanting to learn more about building a business.
Impact Hub is a coworking and events space specifically for entrepreneurs, activists, creatives, and professionals taking action to drive positive social and environmental change. It is part of a global organization of thousands working at Impact Hubs across the world from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, Singapore to San Francisco. They often host brown bag lunches, happy hours, and events spotlighting their members and the amazing work they do.
MakeOffices currently has 5 locations open in the DC area with two more coming soon. Their spaces, with large lounge areas and kitchens, are designed to encourage mingling and serendipitous encounters. MakeOffices also has spaces in Philadelphia and Chicago and are working on expanding to New York City.
Groups (Facebook & Meetup)
DC Tech Meetup
With over 15,000 members, the DC Tech Meetup is one of the largest and longest running organizations of tech enthusiasts in the region. It is run by several leaders in the ecosystem and hundreds of people attend their monthly meetups. Each meetup has an an agenda, ranging from women in tech to mobile innovation, and there's almost always an opportunity to demo your newest product and garner valuable feedback.
DC Tech Facebook Group
DC Tech is a public Facebook group where people post about all things…well…DC Tech-related. It's the place to go to read and post local news in the ecosystem, events, competitions, announcements, or just to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of an audience of intelligent, experienced, and interested people.
Startup Central is another one of the larger tech/startup related Meetups in the DC area. They tout themselves as a “collaborative community, not just a meetup group anymore, of curated experts, events, workshops, and spaces where members learn, connect and build the next big things together.”
Women Who Code DC
This meetup is part of the global Women Who Code organization for women in tech. They provide an avenue for women to pursue a career in technology, help them gain new skills and hone existing skills for professional advancement, and foster environments where networking and mentorship are valued. They host study sessions, hackathons, and the occasional expert and thought leader.
In addition to these suggestions, there are plenty of unique coffee shops, bars, parks, and other venues to host your own formal or informal networking event. The opportunities for networking in the DC area are pretty much limitless. The first step is getting yourself out there.