1776 kicks off registration for its Challenge Festival


1776 co-founder Donna Harris expects 10,000-15,000 people to attend the Challenge Festival. Here, Penny Pritzker, the U.S. Secretary of Commerice, gives a speech at 1776’s headquarters in Washington. (Michel du Cille/The Washington Post)

Registration has opened for 1776’s Challenge Festival, a week-long competition and conference in Washington that will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers and innovators to discuss great challenges facing the world.

“We think the convention will really be a way for people to see D.C. as a community that has all the ingredients to help starts-up in those industries scale,” said Donna Harris, co-founder of 1776, an incubator that helps start-ups focused on education, health, energy, transportation and smart cities.

The festival, scheduled for May 10-17, will feature 64 start-ups that won Challenge Cup competitions in 16 cities around the globe. They will compete for more than $650,000 in prize money. There will be panels and keynote speeches as well.

“We very much believe that the Internet disruption, the next revolution of that is disrupting these big regulated industries,” Harris said. “A company like Uber can’t just put their app in the app store because there’s a regulatory overlay. It makes it a little bit more politically fraught and hard to scale. Those are exactly the things D.C. is good at. We think D.C. should be the hub for regulated start-ups and industries.”

In 2013, Washington area companies pulled in $1.54 billion from venture capitalists, the largest amount in more than a decade. 1776, which was founded in January 2013, is currently expanding its space in Northwest Washington to provide more space for the start-ups and additional room for classes.

Harris expects 10,000-15,000 visitors at the Challenge Festival, which will use locations such as Union Market, the Newseum, Lincoln Theater, the Chamber of Commerce and embassy residencies. Tickets cost between $20 and $500 depending on how many events and perks an attendee may be interested in. Attending some events will be free. The Challenge Festival’s predecessor was DCWEEK 2012.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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