D.C. doesn’t get enough credit as a capital of innovation

April 6, 2014

Washington doesn’t get enough credit as a capital of innovation, and that’s largely our fault. We hide our excellence, cloaking our product descriptions in so much jargon and silly gobbledygook. In the contracting space, too many defer comment to their customer-in-chief, the federal government.

It’s as if no one around here ever heard of marketing.

Last week, I got a glimpse of what our region might look like if we talked plainly — and proudly — about our promising businesses. The occasion was the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s annual Destination Innovation competition, and this year, Capital Business teamed with the trade group to help identify some of the region’s most groundbreaking companies.

We’ve been asking readers for a couple months now to go to our Web site and vote on possible contenders, and 75,000 of you did. We ended up with a field of 16 that went head to head at an event held at The Washington Post’s headquarters in the District.

Now, we didn’t surface the next space plane, driverless car or wonder drug, but we did learn about a bunch of clever businesses, including an Alexandria company that has created a fitness application for those newfangled Google glasses, and another local business that is bringing the process of buying a home to the mobile phone. There was a government contractor that has developed a cool tool for searching big documents when you are not sure what term you are looking for (no more control-F!), and an outfit that helps companies and schools keep child porn off their networks.

It was refreshing to see guys in ties (and, yes, it was mostly men) making the kind of two-minute pitches more often associated with the start-up crowd. Sure, some could have used a little more practice, but you could feel a passion in their presentations that is sometimes lacking in our oh-so-formal tech community.

And that’s a good thing. We sometimes forget how inspiring it is to know there are others just like us, striving to build a business and make a difference.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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