Navigating the Crisis

By Kim Hart
Monday, November 24, 2008

Washington's technology community is about to get another test.

It's only been a few years since the dot-com crash wiped out many of the area's high-flying telecom firms and Internet start-ups. And with the economy facing another dramatic downturn, entrepreneurs and investors are once again bracing for tough times.

"It's back to basics," said Raul Fernandez, a local business guru whose investments range from a mobile advertising start-up to the Washington Capitals. "The days of wide-eyed growth pitches are gone for a while. Now all that matters is: Do you have a product, are people buying it, and are you making money?"

In Silicon Valley, a number of large companies such as Google, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard anchor and guide the technology community through lean times. But with two of Washington's bellwether companies, AOL and Sprint Nextel, gone, local tech workers are looking to those that have track records of doing more with less.

"The best people to fuel innovation are the people who've done it before," said Hooman Radfar, chief executive of McLean widget-maker Clearspring. He said he has noticed people networking more to find partners and idea soundboards.

We've rounded up eight people who have a few ideas of how to help guide the region's Web 2.0 community through the financial slump. Those pictured here are a sampling of the investors and mentors helping young companies navigate the crisis. You'll also find the young chief executives who are figuring out how to manage their bottom lines, as well as those who are holding them all together.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company