Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of the investments in UnConference. This version has been corrected.
David M. Rubenstein had a very important question for the leaders of Hilton and Marriott: Why does every hotel mini-bar seem to have Pringles?
“People like Pringles,” Christopher J. Nassetta, chief executive of McLean-based Hilton Worldwide, said during a breakfast last week hosted by the Economic Club of Washington.
“I think collectively we’re at our worst when we’re in hotel rooms,” added Arne Sorenson, chief executive of Bethesda-based Marriott International. “A balanced meal is a can of Pringles and a bourbon out of the mini-bar.”
Nassetta and Sorenson spent an hour chatting with Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group. In between discussions about the changing hospitality industry and the importance of technology, the two executives answered questions such as: Are Web sites such as Airbnb a threat? (Answer: Not really.) Do hotels make money on room service? (Again, no.) And what is the most important factor guests look for? (Location first, then brand affiliation, then price, Nassetta said.)
Hilton and Marriott, the world’s two largest hotel companies, have a combined 8,000 properties around the world.
— Abha Bhattarai
Developers of the Southwest Waterfront held a showy groundbreaking ceremony with D.C. officials last week, kicking off a 42-month construction project that will turn the sleepy strip of restaurants into a boardwalk with apartments, offices and hotels.
The project, called the Wharf, has been in the works since 2006. It became possible after developers PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette landed at least $220 million from a Canadian pension fund manager.
Many of the project’s stakeholders came to see it start. Packed into a white tent to stay out of the rain, they listened to speeches from project investors, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and three members of the D.C. Council who are running to replace him.
— Jonathan O’Connell
There is a new entrepreneurial hub in town, and it’s at an unlikely place — Nelson Mullins, a 117-year-old law firm.
The firm, which is based in Columbia, S.C., and has about 35 lawyers in Washington, hosted “Capital UnConference,” a meet-up between 60 emerging companies and more than 40 investors, including Aetna, Baird Capital, Fulcrum Equity Partners, Blue Heron Capital, TDF Ventures, New Atlantic Ventures and Startup Maryland.
The law firm vetted the companies by reviewing their business plans beforehand, and arranged meetings between those companies and investors, some of whom are clients of the firm. In total, about 240 people attended and 350 half-hour meetings were held at the firm’s office near Capitol Hill on March 13.
Nelson Mullins started UnConference in its Nashville office in 2013 — which led to a collective $25 million in investments — but hosted it for the first time in Washington this month.
The jury is still out on how much in new investments the most recent UnConference will bring, but Helen Quick, one of the partners in charge of the event, said one term sheet was issued that day — meaning at least one company and new investors have reached a deal.
— Catherine Ho
The Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held its annual business expo last week at the Washington Convention Center, intended to help Hispanic business owners showcase their businesses to the government officials involved in the contracting process. About 130 small businesses exhibited at the expo.
The event kicked off with several panel discussions, including one guiding listeners through the certification process for contracting with governments in Virginia, Maryland and the District, and another about finding international investment opportunities.
This year, the expo included a booth where attendees could enroll in DC Health Link to provide health insurance coverage for their families and employees before the March 31 enrollment deadline.
— Mohana Ravindranath
In today’s fast-paced business climate, work/life balance is a goal that is as prized as it is elusive. Last week, human resources professionals from across the country gathered in Baltimore to put a spotlight on companies that have been innovators in helping their employees to achieve this equilibrium.
The Work-Life Forum, held by WorldAtWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress, honored Jessica Lee with its Rising Star Award for her work on this topic at Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications. Lee started at Discovery as an intern in 2008 and has since risen to manager, overseeing all wellness and work-life programming for the United States and Latin America. She recently launched an on-site medical center at the company’s Sterling office and an on-site fitness center at its Los Angeles office.
Several other local employers earned the Alliance’s Seal of Distinction this year: George Mason University, Marriott International, Northrop Grumman and George Washington University.
— Sarah Halzack
These aren’t your typical power tools. GE opened one of its “Garages” in the District on Friday to serve as a temporary gathering place for innovators, tinkerers and other creative types collectively known as “makers.” The pop-up facility at 1122 Connecticut Ave. NW boasts 3-D printers, a laser cutter, injection molder and computer workstations, among other equipment. There will be workshops on how to use the tools, as well as a series of speakers, meet-ups and receptions through April 9. Started in 2012, GE’s Garages program has given participants “a hands-on experience creating, innovating and learning about how to make in a collaborative fab lab space.”