The technology sector in Washington is anything but still. Entrepreneurs are always hatching new ideas. Investors are constantly backing them. And companies are regularly adding, or shedding, employees.

For proof, just look back at the headlines pouring out of the region during 2014.

Capital Business asked local executives, investors and business enthusiasts to peer into their crystal ball to predict what lies ahead for the tech economy. Here’s what they had to say.


Jonathan Aberman, managing director, Amplifier Ventures

Jonathan Aberman at the TandemNSI inaugural rapid-pitch event on Dec. 2. (Jeffrey MacMillan )

What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

 “It will become clearer and easier for start-ups to work with the federal government, as changes in attitude from the Pentagon and elsewhere will result in new opportunities for the region.  The market will also likely start to suffer from accelerator and co-working indigestion, absent a more robust funding and exit market for the start-ups that infrastructure will be creating. I expect the region to reach an interesting crossover point in 2015, and how it reacts will determine whether we have a retreat similar to the last “tech bubble” in 2001, or if we have a lasting and continuing technology entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

What can we expect for the local technology scene next year? 

“We will have some nice wins. A number of our regional start-ups are getting the financing to achieve scale – Urgently, Hinge and Track Maven come to mind.  And, established companies like Clarabridge and WeddingWire continue to do their thing.  Assuming that the economy continues to expand, we will have some happy exits this year. The question will be whether it is of sufficient density to allow our market to achieve lift-off velocity.”

Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why?

“There is a large community of interest around advanced manufacturing, robotics and Internet of Things in our region, and some really smart and creative people are involved.  I hope to see our region start to move away from a tech scene that emulates Silicon Valley to one that is distinct.  Check out Sentien Robotics or Centeye for start-ups that are interesting, or Smart Things’s exit to Samsung, as examples.”

 What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year? 

“The region continues to suffer from an absence of Series A capital. In areas other than Internet-based businesses, it is almost impossible to get that first financing round after the angels have done their funding. The region has ample angel capital and start-up spaces. We need to have institutional risk capital to grow and broaden our technology base. Unfortunately, venture capital has become a momentum-based investment, not a long-term company building investment class, so it is hard to imagine how to correct this market void with current investment models.

“Venture capital pools in Silicon Valley because that is where the current momentum bubble is. The federal government as a capital source may be a way to fill this void, if we can achieve necessary changes in how it interacts with our entrepreneurs. But, we must stop trying to follow others. We must lead and find ways to encourage the formation of risk tolerant pools of capital – institutional or otherwise – to get our companies to a scale sufficient to obtain Series B capital and beyond.”


Timothy Chi, chief executive, WeddingWire

Wedding Wire CEO Timothy Chi speaks at a 2012 Washington Post LIVE event. (Jeffrey MacMillan )

What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015? 

Drones delivering everything: packages, mail, mints and $5 Subway meatball subs.

What can we expect for the Washington technology scene next year?

“My hope for the region is that we continue to gain recognition for the growing base of innovative technology companies in our area. Washington continues to be one of the best locations in the U.S. to grow a technology business. However, I don’t feel we’ve reached a tipping point where we are consistently part of the technology narrative nationwide.”


Dan Berger, founder, Social Tables

What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

SocialTables CEO Dan Berger. (Jeffrey MacMillan)

“More start-ups! Angel List reports 1,189 start-ups in D.C. proper, Maryland another 737 and Virginia, 835. While that’s not necessarily a scientific count, it’s pretty large. As a unit, that would rank us sixth by location, according to Angel List. That’s pretty amazing. I think we will see even more start-ups created, thanks in part to all of the super smart people here, to the community, to the co-working environments, capital in the region, etc.”

What can we expect for the local technology scene next year?

“A lot of this is up to the new mayor. I hope Mayor-elect [Muriel] Bowser is going to continue the great work Mayor [Vincent] Gray started. She would need to put significantly more capital in private-public partnerships and explore other legislative policies.”

Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why? 

“Health (Privia Health), education (Blackboard, EverFi) and hospitality (Social Tables) are the three sweets spots in D.C. and will continue to take off. These are industries that leverage D.C.’s core competencies and can use their locale to accelerate their growth.”

What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year?

“Nothing serious comes to mind.”


Elana Fine, associate director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at U-Md. (Jeffrey MacMillan )

Elana Fine, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship 

What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

“Investors will start rethinking convertible debt. Based on recent conversations with active investors from the past three years, when the tide turned toward convertible notes, they are starting to feel the effects of dilution as start-ups raise venture money. Entrepreneurs and investors might see friction as entrepreneurs look for deals to move quickly and avoid valuation.”

What can we expect for the local tech scene next year?

“Focus. Companies will focus on building teams and winning customers. Many angel-funded companies have to prove traction to attract limited venture capital. Less about where you are seen and more on what you have done.”

Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why? 

“We are watching one of our alumni companies – Snaapiq.  [It is a] photo contest platform that is building traction through both consumer downloads and sponsored corporate photo contests.”

What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year?

“I’m disappointed that not enough D.C. area entrepreneurs are trying to solve harder problems and that investors aren’t funding some bigger ideas with bigger dollars. I think we are under utilizing the collective intellectual and business capital of our region, not to mention the technology of universities and federal labs. We are only scratching the surface of our ability to solve education, health-care and security problems. No reason the D.C. area can’t win in all three of these areas.”


D.C. government tech and innovation sector manager Erin Horne McKinney.

Erin Horne McKinney, tech & innovation sector manager, District of Columbia government

 What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

“The difference we will see in D.C. tech between 2014 and 2015 will be bigger deals, bigger rounds, bigger announcements, and bigger exits.  In 2014, companies such as Optoro raised $50 million, TrackMaven raised $14 million, Quad Learning raised $10 million, FiscalNote raised $7 million, and StockUp raised $4 million … to name a few. These deals bring more attention to the area for deal flow and enhance the local tech ecosystem in a myriad of ways.”

 What can we expect for the local technology scene next year?

“We’ve seen an explosion of co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators in the area in 2014. Therefore, we look forward to an increase in the number of successful ventures graduating from these organizations and programs in 2015. As these companies mature, they will strengthen the local tech scene by commercializing new technologies, creating more jobs, increasing the intellectual capital available and attracting more funding to the region.”

Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why? 

“The three areas we anticipate taking off next year are:

• Social entrepreneurship: With the opening of entities such as Impact Hub DC and the Halcyon Incubator, the region will continue to see an increase in social innovation and socially conscious start-ups.

• Ag tech and food tech: Washington is seeing a surge in the intersection of food, agriculture, tech and innovation. Locally, [agriculture technology] and [food technology[ companies are sprouting up (pun intended), such as Compost Cab, Hello Tractor, Greenease, PowerSupply, Feastly, PureJoy and many more. Cultivate Ventures, a new D.C.-based venture firm focused on this area, will likely contribute to the growth.

• Wearable technology: This is a growing tech trend in general, and D.C. Tech will definitely be involved. Companies such as SocialRadar, Silica Labs and LynxFIT are developing and designing apps for wearables and wearable devices.”

What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year?

“D.C. is one the top five markets for venture investments in the country.  However, the majority of that funding currently goes to [business-to-business] start-ups. Our market would benefit greatly from more indigenous [business-to-consumer] ventures thriving locally, as opposed to relocating outside of Washington seeking investments. We anticipate a rise in consumer-focused ventures receiving local financial support. With a greater amount of investment, Washington will be positioned as a leading B2C markets. Regional companies such as Talklocal, Airside Mobile, M3D and SnapDash are but a few examples of the potential of this sector.”


Revolution Ventures managing director Tige Savage (Revolution)

Tige Savage. managing director, Revolution Ventures

 What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

“What I expect in 2015 and beyond really is an increased importance of Washington and technology in general, to tech companies outside Washington in terms of increasing their presence here, and in terms of Washington becoming an increasing place for companies to set up.

“The reason for that is [past Internet companies] were focused on highly unregulated categories. Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook. They were all highly unregulated categories. Look now at the companies that are getting large, and they’re in regulated industries. Uber. AirBnb. Because they’re taking on regulated industries, and the regulators in those industries need to start dealing with them.

“The biggest opportunities and the biggest companies will spend more and more time in Washington because they have to deal with this regulatory machine. I don’t think that’s just a 2015 trend. The next 10 years look a lot different than the past 10 years.”

What can we expect for the local. technology scene next year?

“Obviously we’re generally optimistic about the region. Specifically for next year, something that I think is going to be great for the local tech economy is that a number of companies that have spent a long time maturing are mature. They’ve attracted a lot of people to the area, and they’re going to start flowing out. Cvent went public. Opower went public. We’re going to see new companies coming out of the people who came to Washington because of that.”

Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why?

“There is a subset of categories for which I think Washington is unique, which is defense and government. Within that, cybersecurity is a huge category. Look at what’s going on with Sony right now. That’s not really where we invest, but I would expect that to be hot. Education, marketing services and consumer commerce companies are [also] areas where I expect to see lots of innovation.”

What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year?

“It’s hard for me to point to a disappointment. I think it was a pretty good year. What’s disappointing is when a quality company or quality founders feel like they have to leave the region for a capital raise or ecosystem. One sort of slips through the cracks. A good example is Hinge, they started here and moved to New York. If we had gone back several years, it would be easy for me to mention a number of disappointments. D.C. is definitely going in the right direction, but we want more [companies], not less.”


Paul Singh, founder of Disruption Corporation and Crystal Tech Fund. (Disruption Corporation )

Paul Singh, managing director, Disruption Corp. 

 What will be the biggest change for the local technology scene between 2014 and 2015?

“At one end, we’ll see the number of companies successfully raising a Series A (or later) funding round increasing. On the other end, we’ll continue to see more entrepreneurs trying their hand at starting something new. Somewhere in between those two things, we’ll see some interesting (and not so interesting) companies fizzle out. I suppose it’s more of the same: an exaggerated barbell that seems to be expanding in size.”

What can we expect for the local technology scene next year?

“Entrepreneurship in the D.C. area will continue to grow with help from the likes of 1776, WeWork, TechShop and similar physical spaces. The challenge will be to convince more of the D.C. tech community that every business doesn’t have to be a venture-style company. It’s OK to bootstrap and it’s OK to raise money – as long as you focus on revenue and growth.

“On the venture-funded side of the D.C. tech scene, we’ll continue to see most local companies raising their big rounds from outside the D.C. metropolitan region. There simply aren’t enough large funds that can lead local rounds at this point and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

 Are there specific companies or industries that you see really taking off next year? Why? 

“If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t tell you — I’d just invest in them and quietly enjoy the returns. On a more serious note, we’ll continue to see the line between online and offline companies continuing to blur. Anyone that’s a middleman should be worried, technology companies are coming after you (and your cost structures).”

What was the biggest disappointment for the local tech scene in 2014? Do you see that changing next year?

“The ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality in the D.C. tech scene continues to be a tragedy. While the ‘wantrapreneurs’ and the pundits beat each other up on the merits of D.C., Virginia or Maryland, the true entrepreneurs are keeping their heads down and building important companies. I’m not sure that’ll ever change.”