Two of the Washington area’s top hubs of tech networking and venture capital are combining, as District-based incubator and seed fund 1776 is acquiring Crystal City’s Disruption Corp, launched more than a year ago by venture capitalist Paul Singh.
Co-founders Donna Harris and Evan Burfield said they envision 1776 as a center of information, networking and data with deep connections in the Washington area that could benefit start-ups and investors from around the world.
The deal gives 1776 ownership of Disruption Corp.’s software products and management of Singh’s venture fund.
Harris said the expansion to Northern Virginia should deepen 1776’s links to government agencies and companies that purchase, invest in and regulate start-ups.
“Much as we say we’re only a few blocks from the White House, now we’ll be within a couple blocks of the Pentagon,” Harris said.
Neither company disclosed terms of the transaction, which was scheduled to close Thursday.
Two years after launching with the help of a $200,000 grant from the D.C. government, 1776 has more than 270 start-up members, many of them based locally and focused on energy, health or transportation.
Its 15th Street offices draw top government officials — including President Obama — and industry experts as speakers. Its Challenge Cup attracts hundreds of competing start-ups, and big-name corporations including Microsoft, Comcast and MedStar Health have signed on as partners.
Locally 1776 has created connections to D.C., Arlington and Montgomery County, with both suburban counties recently committed to identifying opportunities that could benefit member companies.
Before the deal, 1776 and Disruption were competing for top billing as a local outpost for Silicon Valley players, with separate events programming, networking software and funds.
Singh, 34, enjoys more venture capital expertise and has previously deflected comparisons between the work he did accelerating growth for existing companies and 1776’s role incubating younger ones.
Singh is a graduate of Arlington’s Bishop O’Connell high school who helped built an investment empire in Silicon Valley dubbed 500 Startups. He returned to the area in 2013 and opened a 13,000-square-foot space for companies in his portfolio.
He doubled the space less than a year later, and created enough of a buzz that Vornado Realty Trust, the real estate firm that owns most of Crystal City, invested $10 million in his fund, opened a TechShop lab and a bar, Highline RxR, eager to offer happy hours and specials for the programmer crowd.
Vornado’s president in Washington, Mitchell N. Schear, said the deal constituted a “logical extension” of the neighborhood’s branding as a tech center.
Singh also developed software including Dashboard, a tool for start-up founders, and Hubble, which provides investors data and analysis on start-ups to investors.
“What we bring is expertise on the venture side and I also think some expertise and some advantages that we can bring on the technology side,” Singh said.
[Related: Disruption Corp. expands in Crystal City]
Harris and Burfield said they had begun developing a similar program to Dashboard when they began speaking with Singh — whom they’ve known for years and invested with — about ways to partner with and compile data on thousands of start-ups. By adding Disruption, the hub’s employee count will go from 22 to 33.
“There are a lot of things that by both of us doing them together we could build a lot faster,” Burfield said. “We can generate a nearly 360-degree view of these companies.”
The deal required Singh to hand over management of his $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, which 1776 does not plan to use for new investments.
Singh said the fund had invested in 12 companies. He declined to comment on the fund’s performance but said the sale of Disruption didn’t represent a setback of any kind.
“I’m not leaving the area, I’m not leaving the industry, I’m not stepping back,” he said.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz