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An Incubator for Ideas
November 17, 2011
GW student entrepreneurs may apply for spots in entrepreneurship incubator.
The life of an entrepreneur can be exciting: developing an idea, getting investors on board and—hopefully—watching the idea take off. But it can also be a solitary life, including long hours toiling in front of a computer, often from a home office, a coffee shop or simply the couch.
Getting would-be entrepreneurs out from behind their screens and into conversations with other like-minded people is the goal of District I/O, a coworking space in Dupont Circle that opened in August. And thanks to a new agreement between District I/O and GW’s Office of Entrepreneurship, GW student entrepreneurs have a chance to join the community.
A coworking space provides members with the benefits of interaction and camaraderie, as well as more practical things like conference rooms, office equipment and a mailing address—one that isn’t a home or a residence hall.
Anthony Shop, M.B.A. ’11, cofounded District I/O with Eileen Kessler, president of OmniStudio, a creative design and web development company. Mr. Shop owns a digital consulting company, Social Driver, and also a startup called DriverSuite that won the GW Business Plan Competition in 2010. Once the District I/O space was open for business, getting students involved was a natural next step, he said.
“Being around other people who are going through the same things you’re going through—whether you’re a student or not—is hugely beneficial,” Mr. Shop explained. “I have gotten great benefits from working with GW’s Office of Entrepreneurship, so I went to [director] Jim Chung and asked him if thought we could work together on this.”
As a result, District I/O will offer free five annual memberships to GW students. To be eligible, at least one of a startup’s founders must be a current GW student not on academic probation, and the business plan or idea must be legal. Both business ideas and businesses already in the early stages of operation are eligible, but venture-backed businesses are not. Interested startup founders must submit an application form—available online—as well as an executive summary of the startup plan and a personal statement. Complete instructions are available on the Office of Entrepreneurship website. Startups are eligible to keep District I/O memberships for two years, or until they receive significant funding—whichever comes first.
“We want to build a community of entrepreneurs,” Mr. Chung said. “These student members can hang out there and learn from others.” They’ll also be able to reserve the space’s conference room, for example, if they have a meeting with a potential investor. “I’ve had students who conducted meetings in their dorm rooms,” he said.
The new partnership makes District I/O GW’s official student entrepreneurship “incubator,” providing a warm and friendly place for student entrepreneurs to grow.
“A lot of freelancers and entrepreneurs think it’s going to be great to work at home, at first,” Ms. Kessler said. “But after a while, it becomes isolating. There’s a lot to be gained from working in a group.”
Mr. Shop said he sees District I/O as a nucleus of a much larger organism, one that includes the many other incubators and coworking spaces in the city. As District I/O grows, he and Ms. Kessler hope to add more networking events and opportunities for collaboration.
“The way I see it, we’re not competing—we all have the same goal, and that’s to promote entrepreneurship,” he said.
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