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October 10, 2014
At Booz Allen, we recognize that there’s no such thing as going it alone in innovation. We serve our clients through a global innovation ecosystem that is energized by a wide range of partners, including entrepreneurs and startups. That’s why we were so excited to sponsor and extensively participate in the recent Startup Weekend DC, a 3-day event in which entrepreneurs learned how to launch a venture, and then pitch their ideas.
Nearly 30 Booz Allen staffers helped plan the event and served as mentors to participants. In addition, Vice President Julie McPherson kicked off the event, Vice President Aimee George-Leary was one of the judges, and I had the opportunity to serve on a panel distinguished members of the technology and startup community: David Guttman, CEO of CityScan; Ann Marie Isleib, Regional Vice President Platform at Salesforce.com; Susan Tynan, founder and CEO of Framebridge, Inc., and moderator Allyson Burns, Senior Vice President of Case Foundation and Revolution LLC. The panel focused on strategies for overcoming the challenges of scaling a venture at every stage, from startup to large company.
During the first day of the event, participants pitched more than 30 ideas for startups, then voted for the top 12, to be developed by teams over the next two days. Aided by innovation and startup experts from Booz Allen and the wider Washington-area, team members got a hands-on education in what it takes to launch a startup. Many of the participants were interested in starting their own ventures, while others joined teams to learn, to mentor, or to explore potential partnerships.
At the end of the competition, the judges chose three winners. The top two choices highlighted the growing importance of social good in the tech and startup communities: Heartful.ly, which creates charitable wedding registries, and Forget Me Not, which uses sensor technology to prevent infant heatstroke deaths.
An Emphasis on Diversity
While Startup Weekends are held throughout the world, what made this event particularly remarkable was that it was the first Women’s Edition for the Washington, DC.area. About 90 percent of the participants were women – including many from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds. Such diverse perspectives are a powerful factor successful collaboration.
The Importance of Startups to Booz Allen
Startups are a critical part of our innovation ecosystem, which also includes established companies, researchers, academics and others. We’ve found through experience that startups have a lot to offer – they’re nimble, and often on the leading edge of developing new ideas. When we connect with high-potential startups, we can bring innovative solutions to our clients more quickly. That’s why we want startups to pitch their ideas and partner with us. We’re a 100-year-old company, but there are many lessons we can learn from startups.
This idea is behind our partnerships with organizations like 1776 – the Washington, D.C. area’s leading startup incubator – which provided the venue for the event (along with General Assembly, another organization that educates aspiring entrepreneurs).
Taking the Initiative to Make it All Happen
Many members from Booz Allen’s innovation agenda volunteered their time to play key roles at the event, from planning to mentoring. They included Lili Gangas, Kat Faley, Jason Chen, Katie Stefanich, Shepard Cockrell, Andie Rauta, Kristina Francis, Willis Tatterson, Ryan Sheehy, Ryan Kaiser and Wayne Chen. Other Booz Allen staffers spent their weekend collaborating on the startup teams.
We encourage you to reach out to these ambassadors to learn more about their experiences in putting Booz Allen’s Culture of Innovation into action. You can also visit innovation.bah.com.