DC Startup Week aims to navigate ups and downs of pandemic, economy

Most people never heard of Zoom before the pandemic’s March 2020 crash-landing, but the ubiquitous meeting platform is a real-world example for startup entrepreneurs at DC Startup Week 2021.

“Technology has been crucial to allow businesses to not only survive, but thrive throughout the pandemic,” said Rachel Koretsky, founder and CEO of Upace and lead organizer of the five-day networking event, which opened Monday.

DC Startup Week brings together thousands of entrepreneurs from Maryland, Virginia and the District, with the hope of helping to transform good ideas into money-making businesses.

Koretsky said this year’s gathering is hybrid — most are streaming on the Attendify platform, with some in-person events that require ticketed passes.

“I think the most amazing part of the D.C. startup ecosystem is the community, and how supportive the community is to other founders at all different stages and different industries, and how they’re willing to give back to other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs,” Koretsky said.

As is often the case, one of the big challenges for young companies is raising money to get the businesses off the ground, or to the next level.

“This year a lot of our content is how to get investment, with things like friends and family, bootstrapping, angels and venture capital,” Koretsky said, “as well as a lot of content about creating your pitch deck, how to communicate with [potential investors] and hearing from the investors themselves.”

As if asking for money wasn’t difficult enough, the coronavirus pandemic has added new challenges.

This year’s DC Startup Week will include discussions about startups taking steps back toward normal. “Bringing back some in-person gatherings, with strict COVID safety protocols,” said Koretsky. “A lot of people we hear miss that in-person networking and being able to meet and interact with another.”

In typical times, entrepreneurs learn to sell their idea to a potential investor in a short period of time — in person.

“The ‘elevator pitch’ is extremely crucial — being able to speak upon your business in a quick way, or speak of who you are as a founder, is always crucial,” said Koretsky.

But the quick sell isn’t the only important part of growing a business. “D.C. is a very empowering sort of community. You can find resources, whether it’s financial, or mentorship, or the services you need or the right legal team,” said Koretsky. “It’s all here in D.C. — you just need to know where to look.”

WTOP is a media sponsor of DC Startup Week 2021.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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