Once a month, at a Tex-Mex saloon on U Street in Washington, D.C., 100 entrepreneurs, students, investors, and federal workers can be found geeking out over maps and GIS. Stetson’s hosts the GeoDC Meetup group, which attracts a diverse gathering of D.C. geo-enthusiasts and aims to connect individuals for networking, learning, socializing, and, as the website concedes, “probably some drinking.”
While Washingtonians tend to work long office hours, those in the city’s growing startup community understand how gathering in person with like-minded map-lovers can be just as valuable as online collaborations. Often, attendees make contacts for future work alliances, network for internships, or walk away with new ideas for a project. In and around D.C., one can find a growing number of opportunities to meet, greet, and learn.
Typically, the GeoDC organizers announce a meetup topic in advance, folks show up and mingle, and then everyone introduces themselves by name, employer, and three words. For example, “My name’s Susan. I work for National Geographic. Maps tell stories
Co-organizer Elizabeth Lyon (who also runs GeoNoVA, a similar but smaller scale meetup in Northern Virginia), said she’s seen GeoDC diversify since it began in 2014—more women, federal workers, teachers, and students.
Another meetup group, DC Tech, attracts a broader, larger community of innovators to see demos, launch products, and meet fellow technology enthusiasts. The Data Science DC Meetup gathers to discuss predictive analytics, applied machine learning, statistical modeling, open data, and data visualization.
For those looking to break into the government sector, D.C.-based incubator and seed fund 1776 hosts events at its downtown and Crystal City campuses on topics such as “The State of Defense of Acquisition” and “Intro to the DC Startup Community.” Global startup community Startup Grind also hosts events in each of its participating cities featuring local founders, innovators, educators, and investors who share lessons learned.
“If you know where to look and you’re open to it, there’s a really vibrant community in D.C. around mapping,” said Mikel Maron, a Presidential Innovation Fellow at 18F. “The approach is that we’re all trying to do this better together.”