LoudounPreneur entrepreneurial newsletter

Information for the Innovative, Enterprising and Brave 

August 2013

People You Should Know

This month: Fishbowl Labs

Tech gurus frequently emphasize the importance of community to entrepreneurs. This month we talk with Fishbowl Labs, an AOL-owned group. They offer a very select group of high-growth startups, programmers and designers in Northern Virginia a very special community. It's provided in what they term "the most inspiring office space in Northern Virginia ... flexible and fun," to which we might also add: free, and at AOL's Dulles headquarters. Could your company qualify to join their incubator? Co-Founder Fletcher Jones and Social Media and Events Manager Lauren Meeker tackled our questions.

1. Tell us about Fishbowl Labs - what does it offer the entrepreneurial community?

Jones: At Fishbowl Labs, startups are surrounded by other entrepreneurs, engineers and product managers who are also starting companies and facing similar challenges. Startups have access to AOL's range of employees who work on designing, engineering and distributing AOL content and products. AOL also provides resources that small businesses need but could never afford. Fishbowl companies have access to AOL's Quality Assurance Lab, a valuable resource that provides an advantage over a typical co-working space and most incubators. In addition to the resources at AOL, the Dulles campus sits on the backbone of the Internet -- up to 70 percent of the world's Internet traffic passes through data centers in Loudoun County. As the D.C. tech community continues to evolve, it is important that high-growth tech startups take advantage of the close proximity of such astounding Internet traffic.

5. Can you give us a success story about how Fishbowl's mentoring and environment has assisted tenants?

Meeker: When Fishbowl started, it included one company - Speek - which consisted of three people. Speek, which now employs 14, continues to be part of Fishbowl, and has raised over $1.5M in seed funding. They are now in the running for Wall Street Journal's Startup of the Year, and continue to grow at a rapid rate.

3. With applications to Fishbowl Labs due soon for the fall, what advice would you give new applicants, and how many will you accept?

Jones: We are looking for companies that come highly recommended by at least one other Fishbowl company or mentor. It is also incredibly important that they have the right culture fit for Fishbowl and AOL -- we're looking for companies that have charisma, hustle and drive. We are also actively seeking companies who are looking for and can benefit from the type of expertise (data, design and distribution) that AOL can provide. We are not yet sure how many startups we will be accepting during this application period, but we have unlimited space for great companies.

4. In addition to the criteria on your website, which types of companies would you most prefer?

Jones: ... Companies that are focused in [data, design, and distribution] can really take advantage of the Fishbowl Labs program. We are especially interested in companies that are Internet-enabled, with a significant consumer or mobile component. These are the companies that will get the most out of our AOL mentors.

5. What have
your startups told you about the experience?

Ryan Shank, COO of Mhelpdesk, says, "Fishbowl Labs is high-energy, it is productive, everyone out here is working towards a common goal - everyone is trying to build the biggest, baddest company possible at an amazing speed. Everyone is just in it to win it. Everyone is working together and helping each other, yet at the same time everyone has their eye on the prize for their own company."

Danny Boice, CTO of Speek, adds, "You can interact with the more corporate AOL environment as much as you want to, but you also get to act with your normal, traditional startup environment. People are wearing shorts and flip flops, working strange hours, and pulling all-nighters. You have all the great things that come with being a startup as well so you have the best of both worlds."

Entrepreneurs Converging in Leesburg HUBZone

Have you heard? The Small Business Administration's January 2013 HUBZone designation for part of Leesburg is making quite a stir in the local business community. Designations are made to "historically underutilized business" areas as measured by household income, and allow for small businesses within the zone to receive set-asides and 10 percent price preferences when vying for federal contracts. Read more.

Read It and Reap

"The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together" by Twyla Tharp with Jesse Kornbluth
Increasingly, the focus of management and leadership has shifted to the ability to collaborate and work with a group. World-famous dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp has worked with a large range of musicians, set designers and producers, and uses her experience to discuss what makes a good partnership -- what does and does not work, and how to use your natural talents to help your group succeed. It's in part through collaboration that Tharp has become a renowned artist, winning a Tony and two Emmy awards. A good read for those looking to expand and strengthen professional partnerships. Check this book out from the Loudoun County Public Library.


One Million Cups
Recently profiled in the Washington Post as "a supportive group of like-minded people with whom to trade ideas," see why entrepreneurs are loving Loudoun's
One Million Cups! Come join the movement.

Date:    August 7, 2013
Time:    9 to 10 a.m.
Place:   The Mason Enterprise Center, 202 Church St. SE, Leesburg
Cost:    Free

Business Showcase Breakfast
Have you been to the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce's "best networking event" yet? Join close to 150 Chamber members - new and old - at this monthly signature event.

Date:    August 8, 2013
Time:    7:30 to 9 a.m.
Place:   Belmont Country Club, 43750 Tournament Pkwy, Ashburn
Cost:    $25 to $35
online,$10 extra at the door

Loudoun Federal Government Contractors Group                 

This SBDC-founded group focuses on networking and building
business relationships in the Loudoun County federal contracting arena. Whether you are a federal contracting neophyte or veteran, this event can help you move forward on your contracting goals and learn the latest about Leesburg's HUBZone.

Date:    August 29, 2013
Time:    5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Place:   GW Science and Technology Campus, 20101 Academic Way, Ashburn
Cost:    Free;
advance registration highly recommended

Como Empezar un Negocio en VA
(How to Start a Business, in Spanish)                                  
Aprenda todo lo básico de creación de una empresa en Virginia, incluyendo los pasos de registro, impuestos, asuntos legales, seguros, promoción, bienes raíces, préstamos, y la banca. Las clases son en español los sábados por la mañana y se llenan, así que se enamoran!

Date:    Four Saturdays beginning August 3
Time:    9 a.m. to Noon
Place:   6400 Arlington Blvd, 1st Floor, Class B; Falls Church
Cost:    $60; registration information online

Be a Winner

Great news - we just received a new shipment of the delicious and highly sought-after Langdon Wood pure maple syrup. This great stuff is aged in the whiskey barrels from Loudoun's own Catoctin Creek Distillery. So send us a one-sentence tip for entrepreneurial success - it can be serious or light hearted - suitable for printing in a future newsletter. We'll pick one and send the maple syrup to the winner August 7. Time is short, so don't miss your chance to win - good luck!

Gut-Check From a Guru

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." - Mark Twain

Pay It Forward

This monthly email newsletter is published by the Loudoun, Virginia Department of Economic Development to inform and connect Loudoun's thriving entrepreneurial community. As a leader with influence, please help our community by forwarding this newsletter to your business colleagues. Thanks!

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Debi Roder   
Loudoun Virginia
Economic Development Entrepreneurship
Manager Debi Roder

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