Examining Washington, DC's Startup Culture

Everyone knows that Washington, DC is home to our nation’s capital, but it is also home to a vibrant and creative startup scene. The political and social connections combined with a dense population allow numerous great startups and small companies to flourish there. While starting a company in the city does have some challenges, such as trying to find office space for rent in DC, there are also many upsides to being based there. Here are some of the most important things to know about the startup culture in Washington, DC if you are planning to join it.


1.      The country’s capital provides unique opportunities.

Washington, DC is a unique city, and consequently it provides a number of opportunities that are not found elsewhere.DC is both an important legislative center in the United States and an important global bridge. This makes it especially perfect for startups with apolitical focus or new companies that are looking to attract international clients. It also makes a great base for startups that are promoting ecological efficiency or fair-trade standards because laws that may affect those companies are made right down the street. While technology may make it possible to effectively manage a politically, globally, or ethically focused startup from any location, there are still many advantages to being able to interact with certain clients in a face-to-face setting and have your feet on the ground in the same place where the action is happening.

2.      The startup scene is diverse

While Washington, DC’s role as the capital of the United States makes it an especially beneficial location for startups that are focused on legislation and international relations, it does not mean it is limited to those kinds of businesses! On the contrary, DC is home to a wide range of startups, including those in the tech sector, the hospitality sector, and the health care sector.In fact, accommodation and food service was one of the fastest growing startup sections in recent years. This actually makes sense because the city and its many monuments, museums, rallies, and historic sites welcome over 20 million visitors each year who could benefit from those kinds of services. DC’s startup culture is not just a one-size fits all model for companies, and really any type of startup has the potential to flourish. For examples of great companies in the DC area, check out some of the companies using Alley in DC.

3.      Washington, DC is expensive

Many new companies assume that they need to rent or lease some office space in order to lend a sense of legitimacy to their new venture, but finding office space for rent in DC can be tricky. Despite having a huge metropolitan population, the city itself has a tiny area of only 68 square miles. Compare that to 468 square miles in New York City or 503 square miles in Los Angeles!This makes Washington, DC real estate a hard-to-get commodity with a high price tag, so many startups instead choose to use a collaborative work space, such as Alley,rather than dealing with the hassle of finding an affordable office space to rent. Despite the especially high cost of commercial and private rent and overall higher cost of living, however, many companies still choose our nation’s capital because of the unique opportunities mentioned above.Innovations like co-working spaces simply help to make this challenge much more manageable.

4.      There is a lot of support.

The metropolitan population of Washington, DC is over six million people, so it can be common to assume that it would be easy for a new business to get lost in the crowd. On the contrary, however, our nation’s capital is incredibly supportive of startups. There are a wide range of resources for new businesses including, DC Inno,which markets itself as an online “portal” for startups, as well as the support that comes from membership at the various co-working spaces. For example, most shared office spaces, including Alley, provide members with access to other local startups and frequently host continuing education and networking events. These benefits help to foster a sense of community and support that would be hard to build in a smaller city.

5.      The startup culture is growing.

Despite being a historic city, Washington, DC is incredibly forward-thinking when it comes to the startup culture. An average of 4% of Washington, DC’s private sector companies were classified as startups, which was well above the national average of 3%. In 2016 alone, over 3800 new fledgling companies were founded there, but they accounted for a growth in 17,000 jobs by the end of the year. That’s not insignificant! As the country’s capital continues to grow and thrive, so will the startups and the support available to them.


Overall, DC’s startup scene is unique because the city itself is unique. It is located at the heart of the United States’political and legal systems, but it is also the country’s gateway to the rest of the world. This makes Washington, DC stand out the perfect place for certain kinds of startups, but there is a much larger diversity of types of companies than many would expect. While there are certainly some specific challenges that come with basing a company in the capital of United States, such as finding offices pace for rent in DC, there are also solutions such as co-working spaces.Overall, DC is a great location to help any startup thrive!