Author Archives: David Zipper

About David Zipper

David Zipper is the Managing Director of 1776 Ventures, which directs resources toward high-growth startups in regulated sectors like education, health, energy, and smart cities. 1776 Ventures is a part of 1776, an entrepreneurial hub with over 240 member startups. Based in downtown Washington DC, 1776 includes a coworking space, accelerator, school, events area, and media platform. David oversees all programming that 1776 offers entrepreneurs to help them scale their businesses. David previously was the Director of Business Development and Strategy within the mayor's office in Washington DC under mayors Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty. He holds an MBA with highest honors from Harvard Business School, an M.Phil in Land Economy (urban planning) from the University of Cambridge, and a BA with high honors from Swarthmore College.

David Zipper

Bridging the Divide Between the Nonprofit and Startup Communities

The value of reciprocal relationships between entrepreneurs and nonprofits or associations may not be obvious, but they can bring myriad benefits.  And the divide between the nonprofit and for-profit communities is smaller than you might think.  As a managing director at 1776, a startup incubator in Washington, DC, I work each day with companies that sincerely want to drive change and have a positive impact on the world. Sound familiar?

Mission Overlap

Many nonprofit leaders I speak to don’t realize how aligned their interests are with entrepreneurs who are addressing global problems. Last year, 1776 hosted its first Challenge Cup, a global startup competition taking place in 16 cities across 11 countries to identify the most promising startups solving the biggest challenges in education, energy, health, and cities. Winners included:

  • CancerIQ, a company that provides oncologists with information they need to correctly diagnose and identify high risk patience.
  • PlugSurfing, a Berlin-based startup, is facilitating the world’s largest charging point for electric cards, e-bikes and electric scooters.
  • EduCanon, an interactive video platform that helps teachers transform and evaluate the efficacy of video learning.
  • The global winner, HandUp, which provides a technology platform for charitable giving to the homeless community and allows donors to track their donations.

Each of these startups could provide partnership opportunities for particular associations and nonprofits.  For associations, there is an opportunity to play matchmaker—connecting entrepreneurs to members who would value their innovative product, but would not otherwise know about it.  Think about a teacher association that could publicize eduCanon to members as a free tool they can use to improve their lessons.  Meanwhile, nonprofits can serve as “early adopters” of new tools that can improve your services.  For example, a nonprofit that serves the homeless could work with HandUp to provide clients with services like dental work or interview clothes that they could not otherwise offer.

DC Metro Area Opportunities

The Washington metropolitan region has a particularly active startup scene that provides ample opportunity for nonprofit and association leaders to connect with it.  The area is home to a growing number of startups due to its favorable economic outlook, well-educated and young labor pool, and vibrant neighborhoods.  Pair that with one of the strongest nonprofit communities in the country and you have a recipe for success.  You can engage with for-profit innovators in a number of ways:

  1. Attend DC Tech Meetup to see what local companies are doing to move the world forward.
  2. Sign up for specialized meetups, like DC Ed Tech or the Health Technology Forum to see what’s happening in your organization’s focus area.
  3. Monitor local tech developments through social media channels, such as the DC Tech Facebook page or the #DCTech hashtag on Twitter.
  4. Attend the 1776 Challenge Cup festival.

In addition to 1776, there are many established organizations throughout the region that are working to connect nonprofits and associations with relevant startups. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce invited me to speak at their recent Nonprofit & Association Leadership Academy event, and they have some great programs scheduled this fall to address the changing exempt landscape.  Aronson LLC, a metro area-based accounting and consulting firm, is partnering with both 1776 and local chambers to connect organizations with the resources, products and services provided by local innovators.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is to embrace innovation and be open to forging new relationships with the startup community. Great ideas deserve to be shared!

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