Fall 2011 -- Zvi Band’s Facebook profile says it all: “I’m going to make the world a better place. And make a lot of money doing it.” A web developer, native Californian, and amateur DJ, Band is helping transform a metropolis known for its stodgy politicians and their backroom dealing into an entrepreneurial hotspot—and having a blast doing it.
After working at a government contractor for the Department of Defense, Band became the chief technology officer of the startup Workstreamer, a workplace collaboration platform. It was everything government work was not: with a fast pace, long hours, and more freedom and responsibility.
“I got really addicted to that environment,” says Band, 26. “I stopped thinking of what I was doing during the day as work because I loved it. The flexibility to do what you want to do and create something that matters is awesome.”
Band has always enjoyed creating. In high school, he produced a weekly Internet newsletter with information on new software programs, online games, and cool websites. The newsletter attracted over three thousand subscribers. In an early edition, he joked about wanting to devote more energy to the already time-consuming newsletter: “I still want to add more. Yes, MORE. I truly have lost my mind.”
Band’s startup, called Structo
, launched in September 2010. Structo is a hosted database and front-end web service designed to help developers build web applications faster. Normally, every time a new web application is created, a significant portion of the developer’s time is sunk in creation of a slew of standard components and actions—like setting up a database, building and styling forms, setting up processing and validations, and creating an administration panel. Structo handles these repetitive tasks, and offers user-friendly interfaces, drag-and-drop features, and pre-styled forms. The end goal is enabling developers to get their application to market quicker. “Faster development for faster world domination” is Band’s quirky motto. Based on initial feedback, Band is now working on a product to help developers with domain names and hosting, maintenance, file transferring and editing, and other similarly repetitive tasks. But the goal of Structo has stayed the same: speeding up the application creation and management process.
Band also operates SkeevisArts.com
, a web development company. He’s also working on a startup in development, Contactually.com
, an e-mail-based relationship manager.
Building a Network
While they may spend late nights alone programming in their pajamas, developers and others interested in entrepreneurship can’t succeed in isolation. They require a community to provide support and connect them with friends, potential employees, and clients.
“I need a community so badly for what I want to do,” Band says. “I need to learn from other people, especially experienced entrepreneurs.”
For years, D.C. hasn’t been that community. But according to Band, a re-growth of startups began three years ago, with a real resurgence in the last six to eight months. Venture capital investments in D.C. rose from $35.3 million in 2008 to $46.6 million in 2009 to $107.1 million in 2010, according to the National Venture Capital Association. In April, D.C. startup Living Social raised an additional $400 million in funding, for a total to-date take of $632 million, a landmark for the region and an impressive amount in its own right.
In December 2010 Band rode the peak of this startup wave by launching the website “Proudly Made in DC” with cofounder Michael Mayernick. Proudly Made in DC is a portal for learning about the D.C. startup community, and includes descriptions of local startups and related events. The site launched with a list of 40 startups and now catalogues over 130. Like Band’s high school newsletter, it has become a useful resource for thousands of people.
A month later, in January 2011, Band started the D.C. Tech Meetup
with five other cofounders. Featuring panels, presentations, and demos by entrepreneurs and investors, the meetup moves like clockwork and is rich in content, but also has a fun edge to it. The first two meetings, held at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, were packed to capacity with some 600 enthusiastic attendees. A following meetup on mobile technology was moved to George Washington University to accommodate the list of over 900 attendees. At the end of the meetings hordes of attendees converge upon a chosen local bar, like Rocket
, to continue their networking. The D.C. Tech Meetup mission is to help startups succeed and to “make people’s dreams come true”—including those of the founders.
Nurturing the entrepreneur community through projects like D.C. Tech, Band explains, ultimately benefits his own projects. He wants to create a culture where entrepreneurs help each other out, to mutual benefit. And if the D.C. startup community grows, more venture capital and angel funding will gravitate to the region.
Band has come a long way since he discovered the D.C. startup community four years ago. “I still consider myself the shy guy,” admits Band, who calls himself an introvert. But he pushed himself to break out of his shell, to “jump in and start shaking hands.”
In many ways, Band’s attitude toward building a startup is similar—jump in, or “just do it,” as he says. He thinks too many people waste time on crafting hundred-page business plans, over-thinking and second-guessing their ideas, and waiting too long to interact with actual customers. His Proudly Made in D.C
. was born out of a 3 a.m. discussion with a friend and a few hours of coding. The initial version was simplistic, Band says, but it was there.
Spurred by this attitude, Band is already making the world a better place for the hundreds of entrepreneurs living in D.C. And all that money he wants to make?
“If it isn’t Structo, it’ll be whatever follows beyond it.”
> Digital Capital Week (starts November 4.)
> Proudly Made in D.C
> D.C. Tech Meetup