On Thursday, a smattering of entrepreneurs convened at UberOffices Rosslyn to share their thoughts on Virginia’s technology landscape. Their interlocutor: Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
As is customary in his dealings with Virginia’s technology and startup scene, McAuliffe lauded the state’s business friendly features, like its long-term capital gains tax exclusion for investments in tech companies.
I want you to be fabulously successful, and become angel investors. Keep the system going.
“I want you to be fabulously successful, and become angel investors,” he told a throng of startup founders and entrepreneurs gathered in the coworking space’s terrace. “Keep the system going.”
McAuliffe admitted that Virginia was “historically” a defense contractor state, without much of a welcoming mat for tech companies and startups. “We’re trying to change that focus,” he said.
The governor fielded questions on the state’s cybersecurity infrastructure, patent law, and the investment landscape for startups.
“The investment community around here is much more conservative than the West Coast,” said JP Bourget, the CEO and cofounder of Arlington-based Syncurity. Those in attendance represented companies working out of UberOffices Tysons Corner and Rosslyn, including ID.me cofounder and COO Matthew Thompson, Bloompop CEO Shavanna Miller and Zoobean cofounders Jordan and Felix Lloyd.
After initial comparisons with Silicon Valley, the governor grew more humble on the state’s biotechnology positioning. He recalled the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego, where he saw results from the Battelle biannual report on states with the strongest prospects for growth in the bioscience industry.
At the event, “I’m all pumped up, the next governor of Virginia,” he said. But he found that his state was ranked in the second, third or fourth quartiles on many measures.
“I’m sitting next to one and two [California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick].”
“NIH is 11 miles from where we’re standing,” McAuliffe added. “We should be a leader on that.”
In the roughly half-hour event, McAuliffe didn’t delve on many specific solutions to the founders’ quandaries. But he highlighted his state’s business-friendly policies, like a July executive order that requires agencies to award at least 42 percent of contracts to small, women- and minority-owned businesses (SWAMs).
McAuliffe also announced his plan to make it “the first state in America to end veteran homelessness” and hopes to bring in a new federal cybersecurity facility to the state.
UberOffices founder Raymond Rahbar, who is also a member of NextGen Angels, told Technical.ly DC that despite its heavy defense contracting industry, Virginia has the potential to diversify its business landscape. “Hopefully, little by little we’ll replace it with startups and small businesses,” he said.
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