A look at what's changed for 1776 after the Benjamin's Desk merger - Technical.ly DC


Nov. 8, 2017 7:52 am

A look at what’s changed for 1776 after the Benjamin’s Desk merger

1776 is staffing up and raising capital. Meanwhile, newly-spun out Union has a largely familiar team of its own. Plus, a word on Dubai.
At an event at 1776 in D.C.

At an event at 1776 in D.C.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

About three weeks after the merger deal between 1776 and Benjamin’s Desk, the implications are starting to shake out.

The deal kept the 1776 name intact, and the offerings for members have not changed at campuses in D.C. and Crystal City. But there have been changes internally as one of D.C.’s tech hubs is under new day-to-day management, and software platform UNION was spun out into an entirely separate company.

Here’s a look at some of the developments that have emerged:

Shifting Teams

On 15th St., the merger created two separate companies with their own teams.

As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, the staff page at 1776 now looks a lot different. 

Under co-CEOs Anthony Maher and Jennifer Maher, Penny Lee remained from pre-deal 1776 as Chief Strategy Officer, Lucas McCanna stayed on as D.C. Regional Director. Executive Chef  Aaron Butler and Sous Chef Samuel Johnson are director and deputy director of culinary, as well as a pair of New York employees. They join members of the Benjamin’s Desk team. In Philly, Steve Harrell was recently hired as VP of Growth. The current team is 25 members across the company’s four locations in D.C., Crystal City, Va., Philly and Brooklyn, according to its website. And 1776 is currently hiring for three positions in D.C.

UNION is a separate company, with the platform that is designed to provide connections, mentoring and education to startups now being run by former 1776 CEO Evan Burfield. According to a list provided to Technical.ly DC by UNION, the startup now has a team of 21.

Many of the faces are familiar. They include former 1776 CFO Steve Graubart, former 1776 Controller Richard Parsons, former 1776 Managing Director of Talent and Culture Dominique Taylor, former 1776 Managing Director of Global Marketing Morgan Johnson, former 1776 Curriculum Production Manager Lauren Hyman and a team of seven developers led by former 1776 CTO Yuriko Horvath. The change points to the size of the team at 1776 that was working on the software side of the business.


“The transition of staff to UNION was always the plan of the merger and spin out. We are actively hiring and looking for the best talent in the Northeast Corridor,” Maher said via email.

A few former 1776 staffers are no longer with either company. The Washington Post previously reported former 1776 President Peter Cherukuri is out and looking to start his own company. Former 1776 Director of Market Development Ryan O’Toole and Head of Global Affairs Brendan Pollack also departed in pre-planned moves. There were no layoffs after the merger. As we’ve reported, 1776 also had a number of staff departures in the year prior to the deal.

The Future of Dubai 

The fate of the 18-month-old 1776 campus in Dubai was one area that went unaddressed in the initial merger announcement, as the focus was primarily on what the new business would do to help entrepreneurs in the Northeast Corridor of the U.S. The relationship will mostly be on the UNION side now, according to a release issued last week.

Going forward, the 1776 Dubai campus will become part of a new space backed by the United Arab Emirates. It’s called Area 2071, and will encompass the same building where 1776 Dubai is currently housed. In turn, Area 2071 will utilize UNION.

That means 1776 Dubai startup members and two staffers who are now UNION employees are joining the larger entity. The space won’t close, or relocate. The UAE is looking to make Area 2071 a central hub for innovation, housing corporations, government, startups and lab space. The goal is to launch the “fourth industrial revolution” by 2071.

The deal includes a partnership between Area 2071 and UNION that involves co-creating business challenge programming geared toward corporations who want to work with startups. The two entities are also working together on an operating system for Area 2071. Additionally, members will have access to Area 2071 resources.

Series A

The newly-named 1776 is also raising some additional capital. As reported by our sister site Technical.ly Philly, the company raised about $1.2 million in funding out of a $5 million raise, according to an SEC filing.

Anthony Maher called the funding round a Series A, and said it enables the company to scale and  “provide needed resources for our startups and entrepreneurs.” As TP points out, it marks a change for a company that was previously bootstrapped.

New Handles

For those keeping track of companies on Twitter, @1776vc was renamed @JoinUNION.

And it seems the Benjamin’s Desk name won’t go away entirely, as there are new handles for @1776 and @BenjaminsDesk.


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