Education / Incubators / Startups

Here’s what’s up with 1776’s ‘Startup Federation’ and ‘Union’ platform and all that

Can a social networking and online learning platform for startups and their mentors make entrepreneurship a little easier?

At an event at 1776 in D.C. (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

At last week’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto, Calif., 15th Street-based 1776 (in partnership with Dell and Capital Factory) announced the Startup Federation and a platform called Union.

Curious what, exactly this means? Us too. So we spoke with 1776 director of communications Erin McPike to get a little clarity.
The Startup Federation, “a global network of the world’s top incubators,” is sort of like a United Nations for worthy incubators — a group that collaborates and shares resources among their members. The Federation already has a bunch of members including the Austin, Texas-based Capital Factory, Baltimore-based Betamore and Mexico City-based Startup Mexico.
Union is the platform by which the Startup Federation incubators and their members actually do all this sharing and collaborating, but startups that are not members of a Federation incubator can also participate in Union via a remote subscription.
Union, which 1776 has been using for its own purposes for about a year now, is sort of a cross between a professional social network, an online learning software and one of those portals where students file homework digitally. (Full disclosure: This reporter’s familiarity with Union is at least partially due to the fact that she uses it as a mentor at 1776.)

Mentors advertise "office hour" availability in Union. (Photo via Medium)

Mentors advertise “office hours” in Union. (Photo via Medium)

It’s got a running calendar of events, a discussion forum section and a MOOC-like page with basic info on the various stages of starting a company, and the bios of 1776 mentors who can talk you through each stage.
For 1776, Union and the Startup Federation seems to do at least a couple things. First, they (hope to) allow meaningful expansion beyond the confines of the physical campus. With global pitch competitions like the Challenge Cup and a forthcoming campus in Dubai, 1776 has made no secret of its international ambitions. This allows expansion on a new level.
“Smart entrepreneurs with highly promising ideas exist everywhere on the planet, and it’s time to stop letting location limit young companies’ ability to grow,” Donna Harris, 1776 cofounder and co-CEO said in a statement. “With technology connecting a network of local startup hubs, together we can empower entrepreneurs everywhere to share classes, content, mentors and other critical resources needed to succeed.”
Second, as Harris outlines in this Medium post, 1776 hopes Union can make entrepreneurship a little bit easier. How? Well, what if a founder of a six-month-old startup in Egypt to connect with the founder of an 18-month-old startup in a similar industry in Boston and talk about hurdles, challenges and ways to overcome them? Could that help keep founders from making the same avoidable mistakes?
That’s the idea.
We at have also experimented with the idea that telling general stories about the stages of company growth and lessons learned along the way can be helpful in guiding the next generation of entrepreneurs. We even put together an ebook as part of the 2016 Tomorrow Tour — you can check it out here.

Companies: 76 Forward / Betamore

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