DCXP: Creating the tech program we wish we’d had

by Jason Cui


DCXP, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., activates the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) area’s top high school and collegiate talent through prototyping sprints, workshops and networking events with startups, investors and entrepreneurs.


Introduction

We (Brian Mitchell, Danny Flax and Jason Cui) started DCXP in May out of our common passion for technology and entrepreneurship. Despite attending separate schools, we all hail from the D.C. area and are thus familiar with its stereotypes of bureaucracy and a lack of a “startup community”.

This notion is not singular, often at the forefront of many conversations about the area’s entrepreneurial scene. We frequently hear stories about individuals flocking to “the valley”, where funding is plentiful and startups are sustainable. D.C. area native Daniel Odio wrote an insightful post about this phenomenon and why this area is so hard-pressed to catch a break.

As natives and students, this puzzled us; it was clear that while D.C. may have its shortcomings, a lack of talent is not one of them. We constantly hear success stories starring government contracting firms, consultants and attorneys alike who make fortunes from a combination of hard work and raw talent.

Located in Alexandria, VA, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is consistently ranked in the top public high schools in the nation. Photo from the Falls Church Times.

The presence of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — a magnet school a mere 10 miles from the District consistently ranked the #1 public school in the nation — certainly doesn’t hurt either.

So while older and more seasoned entrepreneurs call the nation’s capitol uninhabitable for startups and void of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, what we see is an untapped potential: a body of wide-eyed, optimistic students who possess not only phenomenal technical skills, but also the drive, grit and hunger to commit to an idea and make it succeed. We wanted to harvest this talent, work alongside it and watch it grow.

Thus, DCXP was born.


Ignition

With only initial snippets of our idea thrown around as late in the year as May, we knew that we needed to commit to a game plan, and commit quickly. We designed DCXP as a summer program to reach students who were on break from school and searching for new opportunities.

Our first line of attack was to leverage our own high school contacts to locate technical talent. Through word-of-mouth and some quick Facebook messaging, we were able to contact a small group of individuals who were equally as fired up about the program as we were.

This process proved to be an important step for outreach and validation. We found peers who, with a quick 15–20 minute pitch, became passionate about our new program and its goals.

With that we set the wheels into motion, building a website, social media campaign, fundraising goals and program outline — all with the goal of launching the second week of July.


Inhibitors

Right as things were taking off, we hit our first roadblocks — obstacles we neither foresaw nor even thought to consider. Students we were attempting to recruit claimed they had already committed to summer internships. Many companies would only make tax-deductible donations to a non-profit. We needed an office space to house our team for almost an entire month.

With July drawing closer each second, we needed to grit our teeth and push hard.

Baas Bikes offers conveniently-located electric-assist bikes for apartment and university settings.

Our first breakthrough came with Rob McPherson of Baas Bikes, a phenomenal D.C.-based founder who granted us much-needed office space and cash right in the heart of the District. Immediately afterwards we filed for 501(c)(3) status, officially kicking off our fundraising campaign as we sought out sponsorship and support from willing companies.

Our second burst of growth followed the expansion of our team. We recruited Rachel Biderman and Daniel Willson, rounding out our efforts with marketing and community pushes to develop a more cohesive organization.

With a week to spare, our core team was complete and ready for action.


Initiation

The founding of DCXP has served as a huge learning process, and an exhilarating one at that.

In just a few weeks’ time we brought an abstract idea into fruition. We created a core cohort of incredibly talented students. We reached out to companies and investors for sponsorship. We signed up many individuals to share their insights and give our students educational talks focused on technology and entrepreneurship.

And most importantly, we ourselves have found a community of like-minded individuals who share our passion for technology and great ideas — an incredibly rewarding and encouraging feeling.


DCXP launched its four-week summer program on Monday, July 6.

As DCXP progresses, we encourage you to follow our Medium blog, Facebook, Twitter and website to stay up-to-date with our program. We are extremely grateful for the incredible support we have received so far, and we are both eager and hopeful for what the future brings.

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