Capital Region CATALYZE

Fresh Take ft. Anna Mason

June 03, 2021 Season 1 Episode 2
Capital Region CATALYZE
Fresh Take ft. Anna Mason
Show Notes Transcript

This week’s interview featured Anna Mason, Partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. JB and Anna discussed startup ecosystems, the startup community across the Capital Region, and the value of investing in inclusion/diversity.

Hosted by JB Holston.  Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez. 

Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.

About our guest:

Anna Mason is a Partner on Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. In this capacity, she leads the investment process for select deals in the fund across a variety of industries. Anna also leads strategy and execution for the Rise of the Rest Network and Platform, including the annual Rise of the Rest Road Trip and annual Network Summit. Her passion for this work is centered around two core beliefs: investing in startups sits at the intersection of realism and optimism; Rise of the Rest is a platform that helps us see the country through the eyes of the entrepreneurs who are reimagining its future.

Given her passion for helping early stage startups, since November 2015 Anna has volunteered as the Co-Director of the Washington Chapter of The Vinetta Project, a North-American organization that helps early-stage female founders in tech access capital and network connections. She is also on the advisory board of BEACON DC, a community-led campaign to make Washington, D.C. one of the most influential and supportive cities in the country for women entrepreneurs.

Anna received her BA in Government from Harvard College and her MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business. Anna is also a certified health coach. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C.

Anna Mason  0:00  
Redistribution of talent almost seems like a tectonic shift that's underway. There is tremendous opportunity for so many cities all across the country to benefit in different ways from that talent shift.

Nina Sharma  0:17  
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.

JB Holston  0:38  
Hi folks, my name is JB Holston. I'm the CEO of the Greater Washington partnership. And thanks for joining fresh Take This is a series of conversations we're having with folks who are doing awesome work. That's kind of the the descriptor but particularly around innovation, and inclusion and the growth of ecosystems. And I'm delighted to have as our guest today on anna MasonA Anna. Hello.

Anna Mason  1:06  
Hi, JB, thanks for having me.

JB Holston  1:08  
It's great to have you here. Let me tell folks, let me tell you a little bit about Anna's background as a partner on revolutions Rise of the rest Seed Fund, she leads the investment process for selecting deals in the fund across a range of industries. We'll talk more about that when we talk a little bit about your work. She also needs a strategy execution for the rise of the rest network and platform, including the annual Rise of the rest road trip, which I think is how we initially met on in the annual network Summit. Her passion for this work is centered around two core beliefs. investing in startups sits at the intersection of realism and optimism rise for the rest of the platform. It helps us see the country through the eyes of the entrepreneurs, we're reimagining its future and brings over a dozen years of experience in finance startup operations and venture community programming to revolution and started her career on on Wall Street since 2015 on his work to help support early stage female founders in the DC community through various leadership roles of the vignette a project in DC including a city co director, and the co chair of the Advisory Board, she was also a founding member beacon DC a community led campaign to make dc one of the most influential and supportive cities in the country for women entrepreneurs. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Children's Museum, which focuses on Steam centric exhibits and which I have yet to visit because of COVID. But I'm looking to looking forward to as soon as I can. And I was named a business Insider's List of 100 people transforming business in 2019. And I'm Washingtonian tech titan in 2017. And 2018. Welcome, Ana.

Anna Mason  2:37  
Thank you. Thank you, JB. And I, I would I would add that I'm also very proud DC transplant. I've, I've been living in the district now for six years, I have two little girls who I often refer to actually as my two favorite and most precious startups, who are fifth generation Washingtonians. And the other way to look at that is that we are never leaving. So I am a very, very proud transplant in the district and love having the opportunity to work in the tech scene here. And just to give everybody a little bit of added context on the connection that That JB and I have to our work and how deeply grateful and excited I am that the partnership was able to scoop JB and convince him to join us here in DC. Denver, Where JB comes from was actually the very first of now I think 46 cities that I've personally visited and spend time in the last five years since working with suitcase that revolution. And I just the the magic in the spirit of innovation in Denver is incredibly special. So much so that I came back home and actually said to my husband that likely move back to DC why didn't he ever consider replaced by Denver? So it's, it's incredible to have you and others like Nina Sharma on your team who we've been able to export from Denver to DC and it's I'm really thrilled for what I think that that opportunity is going to create for us here in the district. So thank you for having me.

JB Holston  4:13  
Thank you. Well, that's great and and very kind and, of course, he would have decided to move to Denver while I was deciding to come here. So glad you didn't. But but it is it is a magical place for sure. And the sort of the growth of that innovation ecosystem, as you know, is a is a pretty remarkable story and one that I think probably needs to be told better in the future. Still, because it's still a little bit a little bit sub Rosa, let me start. If you would let me talk a little bit about you mentioned Steve, I had a chance to catch up with him the other day and which was which was terrific. Could you talk a little bit about how razor the rest relates to revolution, and maybe a little bit about how you got connected with these things as well. I should say even though Steve Case is relatively well known, he's much less known than then claim now, since Ronnie has his energy vo staff and wasn't our founding partner of evolution with Steven Ted. Thanks.

Anna Mason  5:09  
Yeah, yeah. So revolution is about 16 years old. And the TED Ron and a few others started with a couple years after Steve and his former lieutenants and partners from AOL spun out of of AOL, Time Warner and the were rise the rest, come back to revolution more broadly, I think the way to really sum that up right now, if you look at a snapshot of revolution today is that we are a venture capital and investment firm that focuses that focuses very intentionally, on investing in entrepreneurs and cities all across the country, we have a couple of funds in our family, we invest now I guess you could say from seed to SPAC, We most recently announced a stack effort at revolution, but rents out about 2 billion to $2 billion in assets under management, that sits across the family of three funds rise to the rest, which is our seed fund effort, where I said revolution ventures and revolution growth. And so all told, we're literally investing anywhere from $100,000 to $50 million, and everything in between, into emerging innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities all across the country, I often very affectionately refer to and think of rise to the rest as the startup that Steve, sort of, you could, you could say, self funded inside of revolution, and we really productize up into our own funds. So while revolution is about 16 years old, our rise the rest fund, We're the youngest child in the family, our fund, where we manage 300 million of that 2 billion is about three, just about three years old, but Ries the rest is a platform and really, I would say a clarion call itself is is six and a half years old, we're moving into our seventh year. And so the the rise of the rest effort, if I had to sum it up, I would say it's it's really about seeing opportunity, first through the lens of geography. It was born out of an initiative, we're actually coming up on 10 years, an initiative called the Startup America partnership that was launched in the Obama administration, Steve was very involved in leadership there, together with leaders and communities all across the country. And the idea there was, you know, we thinking back to 2011. And it's actually interesting to think of the 10 year arc of it and where we are right now, in, you know, what will hopefully soon be the post COVID recovery. But But certainly, we're now you know, looking towards recovery and rebuild, and so many communities in the post, you know, in the aftermath, and early recovery efforts post, the Great Recession, serve America Partnership was really about democratizing access to that rebuild and recover effort, so that the economic recovery wouldn't be concentrated in just a few places in the country. But we'd really be more evenly distributed. That effort, that 2011 kind of public private partnership effort, really then evolved and laid the groundwork for what did end up becoming the rise of the rest, which revolution launched under siege leadership in 2014. It quite literally started with a bus tour. You know, not surprisingly, I I've made a comment earlier today that the what I would refer to as the anchor tenant in DC is the federal government, you know, those in elected office are no strangers to the bus tour concept to visit cities and communities. We sort of took this page out of that playbook given our roots and our ties to DC. And we said one of the most important things that we learned from Startup America Partnership was just the incredible value and importance of literally meeting people where they are. And so rise to the rest started as this effort to make a lot of noise and shine a spotlight on emerging and in any instances fast growing innovation and entrepreneurship economies and cities all across the country. And so if you fast forward to today, we've been to just under 45 cities in this official capacity through what has now become an annual tour that we do five cities in five days really celebrate the spotlight, connect and convene, and explore both the opportunities and the obstacles for regional innovation and entrepreneurship all across the country. That effort. And I think that I hope we'll talk about this more because I think it really ties to the efforts that the partnership has underway. While our core business centers around we're a venture capital firm. It's centered around investing in, in early stage entrepreneurs and startups, the the tour and the effort and the work that we do on the platform side really centers around the broad distribution of innovation and entrepreneurship, and really the spirit of opera charity and possibility that can permeate these communities and startups don't have a monopoly on that. And one of the things that has been so inspiring and has helped us learn so much about these communities is that you see it at a corporate level, you can oftentimes see it in the public sector, you can see it at university, he's feared in the startup support communities, and you kind of take all that together. And it manifests in different ways in different cities. But that's where it's not just about the individual startups, but it's also about the broader spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship. So, you know, moving into 2021 riser, the rest is really focused on marrying those efforts where we've got our core fund operations, where it will now invested in more than 150 early stage startups across more than 70 cities in the country. But that sits against this backbone foundation of the work that we continue to do until lead on the IoT ecosystem championship front, which is, which is very much so foundational towards the rest.

JB Holston  11:03  
Yeah, well, that's great. I want to ask two follow up questions, or the sort of questions a segue from that. One is, you've been to 45 cities, you know, what are the differentiators? And I don't mean all three across all 45. But like, if you think about edge cases, you know, sort of ecosystems that are really working, and and those that that struggle more, what are some of the things you know, from across those 45 data points that sort of connect those? And I know, you guys consciously try to select against ones that have no possible, you know, startups that might be of interest, etc. But thoughts on that?

Anna Mason  11:37  
Yeah. A few. So we, a couple years ago, we took a stab at actually saying, you know, we've, we've now been to I think it was, you know, maybe 20 or 30 cities at the time, and we said what are some of the patterns? What are some of the anomalies? And how can we maybe codify some of our thinking around this, and it led to the release of what is now our, it was our first now annual playbook. We actually just really started our third last week. But that first one really was an effort to say what are what are the different spokes in the wheel that really, actually create that literal and figurative flywheel that will drive innovation and entrepreneurship. And we identified seven of them. You actually heard me reference some in my first answer about universities and the public, you know, local, local and state government, Corporation startup support organizations, one that we really honed in on that, I think, to me speaks to sort of the heart of your question is what we would refer to as tempo companies. And the way we define a tentpole company is a startup that has scaled their revenue and funding and broader success and impact that it literally becomes the tentpole under which a lot of the other startups in the community sit within and benefit from it in a lot of different ways. And I think the rise of tempo companies is an important differentiator, I think for some of the communities that have really gotten it right and continue to lean in and get it right. One example, by way of example, on Indianapolis, I think is a really interesting market. It's, it's, I'm so pleased to see the well deserved attention. I think it's gotten over the last couple of years, you know, five years ago or so I don't really think it was on as many radars. Columbus, Ohio, is another great example. Birmingham, Alabama is a smaller, interesting example. But in each of these communities, I would be remiss if I didn't, if I didn't put Denver and Boulder in that, in that category to each of these communities, you've had 10 companies that have resisted has really emerged, scaled, and exited and achieved some measure of really great success. The exit in and of itself is really not the destination. In many respects. I think it's the inflection point for the next moment in the journey of a startup ecosystem, and what can really help it thrive. Because what happens is, and this is what we really look for, and what I think differentiates a lot of these communities, what is the reinvestment in the community look like in the startup community look like? And it can manifest in a couple different ways. You can see these exited entrepreneurs who either go back at it, and they're building their next great, you know, next great startup to create impact innovation, job growth, you know, broader distribution of wealth creation for these communities. It can also manifest as an exit entrepreneur, starting a venture fund and taking some of that knowledge and that know how announcing the way I'm going to I'm going to literally invest in the next generation of startups in a community and you can see support and sponsorship for startup support organizations. I think it's really important to have entrepreneurs play a leading role in that because they they really know what it takes. And it's a lot more than just money to help companies get to the next level. So this idea of are their tentpole companies in the city. And what do they do after their success, I think is one important mile marker that that's worth taking a look at. Another is, is this idea of partnership. And obviously, I think it's woven into the fabric of, you know, the organization, you're now at the helm of, it's literally in the name of the organization. But But I think part of what we've seen, and Baltimore, which is, which is part of our region, right, is, is one interesting example of this. And this is part of what we saw a couple years ago, actually came out of came out of our tour in our time in Baltimore many years ago, where we have leaders from Johns Hopkins and Under Armour together in the room, you know, during, you know, during one of our discussions during the day, and, you know, Steve, you know, won't be shy about, you know, kind of calling leaders out and just kind of calling it like, you see things like, you know, you were two of the preeminent leaders, you know, around these important topics of health and wellness, not only in Baltimore, not only in the capital region, not only in the country, some might argue in the world, what are you doing in partnership together to support that innovation economy in your own backyard. And it was, it was really inspiring to see a couple years later, we, we actually got a note from the leadership there saying, you know, that that really left a mark. And that really catalyzed a movement and a partnership internally here in our backyard, that actually led to the emergence of a really great startup support organization that focused specifically on health, wellness, digital health, and they became the anchor tenants and ankle partners in that. There are there are many, many examples, I think of that and different types of partnerships that come together. But it's a bit of a blanket statement, I would say, seeing where major players in the community come together around partnership to support startups, has been a really has been another really big differentiator.

JB Holston  17:14  
Your latest ecosystem report talked a lot about COVID response, and different things that different communities have done to sustain the entrepreneurial ecosystem in light of what's going on with COVID. What are you folks seeing as to the impact of COVID on these communities generally? And then what are you know, a couple of examples of of interventions or organizations or efforts that have that are helping ameliorate some of the impact?

Anna Mason  17:42  
Yeah, like the you know, the unfortunately, I think the story is still unfolding, and very much still being written. We were we were cognizant of that and releasing of a playbook, unfortunately, still very much. So mid pandemic, around what what some of the impacts have been, but what the, the inspiration for us to dedicate this, Pat, you know, this past year's playbook to looking at what was happening around the recovery and rebuild effort around COVID was inspired in part by what I think we're all increasingly seeing in this conversation. And now emerging reality around the shifting talent and redistribution of talent almost seems like a tectonic shift that's underway. And so we, as you know, our team was was thinking about it, it, you know, it really occurred to us that there is tremendous opportunity for so many cities all across the country, to benefit in different ways from that talent shift and that talent redistribution, but it's really ours to lose, as, as the you know, rising and emerging cities all across the country. And it's ours to lose, because if we are dedicated and recommitting ourselves to supporting startups, in the aftermath of a public health crisis that has also really turned into an economic and fiscal crisis for so many, then we're kind of dead in the water in terms of having the opportunity to benefit from that talent and that growth. And so that that was the inspiration that caused us to really go back to so many partners and friends from past tours, as we always do with our playbooks and to really learn from the experts who are on the front lines and really leading, leading this charge. And so I think some of the things that came to the fore for us. This this is probably a pretty obvious one, but we're watching closely in terms of what's what's going to happen with the co working spaces and really the consuming spaces in cities all across the country while we work obviously made headlines for many reasons, good, bad and ugly. Over over the last number of years. There are more brands and business Since then I can count who operate in that space and in that business model at a hyperlocal level, and they really are tied, I think, you know, very viscerally, from a branding standpoint, to the real sort of brands that a community embodies. And so seeing those businesses struggled and have gone out of business, I think will really shift the landscape in terms of in terms of what's happening in these cities. So as we, as we saw, you know, some of that unfolding, what we really found and what we were heartened by, with the case studies that, that we discovered and really wanted to publicize and shine a spotlight on with the COVID report is that cities are taking one of the three pronged approach, we featured some of the city level, some of the state level, Colorado, Ohio, and Tennessee, were three of the state level efforts that we that we focused in on Northwest Arkansas, Puerto Rico, and what's happening all across the island a little bit more regionalized. And then it was at a more hyperlocal level, some of what was happening in Minneapolis and Tulsa. So you can see there are literally examples from all across the country. And it came down to, you know, really three emerging efforts. One, as it as it often is in the space is just funding where you know, where where can, it's oftentimes public sector sources of capital, stepped in, in partnership in Ohio was actually a great example of this, in terms of the Darlington matching dollar opportunity for startups, to really bolster startups and try to stave off any job losses that would have come from COVID. Another is really just founder support. And this was really, I think, a lighter lift, higher ROI opportunity that we saw in a number of different cities. Miami actually was a great example of this, called SWAT 305, was an effort that started there, which was just having experts who sort of been there and done that seen other, you know, other recessions and cataclysmic moment, to just say, hey, let's dedicate some time or donate a fair chunk of time, to just leaning in and almost like surgically supporting these startups, and the final effort, that we pinpoint a number of different cities with just this idea of navigation, and how, how can you help startups kind of come out of the weeds and go up to like a view from 10,000, or even a few from 30,000, and just navigate the landscape of what opportunities are out there to support them. And so those are those, I think those were the three common themes that we that we saw come through. And And again, we saw it at the hyperlocal regional and also the state level.

JB Holston  22:57  
It's hard to talk about 2020 and COVID, without talking about equity and inequities in the inequitable impact of many things. You know, there, there's been data that suggests that up to half of all black owned businesses in the country may go under. And I know you folks in December announced the equity addition of your rise of the rest to talk a little bit about how that came up and what it's about and how you folks are thinking about inclusion and equity in your work now. Thanks.

Anna Mason  23:27  
We, as as you noted, we we hosted a we host our first ever virtual tour. And I had mentioned this bus tours that we do earlier. And our first ever virtual tour, which we did in December of this past year focused explicitly on supporting spotlighting and investing in, in companies led by by black entrepreneurs in cities all across the country, outside of Silicon Valley in New York City in Boston. And for us, it emerged from two efforts first was a lot of, and most importantly, and foundationally just a lot of hard, open and honest conversations. We as a team started to have that I think in many respects, we're, we're long overdue, we were proud of the diversity that we have on our team at, at revolution. My partner, David Hall, who's managing partner derives the restaurant was one of the few black Managing Partner VPs in our industry. And, you know, we all just realized that the, you know, the protests and, and the the clarion call that really emerged in so many industries, was long overdue in the venture industry. And there was a real sort of visceral, like, Call to Action. I think that we all felt so we, you know, I mentioned that we see opportunity first through the lens of geography, we often point to the fact that 75% of venture capital dollars invested every year. That's north of $100 billion a year. Now it was 130 billion this year 75% goes to three states, California, New York and Massachusetts. It's literally the sort of guiding light for the rest and why we focus on investment and democratizing access to opportunity cities all across the country. But the postscript there is that the inequity doesn't stop with place. But it really extends to race and gender. In an eye popping really disheartening way, less than 10% of venture capital goes to women and less far less than 1% goes to black founders, and founders of color. And there's this sense that we might not be the experts in all aspects of this, but we can certainly raise our hand and lean in and use the connecting and convening and investment, power and purse surprised the rest, to just try to, you know, to start doing more and to start doing more intentionally. So we launched this effort. And I think a couple, a couple of really interesting and exciting opportunities came out of it. First, we had close to 500 startups, led by black founders, for more than 100 cities across the country apply. So there is not a pipeline problem. In our industry. There are tremendously qualified founders who deserve a fair shake and a less biased process to help them gain access to capital, the virtual environment. And you know, one of the reasons why we did a virtual tour in the first place, we had to hit pause on our ninth tour, which was originally scheduled for April of this past year, we said how can we leverage this opportunity and maybe try some new things and road test, new ways to engage the broader venture community that actually might only be possible on a virtual environment. And so as a part of as a part of the virtual tour initiative, an effort to connect more black founder black startup founders to more venture investors, we launched a VC match program. And it started pretty humbly, we said, let's go get five of our, you know, VC friends, let's go get 10 of our, you know, VC fund friends, it's snowballed until we had north of 100 funds, in just a matter of weeks who had committed to participating. And then what we did was we took, we took the top 50 companies that had come through that funnel of close to 500. And we matched each of them with a number of venture investors from all across the country, that type of connectivity and type of connection with something we haven't historically been able to do on our tours that are concentrated very hyper locally. So I think importantly, you know, the key takeaways for, for me, as part of this process has been yesterday was really the moment to declare more intentionality, and be more public around these efforts to support inclusivity and diversity in all aspects of the venture industry. You know, 42% of the companies we invested in, in our portfolio are actually into companies that are led by women or founders of color. But we never studied that data before. We never talked about that data before. So you have to be intentional about your efforts, you have to measure and track your efforts and hold yourself accountable. I think, you know, in a public space, you have to seek out partners, I think, you know, we learned a lot about the true, truer nature of partnership, I think and what we could do with this with this tour effort. And we have to start somewhere. You know, we were glad that we started. And I hope as we move into 2021, we publicly hold ourselves to account that is, you know, without a one and done effort, but we continue to move forward and publicly brought in the way we think about what the rest means in the context of ride the rest.

JB Holston  28:58  
Yeah, that's great. Well, if you if you think about that, since I now get to hold you accountable since you said that a couple of times. But, you know, I mean, think about when we're able to go back to the bus tour world, right. I'm gonna recall when you folks arrived, I remember I think we interview Steve, the then governor Hickenlooper you know, that breakfast right one morning or literally walked out of the bus, I think was the first time they met. And there was just a lot to that. Right, and the fact that you could get a bunch of folks around a bar since Hickenlooper was a former bartender, etc, and just convened to talk, but there was there's definitely some exclusivity about it right. To your point. I mean, you know, those who are in that tech, you know, startup ecosystem working out and we work historically, we're, you know, we're pretty white. How do you if we go back to that world, how do you maintain some of the equity, you know, things you you've learned, or is it that, you know, do you do that continue to do it virtually, I mean, how do you how do you think about that, I'm sure you folks are trying to figure that out now.

Anna Mason  29:54  
We definitely definitely don't have all the, all the answers on that front. And we're gonna actually watching the data around public health in terms of when, when we will be able to get back out on the road. You know, formally, I think if I understood the question, I think there there are maybe two, two parts to it. One is how do you how when and where do you actually kind of get back out on on the road and in person? And I think the other part of it is how do you kind of maintain this standard around equity and inclusion when when you are in person, I will say we, we have always, I think worked with intentionality to make all of our tours as inclusive and as diverse and pop as possible from the folks who join us on the bus and our delegation to the entrepreneurs and innovation in the communities that we that we feature. But it's it's something that I think holistically on each tours, we've done a pretty good job on in the past. But I can say candidly, we haven't always necessarily in every single city, every single stop along the way. And one of the efforts that we've undertaken, actually, we had, we work with a phenomenal partner on our virtual tour equity edition called L hub, the opportunity out of Atlanta, they were one of our earliest partners on our earliest tour stop in Atlanta. And we said, You know what we, we shouldn't make this a one and done for a virtual tour. But we should team up more officially. So that O hub is our diversity, equity inclusion partner, for all of our tours moving forward so that we also have a thought and action leader who has long been leading the charge for 20 years plus these communities to make sure that we are being inclusive, we are asking the right questions. When when we were in Columbus a couple of years ago, I think it was 2017. We did a session with with two organizations that focused on supporting Black entrepreneurs in that community, one called it stars and the other called Black hack. And I will never forget it. I think a number of people on that tour, really remember that because they bring it up to us frequently. But somebody asked the question, we were sitting around a table about 50. And someone said, how do you how do you make sure you have black entrepreneurs in the room? And the head of blackjack said, Well, it's easy, you just invite us and ask us and I think just this this, it was, it was so simple and so powerful, because the message was, it's that easy. And no one's really making the extra effort to do it. So I think that intention, again, it comes back to some of my earlier comments, I think around intentionality and, and partnership. And in terms of, you know, what, what the tours look like, moving forward, I think like so much of the world where everyone is, is working to figure out like, you know, the rubber bands not gonna, like just snap back to the way it was. But there's a lot of opportunity and possibility that comes with that. So we've learned so much from a virtual tour environment, you know, you and I would hopefully be have been doing this in person in another world, how do we take the best of our lessons and learnings in a virtual tour, which to me, I think are increased access and engagement in ways we wouldn't necessarily have been able to bring everyone to one physical space, and how do we mix and marry that with the best of our in person tours, which to me is just always that that sort of electric current that runs through the experience of meeting someone where they are. And literally just learning from them and engaging with them in their own backyards is is powerful, I miss it, I hope we have the opportunity to go back to it in some capacity. Later this year, or certainly next year,

JB Holston  33:45  
Well, short term, we each have to get back into our offices. The partnership, as you know, it's comprised for the most part of the largest companies between Baltimore and Richmond, it's had a regional remit since the start. But this last year, we were taught as we were talking really decided that inclusion in inclusive growth is has to be the frame for the work. And I think I think, you know, like a lot of these initiatives, I think the view is both because it's a it's a moral imperative, but also because it's an opportunity, it's a differentiated opportunity. We, you know, we've come to call it to say that, you know, inclusion is the new innovation that, you know, just as innovation was a talent attractor of last couple of decades, innovation, early inclusion will be that talent attractor for any any region that can really get it right and do it right. It'll accelerate growth rate. So lots of lots of reasons. But it's long term work, you know, it's it's, it's hard. And it is exacerbated by by COVID, as you were talking about, if you think about this region, and you think about inclusive growth, inclusive innovation. You know, you've been back here for six years now, which have five generations with experience. So I'll tap into all of that. But you know, what's, what's missing? Right? What's, you know, we've got a more diverse workforce than in many parts. To the country, DC has become, you know, has had less income inequality over the last few decades than it used to have. But, um, but I don't think anybody would say that this is the hallmark of in, you know, of the inclusive growth is not the iconic, inclusive growth region of the country when it's missing.

Anna Mason  35:19  
So I'll tell you what's missing, in my opinion, but But first I'd, I'd actually love to touch on what I think is working and what I think is really special about the region. I, I do spend a lot of time thinking about what what drives innovation economies and startup communities I have, I have come to think of cities like startups themselves over the years, and I think finding your brand identity is critical. That's probably actually even part of my answer for what's missing a little bit in in DC right now. But to me, these there's, there's something you know, unique in the DNA of each city, and leaning into that, rather than trying to be a copycat of, of Silicon Valley, for example, I think is is critically important. Part of what I think makes the district and the broader DMV in the region so special, is actually that our our anchor tenant is the federal government. And that yes, that has created, I think, some really interesting opportunities for Govtech and Govtech. Adjacent startups to launch and scale. But more important, I think it's because the federal government is our anchor tenant, we've had a couple of interesting, I think byproducts of that, that now permeate into the private sector and startup community more, you know, as well. One is the word town that's kind of built on the back of networking, people in DC understand the power of networking, and it's not a bad thing, it's a, it's a really special way to get connected to feel connected, I think our city perhaps even more than the most really misses the opportunity to just be together in person, you know, two, three events per week. And that's, that's really part of how DC is wired. The second characteristic of, of our community that's driven off of off of our anchor tenant, is that we're very transient city. And by extension, I have always found it to be incredibly welcoming. You know, one of the reasons why I think I am such a proud, you know, transplant, and now I'm probably like a life long member of the community is that is that it's incredibly welcoming, because it's the people who has, who has been here for so many years. And those, you know, like me, who have only been here for a few and want to pay it forward, has been made to, to really be welcomed. I hope that's been your experience, too, as your very recent transplants. But I think that you don't find that in every city. And I think that's, that's part of our brand, that it would behoove us to embrace even more as a community. And then finally, I think, I have found DC to be an end and the DMV more broadly, to really be a special community of strong, brilliant working women. And I do think part of that is because, you know, women have ascended to really impressive and powerful, very senior roles in the public sector and as many transition out of public service and back, you know, into or back into the private sector that then permeates in different ways. And that's certainly something that I that I don't think we necessarily see all across the city. So that to me is a lot of what has always kind of endeared our community. To me, from my perspective, it's something I think we should embrace more and publicly so so to get them to kind of circle back to to your question on on what's missing. I think the might be a measure of like a connective tissue that is missing from a DC community, there is a robust corporate community more so than in than in many cities across the country. I think the partnership has now become a leading and connected voice on that front. How do we get members in, you know, in, you know, the partnership connected to leading startups across the community. I think the work that you all are doing to connect the corporate community with our very impressive university community is awesome and inspiring and shouldn't be a model for other types of partnerships that can happen across these various spokes that kind of make up our hub, but you also see it even on a micro level within the startup community there. They're actually does have startup support organizations in DC. It's not necessarily that we're lacking in order to leave an organization for cyber. We have an organization for female founders, we have an organization For later stage founders, and each of them kind of has its own brand has its own tribe. How are we connecting the dots there a little bit more. So that one plus one equals three for the region, I really do believe that it comes back to this, this foundation of catalytic connections that can drive all of us forward. Because startups, you know, everyone has something to to learn from members of, you know, of the other spokes in the hub.

JB Holston  40:30  
Yeah, that was a great observations. And there are there's some just really interesting differential opportunities, I think, here that are missing elsewhere. I think one of the things we learned in Colorado was that if you just start talking about yourselves this way, you know, talk about yourself as an innovation economy. As a growth economy. I think that's, that's part of what happens over time, too. That's good, ie we're going to run out of time, unfortunately. But I one observation I've had in my very limited time here is he talked about 10 poll companies. And certainly one of the things that we found in Colorado was that it took a while until we had a few of those that had emerged that were broadly understood to be unicorns, or post unicorns or whatever. And then we're at the point where they could in turn, either spin off or support or otherwise connect with the broader ecosystem. And not as obvious to me here, whether for example, out of the biotech world of Maryland, you know, do you have that kind of connectivity between those that have succeeded back to I'm sure you do from a capital standpoint, but you know, in terms of growing the talent, etc, standpoint, but unfortunately, we're out of time. So I want to thank my guest automation for today's fresh take. It's been great to talk to you again, I can't wait until we're able to get together in person. Yeah, and good luck bringing the family back into.

Anna Mason  41:48  
Thank you so much for having me. 

JB Holston  41:52  
It's been great to have you on as a partner and revolutions, rise the rest fund, and does lots of other wonderful things there. And I'm personally really happy that she's now dedicated to stay in this region for the long haul. So we'll look forward to working together and thanks for all your efforts Anna.

Anna Mason  42:07  
Thanks JB.

Nina Sharma  42:12  
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Francesco Freda Ian Lutz, Nina Sharma, and Justin Matheson Turner. If you like what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington