DC-Based Incubator 1776 Buys Hattery, Gains West Coast Outpost

Two-year-old incubator and seed fund 1776 helps startups make government connections in Washington, D.C., and now it’s setting up shop in San Francisco to strengthen its links to Silicon Valley’s VCs.

Its new outpost is at Hattery, a co-working studio and event space that 1776 is buying for an undisclosed sum from long-time associates who have a similar bent in favor of tech companies with a public service mission, 1776 co-founder Donna Harris says.

Hattery will keep operating as a shared workspace for its rent-paying members, and those members will be able to tap into 1776‘s network of government officials, corporations, investors, and mentors. Meanwhile, 1776 will take over Hattery’s long-term lease on a multi-story building in the tech company haven south of Market Street in San Francisco. It will also bring out west its methods of helping startups scale up more quickly by navigating government obstacles, which Harris calls “regulatory hacking.”

The organization was co-founded in 2013 by Harris and Evan Burfield to help fledgling companies break through barriers that can bog down sectors affecting millions of people, such as education, health, and transportation.

“We have enormous relationships in Washington, D.C., but we can’t really access the full range of capital markets if we’re not on the West Coast,” Harris says.

One San Francisco startup, HandUp, has already been a beneficiary of 1776’s activities. HandUp was the winner of 1776’s startup competition Global Challenge and raised $850,000 in the wake of that victory from venture investors including Ron Conway, SV Angel, and 1776 itself. HandUp, a public benefit corporation, allows donors to make online financial contributions to homeless individuals through social services agencies and hear news about the impact of their gifts.

As a seed fund, 1776 has supported a dozen companies in the United States, Israel, South Africa, and elsewhere. It also has nearly a thousand paying members who attend 1776 events such as expert forums held at the Washington, D.C. headquarters. The organization has already spread out nearby with the acquisition of another incubator, Disruption Corporation, in Crystal City, VA earlier this month. It added 11 new employees to its 22-member staff through that deal, and adds another five with the acquisition of Hattery.

They include Hattery leaders Josh Mendelsohn, Joshua To, and Luis Arbulu, who will become strategic advisors for 1776. They’ll help create the “connective tissue” between the East and West Coasts for 1776, Harris says. Startups can expect to see 1776-style programs cropping up at Hattery.

In a statement announcing Hattery’s acquisition, co-founder Josh Mendelsohn said the bi-coastal collaboration “will allow San Francisco startups to access 1776’s network of experts while giving 1776’s global network of startups increased visibility and access to resources in the Bay Area.”

“It’s a win-win for those of us who believe the tech community can and should be a force for good,” Mendelsohn said.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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