The Next Big Thing

Ballston becomes the next start-up incubator.

By Anthony Baracat


Photo couresy of WilliamMarlow/Flickr

Back in January of 2013, CEO Tina Leone and the Ballston BID (Business Improvement District) set out to enhance life in the Quincy Street, Glebe Road, Fairfax Drive area of Arlington—about 25 blocks.

Through marketing, promotion, maintenance and general beautification, the team hoped to make their neighborhood greater than it was before in terms of business, culture and entertainment.

As home of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and Marymount University and Virginia Tech campuses, the BID wanted to continue Ballston’s prominence as the place “Where Minds Meet.”

Their January venture, supported by Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, was to find the next big idea and to challenge local entrepreneurs. LaunchPad received over 200 applicants from varying lines of work as a local “Shark Tank”-esque competition.

Besides finding that big idea and weaning the challengers down to one, they also hoped to “encourage and support entrepreneurship, strengthen the connections within our community and attract more great minds to start-up and grow their businesses here in Ballston,” says Leone.

In addition, BID found strong partners in the Ballston Mall—to occupy vacant space and spice up creativity on Wilson Boulevard—as well as in Bruce Mancinelli, executive director of Reston’s startup incubator Spire.

Ballston-based organizations can claim to have created or funded the internet, the barcode and the first satellite, so nurturing an inventive culture was crucial for all those at BID.

On Dec. 4, four finalists gave their last elevator pitch and two winners were chosen for the $15,000 cash prize, including office space and furniture in Ballston and legal assistance from Saul Ewing LLP: CarSquare and BuilDATAnalytics.

(February 2014)