Monday, April 19, 2010

The Day Job

I've been missing in action a bit lately as I have focused my energies on launching a new weekly business publication for WaPo: Capital Business. You can see the result here.

As you can see in my first editor's note, I finally truly appreciate the life of a start-up entrepreneur!

By Dan Beyers
Monday, April 19, 2010; 24

It was the first day after we had gotten the green light to create a new weekly local business publication and my mind was racing. There was a mission statement to craft, staff to hire and people to see. The IT department wanted to meet pronto. Our meetings team wanted to talk about a launch event. We still had not settled on a proper name. And then . . .


I smashed into the back end of a car on Interstate 95.

No one was hurt, thank goodness. The driver of the other car, an Internal Revenue Service manager, could not have been nicer as we exchanged insurance information. Perhaps that was because, while his car had a small dent, my front end was a shambles.

"Are you sure it's safe to drive?" he asked.

It had to be, I thought. I have a day full of meetings.

And that's when I realized that there really is nothing so consuming as getting a business off the ground. As I related my experience to others around town, I got only knowing smiles.

Dean Violagis, vice president of research at the real estate data firm CoStar Group in Bethesda, told me about how he helped the company build its first database, literally driving around Washington in 1989, writing down information about the office buildings he encountered.

"It was all basically done by hand," he said.

There was no satellite global positioning systems in those days, no geocoding. "I literally took out a map and put a dot on it," he said.

Violagis thought the company a little crazy when it asked him to take a photo of each building he documented. What would it do with the boxes and boxes of slides he accumulated?

To realize that work would one day form the basis of the computerized repository of real estate information that CoStar has become famous for is inspiring.

So is hearing Violagis talk about CoStar's efforts to extend its brand into new markets. The entrepreneurship never ends, even if the techniques of gathering data are now more advanced. "Every city, we have to start over again," he said.

Launching a business can be so daunting, the challenges so numerous, that friends and colleagues can be pardoned if they seem a little skeptical.

Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, remembers a time back in the mid-1980s when he and the late Ron Brown, who would later become commerce secretary, were sitting on a bus in Tokyo listening to David Rubenstein talk about his vision for a merchant banking firm that would one day become private equity giant Carlyle Group. At the time, the three men were all lawyers, fighting to protect the legality of the videotape recorder.

"Ron and I laughed at David, thinking he was just being fanciful," Shapiro said. "But then he did it."

Capital Business plans to tell many more stories like that in the weeks and months to come, for it strikes me that one of the things uniting our diverse business community is the entrepreneurial spirit stirring in companies big and small. The upheaval brought on by the recent economic downturn has a way of focusing the mind and encouraging people to consider new possibilities.

I pulled my wounded car into my downtown parking garage and smiled at the look on the attendants' faces.

"What happened?" one asked. "Are you okay?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

Never felt better.

1 comment:

wordbones said...


When I opened my WAPO this morning I saw your new endeavor. Right now it is sitting open on to article on Ben's Chili Bowlin my workspace.

It looks great. Nicely done.