President Barack Obama recently announced Startup America, the White House initiative that encourages entrepreneurship throughout the nation. Here in the neighborhood, Affinity Lab on U Street NW also inspires local entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. The entrepreneurial launch platform not only provides a shared office space, but more importantly a collaborative community of business owners and resources.
Affinity Lab has not always been part of the U Street corridor. Before opening up a space just east of the U Street Metro in January 2010, Affinity Lab had been part of the Adams Morgan neighborhood for nearly a decade. The organization maintained two separate spaces in Adams Morgan and U Street for most of 2010 and consolidated the two spaces into the U Street office at the end of last year.
“First and foremost, this place is a community. The added value is the office space,” said Affinity Lab’s CEO and President Philippe Chetrit. The real power of the organization is having great access to other members, and working out of two separate spaces took away from that accessibility, he said.
Since Affinity Lab moved to the U Street space, Chetrit has become a member of the MidCity Business Association and currently serves as a block captain, acting as a liaison between the association and local business owners. Several establishments have opened up in the area since the organization relocated, including Dodge City and Dixon Wine Bar.
“It’s fun to be in a neighborhood that is totally developing. New businesses sprout up all the time,” he said.
Affinity Lab itself has experienced dramatic growth since Chetrit joined the team three years ago. The number of members has doubled and the organization continues to coordinate both social and professional events to support its community. Chetrit was featured in a January article in The New York Times about the DC start-up scene, and recently discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the start-up community on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU-FM.
The real success story of Affinity Lab lies with its members who often start at the lab and later graduate to their own larger space. One example that Chetrit shared with us was Citizen Effect, an organization whose mission is “to provide everyday citizens the tools and networks they need to work directly with communities in need around the world,” according to their website.
Today, Citizen Effect has positively affected 177,000 people around the world through hundreds of projects and more than $264,000 donated.
If you are interested in becoming a member, the organization welcomes entrepreneurs to spend the day at the office to experience the Affinity Lab community culture firsthand. For more information about Affinity Lab, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.