#StartupsEverywhere: Washington, D.C.

#StartupsEverywhere Profile: Amelia Friedman, Co-Founder and COO, Hatch Apps

This profile is part of #StartupsEverywhere, an ongoing series highlighting startup leaders in ecosystems across the country. This interview has been edited for length, content, and clarity.

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Hatching Success in the Nation’s Capital

Amelia Friedman and her team at Hatch Apps empower people around the world to create their own mobile apps. By leaning on a strong tech community in Washington, D.C.,  Hatch Apps has quickly grown. However, as an international company, legislation like GDPR has changed the way they do business and deal with data. Amelia is reminded of the importance of engaging in policy, no matter the size of the startup, “policy decisions made halfway across the world can have a big impact on our product.”

Tell me about you. What’s your background? Why did you start Hatch Apps?

I have a less traditional background for a startup founder. I actually got my undergraduate degree in Brazilian literature – and I didn’t take a single math or science course throughout my college experience. But the whole time I was there, I was building my first startup, which I continued to pursue after graduating. That startup brought me to the Halcyon Incubator, where I met my now cofounder, Param Jaggi.

Together, we started Hatch Apps, inspired by the challenges we saw other entrepreneurs face when they needed to build software for their business— they were spending a tremendous amount of time and money on apps, and sometimes the final product was barely working. Hatch Apps enables businesses to launch apps – without writing a line of code. Customers can build an app using our drag and-drop interface, and deploy in a matter of days, not months.

Why’d you get started in Washington, D.C.? What makes Washington, D.C. an ideal place to start a company?

I grew up in Arlington, V.A., right outside of Washington, D.C. We originally started the company because we were already here: My cofounder Param and I met at Halcyon in D.C. when we were working on separate companies (mine was the one I founded in college). When we exited our previous companies, Param pitched me on Hatch Apps (“a Squarespace for fully functional mobile apps”) and I was sold.

Now that we’re here, we’ve certainly reaped the benefits. The tech community here is really strong; since the ecosystem is so small, we all benefit from each other’s successes and go out of our way to support each other. Communities like Halcyon, the Vinetta Project, and Mindshare have all been very good to us— they’ve helped us to fundraise, source customers, and access potential partners.

What’s the most exciting or important development that has happened to the Washington, D.C. ecosystem in the last year?

In tech, a lot of folks are really excited about the possibility of Amazon building HQ2 here. I have mixed feelings about it — it would likely make recruiting engineers even tougher, but also have a very positive effect on tech talent longterm (and I plan to stay here longterm). More than anything, it’s really exciting that D.C. is a viable location for a large tech company to consider putting down roots; the implication is that we have the talent and the ecosystem to support a company like Amazon.

What keeps you up at night?

Keeping ahead of trends in our industry. Mobile trends change every 2-3 years, and digital platforms are always evolving. In a way, we need to stay platform agnostic so that we’re not tied to the success of any one piece of hardware (iPhones, Androids, Alexa, and so on). In order to keep growing for many decades to come, we’re going to need to always be forecasting what will come next before our competitors do. That’s not easy.

What gets you up in the morning?

Our awesome team. We’ve got a rockstar crew working in the trenches alongside us in the trenches. I feel so fortunate to have such an amazing group of people that wake up every day ready to dive into the unknown. As a startup, the challenges we face in every part of the business are so real – there’s so much uncertainty and building things from scratch. That’s tough, and fortunately we have a team that’s up for the challenge.

How has working internationally affected your company?

GDPR has a real effect on how we build our product and market to our customers. Any website viewer, sales lead, or customer from the EU requires adherence to GDPR, so we’ve elected to make our entire product GDPR compliant. That affects how we build our processes (e.g. enabling proactive opt-ins), how we store our data, how we secure our endpoints, and so much more. Even as a little startup, policy decisions made halfway across the world can have a big impact on our product.

Are there specific public policies or government initiatives that have enabled startup growth in Washington, D.C.?

The Qualified High Technology Company (QHTC) certification program. Once a company self-certifies, its eligible for steep reductions in local taxes both short and longterm, as wage reimbursements for qualified employees. The program is easy to take advantage of, yet may startups are unaware of it.

From a policy perspective, do you have any wishlist items for the startup ecosystem?

As became obvious with the passage of GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, privacy has become a hot-button issue for legislators. I agree that something must be done to protect folks from leaks and misuse, but I hope that stakeholders from tech companies (both big and small) are invited into that conversation to ensure that new legislation isn’t needlessly burdensome to small companies like ours.

What is your goal for five years?

Our goal is to change the way software is developed. Right now, building an app is super expensive, it takes forever, and too many people are being ripped off. At Hatch Apps we’re faced with an incredible opportunity to change all that. If we’re successful, building an app will be affordable, near-instantaneous, and high-quality, thereby setting a new industry standard.

Engine works to ensure that policymakers look for insight from the startup ecosystem when they are considering programs and legislation that affect entrepreneurs. Together, our voice is louder and more effective. Many of our lawmakers do not have first-hand experience with the country's thriving startup ecosystem, so it’s our job to amplify that perspective. To nominate a person, company, or organization to be featured in our #StartupsEverywhere series, email jen@engine.is. Give us your feedback here.