#FollowFriday – The Capital Innovators

This is a weekly series that I’m hoping to help add some more relevance to the #FollowFriday (what’s this?) Twitter activity that originally started through Lijit’s own Micah Baldwin to help connect Twitterers with one another. For this week’s selection, we’re jumping to the right coast of the United States to check out the awesome folks in the DC Metro/Mid-Atlantic region and why you should follow them. In case you didn’t know, the DC Metro corridor area has started to become a hub of tech innovation and some “may” consider it to be the Silicon Valley of the East. Here’s some folks making a difference.

Peter Corbett

Peter CorbettI can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to call Peter out as a #followfriday. I’ve known Peter Corbett since I started working in Washington, DC almost 3 years ago and I consider him a great friend. Come to think of it, I believe that when I applied for a job at his former company, Blattner Brunner, I received a rejection email from Peter himself. What was that about? LOL!

No, but seriously, the first time I met Peter was during a website project I was working on during a bidder’s conference for the RFP I was seeking vendors for. He communicated to me by email that his company would be withdrawing from consideration & after I said “No problem”, he hit me with another email inviting me to a web manager roundtable meeting. That’s the kind of guy Peter is. He’s always looking to connect people together and help make friendships last. I’m really thankful that I can turn to Peter for assistance and he’s done remarkably well for himself.

Peter is responsible for the four iterations of Twin Tech that has brough the technology scene of Washington, DC together with the Northern Virgina Technology Council so we’re not all operating in silos. He’s also worked with then-DC CTO Vivek Kundra (now President Obama’s Chief Information Officer) to help create Apps for Democracy advocating exploiting public government data to allow developers the opportunity to create their own applications, with the best one winning cash prizes. Now he’s apparently the Apps for Democracy “ambassador” to Helsinki trying to recreate the magic?? There’s much more that Peter has done with his own company, iStrategyLabs. I only wonder though…is there anything that Peter hasn’t done or isn’t good at?

Ernie Mosteller

Along the same time that I met Peter Corbett, I met Ernie Mosteller. I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with Ernie. Granted he’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and I’m a product of the University of Hawaii – our two teams met in the Sugar Bowl 2007 with Ernie’s “Dawgs” beating my alma mater badly – and as a result of the bet we made, I had to buy him BBQ at a nearby restaurant.

Ernie is a phenomenal and insightful gentleman who understands what it takes to have a creative and successful campaign. He’s the interactive creative director at Brunner Digital and an award-winning one at that. He’s a video and broadcast practioner, if I remember correctly and has offered me advice on many things advertising and marketing. I interviewed him once when I was in Washington, DC and enjoyed the conversation. Turns out he’s also a published author having written a book called Use A Stick and is an active contributer to Adotas.com. If you want to talk about how the world of advertising, agencies, marketing, and interactive work these days, I suggest you get in touch with Ernie. He really does produce some outstanding work.

Geoff Livingston

SNCR 2009 - Geoff LivingstonGeoff Livingston. What’s there to say about this guy? He’s a successful businessman, great photographer, awesome friend, and knows what the hell is going on with public relations and social media. I know I said this before in one of my last #followfriday posts about Geoff, but he’s also the co-author of a phenomenal book called Now Is Gone which I, along with many others think of as THE book to read when you want to start using social media for your public relations efforts. It gives you some great insights that you would never have known before.

Oh, and he’s also a great humanitarian as well. I’ve seen Geoff working hard to promote social causes that he so passionately believes in, whether it’s LiveEarth, global warming, etc., he’s your man when talking about using social media for the social good. Geoff used to run his own company called Livingston Communications but has since merged with CRT/Tanaka and is the Senior Vice President and also helped found BlogPotomac – the premiere blogger event in the DC Metro area for the past two years.

Robert & Juliana Neelbauer

I first met Robert & Juliana Neelbauer at a Mashable event in Washington, DC and we’ve been friends ever since. These two great people are on top of what’s happening in the tech scene and know who’s hiring and what jobs are available in the DC Metro Area. They run a successful website called JobMatchbox.com and own a management consulting firm called StaffMagnet. Think they’re busy? Not quite. On top of all this, they also throw a quarterly event called Social Matchbox which is basically like speed dating for geeks (unofficially). They also want to connect tech enthusiasts together so you’ll often seen startups demoing their product to the crowds and then people mingling and exchanging business cards. Now you can say they’re pretty busy, but they are good folks and I’m glad I can call them my friends.

Shashi Bellamkonda

Inbound Marketing Summit - Shashi BellamkondaShashi Bellamkonda is known to many in the industry as the Network Solutions’ Social Media Swami. An award-winning practicioner of social media, Shashi is a former executive chef who now goes out to help his customers and spread the message about how to listen to your customers. He’s also a great photographer and loves to meet people.

Shashi loves to joke that I’m the one that made him famous, but I highly doubt that. It was during PodCamp DC that I first heard Shashi speak on the topic of Integrating Social Media with Small Businesses. I had my laptop open and a webcam and decided to record his talk so that I could upload it and be the “social media” guy and make it viral. Well unbeknownst to me and to my pleasant surprise, Shashi found the video and forwarded it to Chris Brogan and apparently that’s how Shashi became famous.

He has a great can do attitude and also has trusted me to write blog posts for his company’s Solutions Are Power blog. He can be spotted on both sides of the United States or find him causing trouble virtually in the sky on a Virgin America flight.

Jesse Thomas

One of the most creative people that I follow on Twitter. Jesse Thomas is the man responsible for the award-winning and outstanding creative firm JESS3. He’s done work on social media widgets, Facebook applications, landing pages, websites, and much more. Don’t recognize Jesse’s work? Have you heard of the Conversation Prism that Brian Solis always mentions? What about the Twitterverse? Those illustrations were done by Jesse. He’s really great at what he does and people have taken notice. Great work!

Leslie Bradshaw

I think that one of the many reasons why I’d say follow Leslie Bradshaw is for her work during the presidential election. She was the one helping C-SPAN with their social media strategy and, together with Jesse Thomas, put together two distinct but similar microsites to monitor all the social media chatter from most of the major networks. This new feature got carried over onto several networks and was probably one of the main pages that you stopped at to make sure you got the public’s response to how the Democratic National Convention & Republican National Conventions were going. Leslie is very smart when it comes to marketing, social media, and execution. Definitely someone to follow.

Greg Cangialosi

Inbound Marketing Summit - Greg CangialosiGreg Cangialosi was one of my vendors. I used his product and felt his team knew what was going on in the industry. I’m sure that you might have used it as well. Greg is the guy who started Blue Sky Factory, one of the leader email marketing service providers out there today. He has folks like Chris Brogan using it to distribute his emails along with countless others.

Greg is heavily involved in the comings and goings of social media and has found a way to incorporate that into the products his company offers. From adding sharing functionality to emails that will enable folks to share specific emails on Twitter or other networks to creating a self-publishing tool to having a live Blue Sky Factory webcast that people can learn more about the company, products, or other related topics, Greg has definitely subscribed to the adage of “innovate or die”.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen his company basically grow phenomenally and now has an office here in the West Coast. I suppose following in the footsteps of Zappos, Greg has also a lot of his team on Twitter as well so you can follow along with your own rep if you have any questions in using their product. Oh, did I forget to mention that he’s another author? Check out his book “Podcast Academy: The Business Podcasting Book: Launching, Marketing, and Measuring Your Podcast“. Nicely done, Greg…

Nick O’Neill

The man you want when it comes to Facebook news and everything social media-related is Nick O’Neill. He’s the owner of SocialTimes.com, which I consider one of the best site that can compete with TechCrunch & Mashable on the latest tech trends and industry news. Nick is an entrepreneur. He knows how things happen and he’s a great asset to the nation’s capital. I believe he’s also the founder of the Social Ad Summit that’s held in New York City once a year, if I’m not mistaken. I often like to browse around his website for the latest news because I think that it gives everyone a different perspective on what’s happening in the industry. His writings, along with other contributers are coming from a non-Silicon Valley approach and has a view from an outsider’s perspective, but also from someone who “gets it”.

You want to know more about #FollowFriday and who other people are recommending? Then check out this great site created by Micah Baldwin.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."