Diversity & Inclusion
Communities / DC Startup Week / Entrepreneurs / Leadership / Tech in Motion

RealLIST Connectors: Meet 70 people keeping #dctech close

If you're new to the local technology and entrepreneurship scene, here's a roundup of leaders to know.

Community leaders and connectors are making a difference in D.C. (Photo via @ByteBackDC on Twitter)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Community Building Month of our editorial calendar.

For the past few years, we at Technical.ly have been bringing you lists of promising startups in the D.C. region and last fall, we launched the inaugural lists of influential engineers. Now, we’re happy to introduce the next evolution in the RealLIST series: RealLIST Connectors, our roundup of folks working to build their local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation community by linking others with an eye toward future growth and inclusivity.

In this list you’ll see mention of many different initiatives that these leaders have started or organized, but there’s one thing that unites them: The people listed below in one way or another have made it their mission to help keep the #dctech and business community united.

I can recall my first few weeks on the job back in August 2018, where I met with more than a handful of these folks for coffee meetings, followed them around at networking events to meet more leaders and even stayed out past my bedtime countless times because I was making connections that were worthwhile. Many have had success at individual pursuits so now, they’re connecting others to help the cycle continue, whether that’s through organizing a meetup, heading an organization or going out of their way to make sure two people know each other. That’s how communities grow.

This list was compiled with input from Technical.ly’s newsroom, including Michelai Graham (that’s me!), editor Julie Zeglen and CEO Chris Wink. We solicited nominations from the community itself, but mainly, we referred back to our years of reporting on the local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation economies. What you see below is a partial peek into our source book.

Matt Bailey

  • Digital freedom program director at PEN America
  • One of the earliest organizers of Code for DC, this civic hacker and social social entrepreneur has had roles in city and federal government IT, where his ties are still strong.

Shelly Bell

  • Founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures
  • Back in 2016, this prominent social entrepreneur launched BGV, an event series that’s part pitch competition, part crowdfunding campaign. Since its inception, Bell has expanded BGV to more markets.

Melissa Bradley

  • Managing partner at 1863 Ventures
  • Along with her entrepreneurial leadership ventures, Bradley has also been a professor of practice at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University since 2012.

Meghan Gaffney Buck

  • Founder and CEO at Veda Data Solutions
  • This entrepreneur won the Vinetta Project’s 2017 pitch competition and is now an advocate for women entrepreneurs.

Meghan Gaffney Buck (fourth from left) took home the big check at the 2017 Vinetta Project. (Courtesy photo)

Allie Burns

  • CEO of Village Capital
  • Burns leads the bicoastal social impact-minded venture fund which has highly connected founders, a board and a varied history. In 2016, Burns came to Village Capital from investment firm Revolution as COO and has since rose to CEO last year during a period of change, bringing her network with her.

Wayne Chen

  • Chief technologist at Booz Allen Hamilton
  • With leading some tech initiatives at the global management consulting giant, Chen also leads partnerships in the entrepreneurial community, including with SEED SPOT and the Vinetta Project.

Shanaz Chowdhery

Alex Cohen

  • Founder and CEO of TwentyTables
  • Cohen leads the tech company that curates an app that connects customers with cheap meal options and donates to surrounding charities in return. Recently, TwentyTables led an initiative to provide meals for healthcare workers at 10 local hospitals.

Alex Cohen. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Tom Davidson

  • CEO at EverFi
  • A one-time politician and former self-described “marginal VC,” Davidson has grown one of the country’s leading education-finance companies over the last 12 years with the network to match.

Dipanwita Das

  • CEO and founder of Socerco
  • Over the last several years growing the startup out of D.C’s vibrant female entrepreneurship community, including Vinetta Project, her profile has grown across several sectors. She receives praise for mixing her consulting and marketing roots with her active entrepreneurial work, which includes a recent Series A, which any investor will tell you requires a genuine network.

Amelia DeSorrento

  • Bank product excellence leader at Capital One
  • The nominator for this well-connected entrepreneur says she “has an incredible network and the ability to make the perfect, thoughtful connections within it.” DeSorrento cofounded Hatch in 2015 and was a part of the team that brought the Vinetta Project to D.C. She left Hatch last March and did some consultancy work before joining Capital One.

Amelia DeSorrento. (Courtesy photo)

Emily Dresner

  • CTO at Upside Business Travel
  • In the CTO boys club, Dresner has serious chops and is a resource for technologists within and without the company.

Sibyl Edwards

Julie Elberfeld

  • SVP of card and small business tech at Capital One
  • The winner of Culture Builder of the Year at the Technical.ly Awards 2019 launched the company’s internal Women in Tech program in 2015 and is a leading voice for diversity initiatives across Capital One.

Julie Elberfeld. (Courtesy photo)

Olivia Civiletto Erwin

  • Senior account manager at Eleven Eleven PR
  • Specializing in strategic media relations and content development, Erwin previously worked at marketing and PR agency Merritt Group before joining the Eleven Eleven PR team in 2018.

Molly Fleenor

  • Associate director of communications at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business
  • Fleenor has played an integral part in keeping Georgetown entrepreneurs connected with the local startup community, especially ones who participate in the university’s annual Bark Tank pitch competition.

Krystle Fleetwood

  • Director of marketing and communications at the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP)
  • For those of you who enjoy the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, meet the mastermind who led comms for the event until last July. Fleetwood has since transitioned to leading marketing efforts at the public-private nonprofit focusing on local business attraction and retention.

Krystle Fleetwood. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Ric Fleisher

  • COO at Manor Financial, Inc.
  • His nominator called him “one of the most incredibly well-connected people in the DC tech-startup ecosystem I’ve met.” The cofounder of Urgent.ly is “also extremely generous with his time and always willing to mentor or be a sounding board for entrepreneurs.”

Alan Fogg

  • Communications director at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA)
  • Fogg has been leading comms at the FCEDA for 21 years and counting, specifically connecting Fairfax, Virginia-based startups with opportunities in the region.

Zachary Giegel

  • Cofounder of GSP Financial Services
  • Any ecosystem features service providers who do the connecting, if only across their client-base. Geigel is one of them, including through his company’s continued support of the Vinetta Project.

Zachary Giegel. (Courtesy photo)

Shana Glenzer

  • VP of marketing and communications at Dilligent Coporation
  • Glenzer is no stranger to the #dctech community, having previously held leadership roles at Crowdskout, Aquicore, SocialRadar and MakeOffices. Most notably, she spent roughly eight years working at Blackboard.

Kate Goodall

  • Cofounder and CEO at Halcyon
  • Goodall was early in social impact, and now Halcyon has several programs and staffers who could fit on this list, but it’s Goodall who remains the important connection point between D.C.’s global-local worldview.

C’pher Gresham

  • The head of the prominent social impact incubator can be counted on to be a friendly face in any networking room as well as your go-to for mission-oriented entrepreneurial growth resources.
SEED SPOT's new CEO, C'pher Gresham. (Photo by Aaron Kess of Aaron Kes Photography)

C’pher Gresham. (Photo by Aaron Kess of Aaron Kes Photography)

Adrianne Griffith

  • Director of marketing and communications at the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP)
  • Though she’s been leading comms efforts at AEDP for the past two years, Griffith formerly led comms at Georgetown a few years ago. Talk about a jack of all trades: She also served as an area manager for Nike in Tennessee before.

David Hall

  • Managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
  • Leading the fund’s execution and investment for is portfolio companies, Hall shared some insight on Technicaly’s “Off the Sidelines” podcast earlier this year.

David Hall. (Courtesy photo)

Kathryn Hartig

  • Interim director of communications at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED)
  • Hartig helps lead comms for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s economic initiatives, and she was promoted to her current role in January after previously serving as DMPED’s deputy communications director.

Ana Caceres Hernandez

Kendrick Jackson

  • Director of government and community relations at FutureFIRST
  • Some connectors get there through roles, others do it through temperament. Jackson has remained active in D.C.’s tech community through various government roles after getting his start with General Assembly back in 2014.

Param Jaggi

  • CEO of Hatch
  • Even when confronting the challenging dynamics of growing and adapting a consumer-facing startup in D.C., Jaggi has maintained a reputation for smarts and generosity. He’s raised a round, grown a team and build a reputation that allows him special insight. He also serves on the National Leadership Council for the Society for Science & the Public.
Hatch cofounders Param Jaggi and Amelia Friedman. (Courtesy photo)

Param Jaggi with Hatch cofounder Amelia DeSorrento. (Courtesy photo)

Marissa Jennings and Chris Bell

  • General manager and community associate, respectively, at Alley DC powered by Verizon
  • Prior to joining Alley last June, Jennings spent some time as the community manager at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator; Bell joined the Alley team last July. The pair manage startups in the three-year-old coworking space and have been integral connectors to help community members put on events at the coworking space to bring likeminded entrepreneurs together.

Sam Johnson and Jessica Kaing

  • Campus manager at 1776 Lafayette Square and director of events and programming for 1776 in the D.C. region, respectively
  • From starting out as the prominent coworking network’s deputy director of culinary, Johnson was promoted to campus manager last year and was responsible for making sure tenants had a smooth transition to the new office last summer. And since the pandemic started, Kaing has been putting on online programming over at the coworking network. Even before the crisis, she was leading programming efforts at the incubator and establishing partnerships within the D.C. region.

Sam Johnson. (Courtesy photo)

April Johnson

  • Founder and CEO at Happied
  • Since launching the app loaded with more than 450 D.C. happy hours last spring, Johnson has become a familiar face in #dctech. Happied connects people with happy hours, which are a big part of how we network in the District.

Alex Karmazin

  • CFO at MemoryWell
  • Any functioning startup has an operations lead quietly supporting its functions. Karmazin grew into that role at Veda Data Solutions before taking the CFO role at MemoryWell and through his tenure, he’s still been active in several startup circles.

Gerald Kierce

  • Chief of staff at FiscalNote
  • For growth companies, the coveted chief of staff role can be among the most important, the ultimate connector within an organization and outside of it. Kierce, who was an early FiscalNote employee and has grown with the company, is the perfect example of that.

Gerald Kierce. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Eren Koont

  • Head of marketing at Ordway
  • After getting his start with Texas Instruments and Discovery Communications, Koont has since held marketing roles for tech firms in the region including at LiveSafe, Protenus and now Ordway. In his spare time he’s also a mentor for the Halcyon Incubator.

Rachel Koretsky

  • DC Startup Week (DCSW) lead organizer and founder of Upace
  • For the past few years, Koretsky has been leading the charge on DCSW, a weeklong event series for rising entrepreneurs and startups. In between volunteering her time for that, she also leads her own venture, fitness app Upace.

Veni Kunche

Veni Kunche smiles

Veni Kunche. (Courtesy photo)

Penny Lee

  • Public affairs manager at Invariant
  • Once the prominent strategy lead for 1776 as it grew in D.C., she was part of the transition team during its merger with Benjamin’s Desk. Last year she took a managing role with government affairs consulting firm Invariant, but her seven years in tech and startups left her with a network she can always tap into.

Yolanda Lee

  • Managing director of membership and business development for Northern Virginia Tech Council
  • The DMV is made of several big economic hubs, and Northern Virginia can’t be overlooked. Charged with membership engagement, Lee has deep ties across the council’s membership base

John Lettieri

  • Cofounder, president and CEO at Economic Innovation Group
  • The longtime government affairs and policy pro is known for working with policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors and biz leaders to advocate on behalf of entrepreneurship.

Nina Liggett

  • Deputy communications director for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO)
  • If you’ve ever tried chatting with D.C.’s CTO, Lindsey Parker, then you’ve most likely went through Liggett to do so. From helping run comms for OCTO to showing up to events like our annual Super Meetup DC, Liggett as showed up and showed out for the #dctech community.

Elizabeth Lindsey and Yvette Scorse

  • CEO and communications director, respectively, at Byte Back
  • With nearly five years under her belt leading the tech inclusion nonprofit, Lindsey, who previously led Groundswell as COO, has been a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the #dctech community. And with the help of Scorse’s branding and strategy over the past five years, Byte Back has transformed from a community organization into a nationally recognized digital inclusion innovator.

Elizabeth Lindsey. (Courtesy photo)

Lauren Maffeo

  • Associate principal analyst at GetApp
  • Maffeo leads business intelligence research for small and midsize businesses at the global software recommendation company. Her nominator said she’s made 30 contributions to open source projects through participation at events held by local groups, including Women Who Code DC.

Mikel Maron

  • Community team lead at Mapbox
  • Mapbox is perhaps among the nerdiest of D.C’s tech firms with its geospatial and big data focus. A previous Presidential Innovation Fellow and OpenStreetMap Foundation board member, Maron has received praise for connecting across government transparency and tech firm communities

Lucas McCanna

  • Head of growth at CUCollaborate
  • After serving in various rolls at 1776 for three years, McCanna left the incubator last September to lead marketing at CUCollaborate, where he’s already been promoted to head of growth. The growth strategist helped CUCollaborate rebrand earlier this year after six years in business.

Lucas McCanna. (Courtesy photo)

Erin Horne McKinney

  • Founder and CEO of Black Female Founders
  • As D.C. took on the inclusive innovation banners, McKinney was among its earliest cheerleaders and connectors.

Juliana Cardona Mejia

Alexa Miller

  • Managing director of the Digital Empowers National Campaign at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • With leading the campaign, Miller is responsible for bringing together entrepreneurs, large companies and nonprofit leaders to talk about how to use technology for good.

Kelly Miller

  • VP at Banner Public Affairs and Tech, Rebalanced co-organizer
  • Miller has an extensive resume of entrepreneurial communication experience from working with startups to Fortune 500 companies. She was one of the people who spearheaded Tech, Rebalanced’s rebrand from Tech Lady Hackathon in 2018 to be more inclusive.

The Tech, Rebalanced leadership team as of 2018 (L to R): Rekha Tenjarla, Joy Whitt, Meag Doherty, Kate Rabinowitz and Kelly Miller. (Courtesy photo)

Kevin Morgan

  • Director of WDCEP’s tech sector attraction and retention
  • Working as WDCEP’s tech liaison, Morgan has been consistently pushing #dctech initiatives forward, including representing the region at SXSW yearly and helping launch a mini version here in D.C. He has also held leadership positions at the House of Representatives, the World Bank and Anant Corporation.

Adam Mutschler

  • Partner at The Kedar Group and founder and host of The Founder’s Mind podcast
  • From mentorship to advocating for underrepresented entrepreneurs, Mutschler has been a consistent resource in the community. At a stakeholder meeting last year, Mutschler stressed that in his work, he builds relationships and bridges, and connects as many people to each other as possible.

Dawn Myers

  • Director of Vinetta Project DC
  • Though she’s only been in the role since January, Myers has been keeping Vinetta’s presence strong through the global crisis. She has a law background, previously serving as an advocate on the Hill, but now — besides this new role — she also leads her own venture, THE MOST, which designs tools and appliances for the styling of textured hair.

Dawn Myers. (Courtesy photo)

Kelly O’Malley

  • Cofounder of This Should Be A Movie
  • When O’Malley left the Vinetta Project last fall, she said she landed the manager role at Georgetown Venture Lab because of her “deep knowledge of the D.C. ecosystem” and interest “in figuring out how to get the various stakeholders in D.C. tech to collaborate more and work in silos less.” She has since moved on to work at a new company in the entertainment space. That’s why this prominent startup leader is a connector on this list.

Brian Park

  • Managing partner at SparkLabs
  • From his seat as longtime D.C. chapter organizer for Startup Grind, Park has grown his blockchain-focused company in D.C., after years in Northern Virginia. He gets praise for being inside the region’s complex geographies.

Taylor Poindexter

  • Backend engineer and cofounder of Black Code Collective (BCC)
  • This former Crowdskout employee has been a part of organizing a number of inclusive, beginner-friendly hackathons and civic tech days in the area, along with launching BCC back in 2016. If you haven’t visited her Twitter handle @engineering_bae, check it out for some dev tips and frequent insight on salaries.

Steven Rodriguez

Britta Shillingsburg

  • Regional marketing manager for Motion Recruitment Partners (MRP) and Tech in Motion DC co-organizer
  • Not only is this leader a seasoned marketing guru, she’s also a certified yoga instructor and a wellness enthusiast. At MRP, she works on a team that organizes Tech in Motion’s D.C. chapter, which also hosts the annual Timmy Awards.

Tara Silver

  • Founder and managing director of SilverStrategy
  • As an entrepreneur and strategist, most would consider Silver a PR vet in the region for her years of experience. She’s been leading her full-service PR and marketing agency for over a decade, all while growing her family.

Tara Silver. (Courtesy photo)

Alexis Skinner

  • Associate director of talent acquisition at Axios
  • From starting her professional career in marketing, Skinner has rose to lead how Axios is scaling its hiring processes and recruiting top talent.

DeShuna Spencer

  • Founder and CEO of kweliTV
  • A journalist by trade, Spencer use to host a radio show on the D.C.’s WPFW before launching her interactive streaming platform that features independent Black stories. You can now find kweliTV on Comcast platforms.

DeShuna Spencer. (Courtesy photo by Lenzy Ruffin)

Alex Stonehouse

  • Director of marketing at Procurated
  • Since Stonehouse joined the startup last summer, he’s been adamant about making tighter connections in the #dctech community from participating in Technical.ly’s stakeholder meetings to being a friendly face at events. He’s also held leadership positions at Xometry, The Washington Post and SocialCode.

Jess Szmajda

Hilliary Turnipseed

  • Founder and president of Hill Street Strategies
  • With more than a decade of talent acquisition and management experience, you can often find Turnipseed out at events making sure entrepreneurs are getting connected. She left her role at Upside Business Travel a year ago to launch her own consulting firm focused on building and maintaining diverse teams.

Hilliary Turnipseed. (Courtesy photo)

Nicole Weissman

  • Director of communications at Halcyon
  • Weissman has been leading comms at the social enterprise incubator for nearly two years. She previously led comms at the Urban Institute for the company’s Justice Policy Center after starting her career in marketing.

David Wilson

  • Principal at Franklin Advisory
  • Not only does Wilson help his clients with business development, but he’s even helped a company build its website from the ground up once. Needless to say, he’s made himself available to share as much as his expertise as possible.

Alex Wirth

  • Cofounder and CEO at Quorum
  • Wirth’s public affairs software platform has topped many a #dctech startups-to-watch list, while the leader himself sits on many influential boards of directors, including the Public Affairs Council and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

Khuram Zaman

  • CEO at Fifth Tribe
  • Aside from leading the digital agency for nearly five years, this digital marketing professional is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown Entrepreneurship.
Companies: Booz Allen Hamilton / Black Girl Ventures / Upside Business Travel / Alley / Village Capital / Georgetown University / Byte Back / Quorum Analytics / kweliTV / Capital One / Halcyon / DC Web Women / Civic Tech DC / Washington, DC Economic Partnership / Revolution / 76 Forward / Hatch / FiscalNote / General Assembly / PricewaterhouseCoopers
Series: RealLIST Connectors / Community Building Month 2020 / RealLIST

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