In a year where we were torn apart from, well, virtually anyone who didn’t live within our immediate household, connections were more important than ever.
Beyond only seeing others via computer screen, it meant no accidental bump-ins or networking at happy hour, so it was pretty difficult for anyone looking for business links.
As a newb to the local tech scene myself who started a month ago as Technical.ly’s lead reporter in D.C., I know firsthand how hard it can be to dive into a new community when you’re stuck behind a laptop. How do you replace events designed for you to meet industry folks? Or switch out a casual run-in that could later lead to a partnership or investment for a cold email or phone call? And if you’ve got funding, a product or service that can help others, how do you get it in front of the people that need it?
Enter round two of RealLIST Connectors, our list of the DMV people who made it a mission to keep up community building in the tech, entrepreneurship and innovation sectors during a global pandemic and year that laid bare many societal disparities.
With the first edition of this feature last year, we dug deep, asked our community and came up with our list of 70 honorees. The concept was this: You’re brand new on the tech scene here in D.C. Who are the first people you’d want to be introduced to to help you build, fundraise, learn, connect and grow?
With our second year, the idea is to build an addendum to that list. Many of the folks from the first list are still out there building, but there won’t be any overlap between the names on the two lists. So we drew upon our current web of connections, and put a focus on who has really made an impact in a year like no other.
In the true connector spirit, we asked last year’s nominees who they thought deserved some spotlight (plus a few bonus recs curated from our own coverage). This list was also compiled with input from Technical.ly’s newsroom including reporter Michaela Althouse (hey there!) and editor Stephen Babcock.
What you’ll find below is a look at who’s bringing this community together to continue growth now, and build strength for the future:
- Managing director of public policy at Dcode
- Alongside his everyday duties at govtech connector Dcode, Ashton temporarily took the helm at the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government, a new org helping small or outside companies break into the federal technology space. He also was a previous lead and director for Dcode’s accelerator program.
- Codirector of Startup Boost Washington DC
- At Startup Boost, Beauchamp connects early-stage startups with mentors to get them ready for the next investment step. He’s also the deal-flow coordinator at Angels & Entrepreneurs, where he sources investment opportunities for people in the network.
Dr. Jamika Burge
- Head of AI Design, Learning & Research Insights at Capital One
- On top of her AI work at McLean, Virginia-based financial services leader Capital One, Dr. Burge cofounded the company’s Intersectional Symposium and is a member of its Blacks in Tech leadership team. Outside of her 9-5, she cofounded blackcomputeHER.com and Design & Technology Concepts (not to mention some casual Google consulting). “She is the ultimate connector, bringing together interdisciplinary and diverse groups in many different ways—inside and outside of her formal work—to think bigger and solve bigger issues,” her nominator wrote.
- Founder of Uplift and Breakout
- After incorporating a remote work tool into the Uplift app, Clark established Breakout last April, which offers 25 team building experiences for companies looking to reconnect remotely. She was also a key part of a female founders happy hour series hosted by fellow RealLIST Connectors Kelly O’Malley and Amelia DeSorrento last summer.
Mollie Q. Coleman
- Founder and creative director at High Caliber Events
- Hailed by her nominator as a “SuperConnector,” on top of her events company Coleman has helped build DMV startups Get Hemp Butter, NoirBnb and My Brother’s Birdies. You can also find her helping out with initiatives that bring the community together like DC Startup Week, Global Entrepreneurship Week, 202Creates and Cultural Tourism DC.
- Director of investment business development, Maryland Venture Fund and TEDCO Seed Investment Fund
- With two ventures under his belt, Collier leads investment round connections for local startups like NewConnect and Bullfrog AI at TEDCO, which is Maryland’s state-backed technology development agency. “Even with companies in which he doesn’t invest, he always works tirelessly to connect startups to people in his own network,” his nominator wrote.
- Cofounder of Early Light Ventures
- An investor in local companies like Konduit and Cove at a firm that’s making waves around the East Coast, Diener also advises companies in his spare time.
- Cofounder of PAX Momentum
- A principal at Vienna, Virginia-based Blu Venture Investors and cofounder of satellite communications company Segovia, Hanson over the last year put his energy into an accelerator that’s seeking to get post-launch B2B startups to the next level. PAX Momentum just wrapped up its latest cohort with nine participants.
- Deputy director at the Korean Innovation Center
- A driving force and key contact for Korean entrepreneurs up and down the East Coast, Kim has helped many companies in and out of D.C. get off the ground. He also cofounded Heart of Man Ventures to help build social impact-minded brands. “In a year that has been difficult for many Asian-Americans, Yong Kim is a positive force for good in both the Korean community and startup community at large,” said his nominator.
- VP of entrepreneurial ecosystems at the Center for Innovative Technology
- After returning to CIT in November of last year, Mallon is developing a portfolio of entrepreneurial resources for early-stage companies at the Virginia investment and support org. He’s also the founder and CEO of Good Clean Fun Ventures and previously served as associate VP for entrepreneurship and innovation at George Mason University.
- Managing director at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
- Mason has led over 50 investments as part of the seed fund and is a strategy lead for the Rise of the Rest platform, network summit and annual road trip. She connects people across the country with resources and funding opportunities, and that includes a leadership role in D.C.
- Senior VP and CIO of retail bank at Capital One
- Mathewson is the founding executive sponsor of Blacks in Tech resource group at Capital One and was tapped to be the national executive lead for the company’s Black business resource group, VOICES. His nominator called his commitment to helping others succeed in and out of the company a superpower.
- VP of Digital, Connected DMV
- After leaving Accenture last summer, Mitnick joined the Connected DMV team in September and has since led a large group of government, corporate and nonprofit groups to mobilize for digital equity throughout the DMV.
- Venture Partner at 1863 Ventures
- As a portfolio manager of D.C.-based 1863, which hosts programs for emerging entrepreneurs, Omitowoju is a key contact for Black and brown founders and innovators (He’s also so well-known that we hosted a #AMA with him back in 2015).
- Interim director, Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center (MAVRIC), University of Maryland College Park
- Popat is a go-to guy for innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, with hands in Startup UMD, the Terp Entrepreneurship Network and Innov8MD among others. He’s also the interim director of the school’s XR-focused MAVRIC program. “His extensive network and matchmaking skills, in addition to his extensive passion for helping innovators, entrepreneurs, students and anyone working hard to make Maryland and the world better, is a winning combination,” his nominator wrote.
- Founder and managing partner at Zeal Capital Partners
- After founding D.C.-based Zeal with a strategy built around inclusive investing, Qadree successfully led the firm to raise its first fund at $22.3 million last year, with the intention of supporting early-stage fintech and future of work companies.
- Founder and CEO of Domusys
- A founder of voice-over-internet services pioneer SALIX and smart TV originator Hillcrest Labs, Simpkins now speaks, writes and teaches about entrepreneurship after exiting the latter. His nominator said he’s always willing to offer advice or mentorship.
- Chief program director at Byte Back
- Stallings leads cross-sector partnerships at the D.C.-based inclusive tech training org, which serves about 500 adults per year. Previously the director of strategic partnerships at Per Scholas, she has years of experience working to connect adults with the opportunity in the digital economy.
- President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Tech Council (NVTC)
- In August 2020, Taylor assumed the leading role at NVTC, which has long been a leading connector of tech companies in the D.C. area. She is a frequent speaker on the future of work and advocate for women in technology.
- Chief product officer at Socially Determined
- Before he joined the Socially Determined team last year, Vivatrat founded chatbot startup Intellei and served as chief product officer at Clarabridge.He also chairs the board for the Project on Government Oversight. His nominator says he’s always on the lookout for opportunities for others.