Awards / Communities / DC Startup Week / Software / Technology

DC, get ready to vote: These are your 2022 Awards nominees

Vote for who you think is making the biggest changes in DC tech through Wednesday, Dec. 7. This year, choose the best of the best in five categories: Invention, Community Leader, CTO, Culture Builder and Tech Company of the Year.

They're here. (Graphic by Penji for Awards 2022 are underwritten by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs. This article was independently reported and not reviewed by Comcast before publication. Comcast is a Ecosystem Builder client.

Full disclosure: This list includes Ayanna Smith, who leads an organization giving the author of this article an award in December 2022. The author’s receipt of this award did not influence Smith’s inclusion in the list.
It wouldn’t really be the end of the year without some form of superlatives, would it?

No, we’re not talking about the best couple or class clown (but if you want us to, uh, make an email suggestion maybe?). It’s our annual Awards, where we honor the year’s top innovators, community connectors and more among the DMV.

This year, we were looking at those who are really making a difference in their communities, workplaces and local ecosystem — the companies and people that not only were inspired to make changes over the past few years, but stuck with them to build a better DC tech scene.

We asked for nominations from community members in November and curated these final nominees based on our own reporting. Now, you get to vote on who you think deserves to take home the gold. Voting is open until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7 and the winners will be announced Dec. 14 at noon.

Got it? Check out more on the nominees and cast your vote below.

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Invention of the Year

What product, project or release this year is best poised to change its industry?

  • Health Computing Institute — Maryland’s Montgomery County, the University of Maryland (UMD) and the University of Maryland Medical System, among others, teamed up to create an academic research hub focused on health technology development and research.
  • Mobility Innovation District — DC government and the Southwest Business Innovation District formed the city’s first-ever Mobility Innovation District, a testbed and infrastructure hub for transportation.
  • Sallie, from Future AI — DC-based Future AI made Sallie in an attempt to create software that can understand multi-sensory input and data structure, replicating the awareness of the human brain. The small pod features a camera, computer, body and sensory technology to explore, talk, hear and touch things.
  • Yeleen Beauty MakerspaceRahama Wright created the makerspace, currently under construction at Benning Road NE, to help local beauty entrepreneurs. The 3,000-square-foot hub will feature a teaching lab, manufacturing facility, retail space and a media room for founders.
  • The Data Explorer — Takoma Park built an all-access page for constituents to find current and previous census data on the city. The goal is to provide a better, more consolidated place for constituents and local officials to access updated and accurate census data.
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Tech Community Leader of the Year

Who has most made this community better through coalition building, nonprofit work, access-minded initiatives, policymaking or other pathways?

  • Darius Clair — DC native Clair is a huge connector on the scene. He’s part of the core team for DC Startup Week, works in small business development and community for WeWork, and is building D.E.A.L.S., a venture group to connect founders to funding and one another.
  • Arik King — King is the founder of Future Kings, an after-school program and summer camp for students of color from 6th grade up through high school from underserved communities to help develop the tech pipeline. It also recruits “hidden geniuses” or students who have shown potential but might not be at the top of the class.
  • Alexander Knight — The senior VP of business development at entrepreneurial law firm Cooley, Knight specializes in getting underrepresented founders access to capital, while diversifying the venture capital ecosystem and the boardroom alike.
  • Keith Camhi — Camhi heads up work that supports tons of founders in the ecosystem as the managing director for TechstarsFuture of Longevity and DC accelerators. He’s also been an advisor to many founders and companies.
  • All Raise Steering Committee — The new DC chapter of All Raise is headed up by local notables such as Raabia Budhwani, April Johnson, Julie Saltman and more. The committee supports the growth of women and nonbinary folks in the DMV startup scene and is looking to find new ways to build connections and local assets.
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CTO of the Year

Who is leading groundbreaking technical work within their company or organization? (Similar titles beyond CTO were accepted.)

  • Gina Guillaume-Joseph — Guillaume-Joseph is the CTO of government at cloud enterprise software company Workday and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. Previously, she’s held roles including director of technology at Capital One and principal engineer and manager at MITRE.
  • Sergio Gallucci — As the cofounder and CTO of space startup SCOUT, Gallucci was key in the startup’s development of space sensors and “dashcam” technology that makes spacecraft more aware of its surroundings.
  • Dean Chang — As the interim CIO at the UMD’s research division, Chang oversees the university’s work in innovation, entrepreneurship, intellectual property and technology commercialization, including UM Ventures and the Discovery District. He’s also a lead principal investigator and instructor for I-Corps Hub.
  • Andre Marshall — Marshall currently serves as the VP for research, innovation and economic impact for George Mason University. Previously, he was the director of the FireTEC Center at UMD and the program director for Innovation Corps.
  • Kurt Schaubach — Schaubach is the CTO of Federated Wireless, a shared spectrum and CBRS technology provider. This year, he’s headed up the technical side of the company as it raised $72 million in Series D investments. Previously, he held engineering roles at National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, NextWave Wireless, LCC International and Southwestern Bell.
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Tech Company of the Year

What promising startup or growth-stage company is tackling an interesting problem, shaping its industry or inspiring a brighter collective future?

  • Otolith Labs — The Mark Cuban-backed startup created a wearable device to help those suffering from vertigo. In September, it closed a $20 million Series A led by Morningside Ventures.
  • HawkEye 360 — The Herndon, Virginia radio frequency and analytics company is set to launch its sixth satellite cluster in December, reaching 15 satellites in orbit within a two-year launch period. In May, the leadership team said its launches would help with monitoring places like Ukraine, currently hard to reach with tech connections.
  • DwellWell — The Bethesda startup from three-time entrepreneur Dan Simpkins developed a residential property management technology platform. Its “check-engine” device helps owners keep track of their properties, potentially preventing the need for repairs.
  • Somatus — The Vienna, Virginia kidney care company provides clinical services and technology to help patients with kidney issues. Earlier this year, it completed a $325 million Series E raise, valuing the company at $2.5 billion.
  • Caribou — Formerly known as MotoRefi, the DC auto-financing and car insurance company unicorned in May thanks to an oversubscribed $115 million raise led by Goldman Sachs.
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Culture Builder of the Year

What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive, resilient or engaging? (“Leader” doesn’t need to mean they hold a leadership title.)

  • Ilana PreussRecast City CEO Preuss is leading the local charge for small-scale, domestic manufacturing. Eventually, she’d like to see a beloved main street or downtown in every community.
  • Arti Santhanam — Santhanam is the executive director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund at TEDCO, where she focuses heavily on collaboration in assisting founders.
  • Kestrel Linder — The GiveCampus CEO had to pivot immensely after switching to hybrid work following the pandemic. To keep company culture alive, Linder and his team offer a mental health stipend and encourage local and faraway employees to have meetups and workdays together.
  • Ayanna Smith — As the managing director of GET Cities DC, Smith supports the inclusion of women and nonbinary folks in tech. She’s also a supporter of underrepresented founders and a Techstars mentor.
  • Tom Miller — In his role as CEO of Virginia’s ClearForce, Miller is trying new methods to avoid toxic workplace cultures. There, he takes preventative measures to avoid culture clashes, captures direct input and first-party reporting from employees and uses tech to monitor how things are going.
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Companies: HawkEye 360 / GET Cities / GiveCampus / University of Maryland / Comcast / George Mason University
Series: Awards

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