Startups / Awards

RealLIST Startups: Check out the top 20 DC companies to keep your eye on in 2023

In our seventh annual list, we recognize innovative companies in ecommerce, compliance tech, data, energy and beyond.

Founders of various 2023 RealLIST Startups. (Courtesy photos, image by's RealLIST Startups 2023 in DC is underwritten by NEXT powered by Shulman Rogers. The list was independently reported and not reviewed by the underwriter before publication.

Update: This article has been updated since initial publication to note Quindar's geography and recent seed round.  (1/26/2023, 6:48 p.m.)
We’re back, folks.

If you’ve been following for a while now, you come to every January eagerly awaiting the newest iteration of our annual RealLIST Startups.

If you’re new here, though, here’s the RealLIST breakdown: Each year, we compile a list of 10 official honorees and 10 honorable mentions to recognize local startups that we think you should know about. These roundups ultimately highlight the top 20 startups that we think have tremendous potential for growth in the new year. We generate this list by combing through our own coverage, accelerator selectees, recommendations and the other mysterious ways we keep track of y’all.

Last year, we did pretty well with our predictions of who’s who in 2022. Our 20 honorees collectively raised over $40 million, landed some key accelerator placements and nabbed noteworthy partnerships. Our top pick, Recurate, raised a $14 million Series A led by Jump Capital. Even our honorable mentions got some good news, including Google For Startups funds (Halen Technologies) and the chance to participate in COP27 (Ally Power).

To qualify, companies needed to be:

  • Founded in 2020 or later
  • Generate the majority of their revenue from selling a product
  • Not experience a significant exit event such as a merger, acquisition or IPO

Got all that? Well, then get ready to meet our 2023 RealLIST Startups Honorees.

10. Dorvie

A head shot of Dorvie CEO Hersh Fernandes

Dorvie CEO Hersh Fernandes. (Courtesy photo)

Dorvie creates technology for retired folks who don’t have plans to move to a retirement community. Its software helps people schedule and pay for home maintenance, housekeeping, lawn care and food delivery services. Last year, the company raised a $2.6 million seed round a month after its launch.

9. KeyCaliber

A headshot of Roselle Safran.

Roselle Safran, founder and CEO of KeyCaliber.

The DC-based cybersecurity company focuses on automated Crown Jewels assessment and made it onto our 2021 list as an honorable mention. Since then, it raised a $2.6 million seed round and landed a spot in South by Southwest’s pitch competition. It previously nabbed a $20,000 prize at the 2020 Vinetta Project DC final Venture Challenge.

8. IndyGeneUS

Yusuf Henriques wears a suit, tie and baseball cap.

Yusuf Henriques. (Courtesy photo)

Pronounced “indigenous,” IndyGeneUS is a DC-based genomics startup that aims to drive health equity through blockchain-protected sequencing and increasing people of color and women’s participation in clinical trials. The company is currently a lab resident at Johnson and Johnson’s JLABs and has a facility in Cape Town, South Africa. It also acquired EncrypGen and raised just under $2 million in pre-seed funding.

7. Loops

A person works at a communal table on their laptop.

Loops seeks a better solution to email issues that its founder said the publicly traded email giants haven’t solved. (Photo by Pixabay user rawpixel, used under a Creative Commons license)

Maryland-based Loops was created by serial founders Chris Frantz and Adam Kaczmarek. It helps startup founders and employees to send emails, make sure they’re delivered, create product campaigns and send automated messages. The startup raised $3.2 million in April and is a Y Combinator company.

6. Hubble

A headshot of Tom Parker, who stands in a suit before a glass window.

Hubble CEO Tom Parker. (Courtesy photo)

Reston, Virginia-based Hubble created an agentless SaaS platform that gives an overview of a company’s assets, data and digital presence. The company also helps clients understand their legacy IT environment. In May of last year, it raised $9 million in a round led by Paladin Capital Group with additional participation from existing investor Accel and CrowdStrike’s Falcon Fund.

5. AI Squared

The DC startup helps other companies add artificial intelligence into their technology using a low-code platform. Founder Benjamin Harvey created the company after working at the National Security Agency and Databricks. The company launched in 2021 and raised $6 million in June of last year.

4. BuildWithin

Two women sit on brown leather chair

(L to R) Michelle Rhee and Ximena Hartsock, cofounders of BuildWithin. (Courtesy photo)

Launched by familiar faces Michelle Rhee, formerly of StudentsFirst and DC Public Schools, and Ximena Hartsock, cofounder of Phone2Action, BuildWithin is an edtech company that launched in January of 2022. So far, it has raised $2.4 million and received $9 million in government grants. The software platform helps employers build apprenticeship and workplace training programs for employees.

3. Cinder

Blue and gold code on black screen

What’s in your software? (Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash)

After only a year of life, the company has already raised $14 million from backers including Y Combinator and Accel. Cofounded by DC’s Glen Wise, a former Meta red team engineer, the platform manages trust and safety operations for client companies.

2. RegScale

Members of RegScale's team at a booth during a tech conference.

RegScale cofounder Anil Karmel (left) and VP Robbie Robbins. (Courtesy photo)

A spinout of digital services firm C2 Labs, RegScale has already achieved some huge numbers since its late-2021 founding. In August, the compliance tech company closed a $20 million Series A, led by SYN Ventures, on top of the $1.5 million the company raised the previous fall. The Tysons Corner, Virginia company, founded by Anil Karmel, was also an honorable mention in our 2022 RealLIST Startups list.

1. Inspiration Mobility

The Inspiration Mobility team poses in front of glass doors at a workplace summit. A sign featuring the company's name and logo hangs above.

The Inspiration Mobility team. (Courtesy photo)

Coming in this year’s top spot is a DC-based company that assists commercial vehicle fleets’ transition to electric vehicles (EV) by offering EVs on a pay-as-you-go basis and developing EV charging stations. In May, the year-old startup landed a $215 million raise that was led by Macquarie Asset Management and Ferrovial SA, bringing its total raised so far to $415 million.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • Standd — Founder Julie Saltman’s DC-based knowledge discovery and navigation platform for lawyers was selected for Techstars Seattle and the AWS Impact Accelerator for Women Founders.
  • University Startups — Founded by Georgetown University entrepreneurs-in-residence Marc Steren and John Jabara, University Startups helps entrepreneurship-inclined students with job and college readiness. So far, the Gaithersburg, Maryland company has raised $1.1 million from funders like Techstars.
  • Scrypted — After launching in January of 2022, the Manassas, Virginia startup was selected for the Virginia Serious Games Institute Excellerator. The company, whose leadership wants to help work out the kinks in the metaverse, helps digital creators make copies of their artwork and NFT. It also helps such creators create blockchain-based video games.
  • Quindar — The spacecraft analysis and testing startup, whose cofounder and head of operations Matt Reagan is based in DC, was founded in 2022 but has already been accepted into and participated in Y Combinator. It also recently closed a $2.5 million seed round.
  • Chestr — The Georgetown-HQed e-commerce startup helps users save their future buys and share them in one place. The company was accepted into the inaugural accelerator in June, raising $625,000.
  • Cambium Carbon —  Founded on Earth Day in 2020 by Ben Christensen, the wood tech startup uses software to connect local manufacturers and suppliers with salvaged wood. In March, the company closed a $3.2 million seed round led by MaC Venture Capital.
  • OneVillage — Founded by former Revolution executive Ashley Yesayan, OneVillage helps cancer patients and loved ones connect and share resources and updates. The company has raised an undisclosed amount so far.
  • Enabled Intelligence — The data labeling startup from Falls Church, Virginia recently invested $1.4 million into expanding its team, adding 117 new roles.
  • Perfectly Pitched — The DC startup helps companies prepare their pitch decks for funding presentations. So far, it’s helped local startups (97% of which had founders from underrepresented communities) raise $10 million. It also partnered with Halcyon in 2021 for its Opportunity Intensives program.
  • Handoff — Founded in partnership with the Ideas42 Venture Studio, Handoff helps make job-sharing easier for companies. Founder and CEO LaToria Pierce is currently raising a $1 million seed funding round.
Companies: Cambium Carbon / University Startups / Handoff / OneVillage / Enabled Intelligence / Perfectly Pitched / Chestr / Quindar / Scrypted / Standd / Inspiration Mobility / Cinder / BuildWithin / Hubble / AI Squared / Loops / IndyGeneUS AI / KeyCaliber / Dorvie / RegScale
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST

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