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RealLIST Startups 2024: Meet 20 DC startups on the road to success

From prestigious accelerator acceptees to major-raising upstarts, here are the emerging companies from across the DMV that you’ll want to follow.

Shouting out DC's RealLIST Startups for 2024. (Technical.ly / Robb Hill)

Technical.ly's RealLIST Startups 2024 in DC is underwritten by NEXT powered by Shulman Rogers. The list was independently reported and not reviewed by JPMorgan Chase before publication.

No lie: This annual list doesn’t come together easily.

Technical.ly has spent more than a decade cataloging early-stage companies across our markets in our annual RealLIST Startups rosters. Since we started doing this for DC back in 2017, we’ve recognized a whopping 120 capital region ventures as honorees or honorable mentions.

That’s a lot. But there were so many more to choose from. If you work in DC-area tech, you know it’s uniquely active and varied.

Our Tech Economy Dashboard, which pulls proprietary data from labor analytics company Lightcast, currently lists over 26,000 active tech firms in the DMV. None of Technical.ly’s other principal markets — Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore and Pittsburgh — boast a number in the five-figure range.

These firms provide only a snapshot of the DC metro area’s dynamic tech market. Between the quantum computing revolution coming out of College Park, multinational giants parked in Northern Virginia, lucrative contracts from federal agencies that only exist here and the billions of VC dollars spent every year, DMV tech really operates on another level.

For those new to our RealLIST Startups, here’s how it works: We comb through our coverage, your nominations, Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other sources to identify companies that seem primed for great things.

Eligible startups must fulfill at least the following requirements:

  • Founded no earlier than 2021 (though we know founding dates can be tricky)
  • Most of the revenue comes from an innovative product (so, no agencies)
  • Has shown some track record of success
  • Remains independent, meaning it’s not been acquired, merged or gone public
  • Headquartered or having a founder based in the DMV

These rankings are not scientific, but a list of companies we’re most excited to follow in 2024. If you’d like to see another company featured here next year, you can always offer your nominations for the RealLIST Startups (or any of our annual RealLISTs) using this submission form.

If you want to see who made prior years’ rosters, check them out here: 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017.

And then check out your 2024 RealLIST Startups below.

10. Upling

Inspired by a prior incarceration and watching his mother deal with Stage 4 cancer, Colin Fraser founded his Rockville, Maryland-based startup in 2021 to better connect cannabis users with the products best fit for them. The company’s mobile platform enables cannabis delivery from dispensaries to recreational users in DC and medical cannabis patients in Maryland. In addition to the user-side app, Upling, similar to Doordash or Lyft, has a special app for its drivers, many of whom are returning citizens. The innovation nabbed Fraser a top prize at DC Startup Week’s 2023 pitch competition.

9. Standd

We named Standd a runner-up in last year’s list after it was selected for Techstars Seattle and the AWS Impact Accelerator for Women Founders. Julie Saltman’s startup, whose AI-enabled platform helps lawyers and investors streamline document review moves to this year’s top 10 after a string of successes including launching pilots, opening a pre-seed round and winning the inaugural Ensemble Fund competition.

8. Rhizome

One of several climate resilience-related companies on this list — an important focus in the era of climate change and massive federal infrastructure investments — DC-based Rhizome offers AI-driven software to help utility providers better measure the benefits of making power grids stronger against climate threats. In October, Rhizome announced a $2.5 million raise and partnerships with utility companies on both coasts.

7. Antithesis

Normally, we wouldn’t put a company on this list without a track record longer than, say, a week. But Vienna, Virginia-HQed Antithesis this month emerged from stealth with such a bang — namely, a $47 million seed raise — that we couldn’t wait until next year to include it on the RealLIST Startups. Moreover, it seems primed for bigger things, given its founding team’s work behind the FoundationDB database that Apple acquired in 2015. Antithesis builds on that work to offer a platform that constantly tests in-development software for bugs while giving debugging insights before small problems become big, costly and harder-to-fix ones.

6. VirgilHR

Human Resources professional Jocelyn King created VirgilHR to help companies navigate the web of federal, state and municipal labor laws affecting their employees. Founded in November 2021, the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based legal compliance platform took off in 2023 with a $1.5 million pre-seed round and the launch of a chat tool to help employers classify both workers and contractors.

5. Keep Company

Adrienne Prentice and Claudia Naim-Burt launched their Bethesda, Maryland-HQed company in 2021 to help parents and caregivers navigate difficulties balancing professional and at-home responsibilities. Its platform allows users, including employees of large professional service companies among Keep Company’s clients, to connect with others experiencing similar struggles. Keep Company then works with the employers to provide aggregate data that can influence better workplace culture and keep employees from leaving. This novel platform helped the company raise an $800,000 pre-seed last year.

4. Trustible

As our nation’s leaders rush to catch up with responsible AI policy, the shifting regulatory landscape leaves a void for private companies to fill. Enter Trustible, a Rosslyn, Virginia-based startup that emerged from stealth last spring with a $1.6 million pre-seed round. FiscalNote alums Andrew Gamino-Cheong and Gerald Kierce’s company developed a SaaS platform to help clients build trust and manage risks from AI tech development while staying compliant with emerging laws and policies.

3. NearStar Fusion

Recognition from a British Royal Family-connected entity, especially in 2024, doesn’t necessarily guarantee a company’s longevity. Luckily for Chantilly, Virginia-based NearStar Fusion, its nomination for a 2024 Earthshot Prize, the awards program Prince William founded to support companies behind innovative environmental solutions, is just icing on the cake. CEO Amit Singh partnered with founder and chief scientist F. Doug Witherspoon to launch the startup in 2021. Together, the pair and their colleagues set out to pioneer a nuclear fusion energy solution based on plasma physics that could cut down power consumption while creating jobs. Besides the Earthshot Prize organizers, the company has earned grants and kudos from the Fairfax Founders Fund, National Science Foundation and Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.

2. Surgo Health

Founded in December 2022 and publicly launched about three months later, Surgo Health follows in the footsteps of cofounder and CEO Sema Sgaier’s Surgo Ventures and Surgo Foundation. The former Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation leader created this public benefit corporation to continue those other entities’ core mission of using data and analytics to combat health inequities. The Northwest DC company’s cloud-based SaaS program uses machine learning algorithms and other components to develop scalable insights into people’s healthcare decisions and influences. Surgo Heath has already raised at least $5 million, and Sgaier was recently accepted into Springboard Enterprises’ Digital Health Innovation Program.

1. Crux

Few companies on this highly accomplished list embodied as many hallmarks of dynamic, must-watch startups as Crux. Let’s run them down:

  • Launched in April 2023 by former Treasury Department official and BlackRock VP Alfred Johnson, and ex-Bain & Company consultant Allen Kramer. The pair previously cofounded Mobilize, which EveryAction acquired in 2020.
  • Developed a novel platform in response to the Inflation Reduction Act that allows financial institutions, clean energy developers and tax credit buyers to sell and transfer tax credits, thus funding clean energy projects.
  • Raised a $4.25 million round in June, and an $18 million Series A at the top of this year, contributing to the company’s self-reported total of over $27 million raised.

Strong founder pedigree, a unique platform in an emerging lucrative market and tens of millions raised from some of the world’s top firms — all in less than a year. Pretty promising, right?


And now, our 2024 honorable mentions (in no particular order)

  • Orbit Technologies — On the other end of the experience spectrum is undergrad students Steven Pang and Colton El-Habr’s startup, which created a non-invasive device that stimulates users’ neural pathways behind the ears to make them feel like they’re immersed in a video game or movie. The venture completed a $500,000 pre-seed raise after winning Georgetown University’s Bark Tank pitch competition in October.
  • Range — We stretched the range (pun intended) of our 2021 cutoff to put this wealth management startup, which was launched in December 2020, on this runners-up list. The McLean, Virginia-HQed company completed a $12 million Series A, led by Google’s AI VC fund Gradient Ventures, last summer to support its creation of AI-powered financial planning tools.
  • TribeMeets — This DC-based company’s platform helps connect African diasporic peoples through shared interests, resources, events and more. Its approach to digital and IRL community-building landed it a spot in the most recent Techstars DC cohort.
  • WISE Cities — University of Maryland student Marie Brodsky won the 2023 DC Startup Week student pitch competition’s top $1,500 grand prize for her portal, which helps older adults combat loneliness by gamifying social engagement. The company, whose platform can help map transit routes and secure vouches for park admission, for instance, previously earned $60,000 from such sources as the City of Fairfax.
  • University Startups — Despite technically launching in 2020, this burgeoning startup deserves to be on our runners-up list for the second year in a row. Since launch, this platform that aims to foster entrepreneurship and career growth among college students added some notable business educators to its leadership team, partnered with numerous regional schools, nabbed a six-figure investment, helped facilitate a student incubator and launched an entrepreneurship program for high schoolers.
  • mogul — The block(chain) is hot in DC thanks to this startup from two Goldman Sachs alums whose 2021-founded startup aims to democratize real estate investment through its blockchain-protected, 2023-launched platform. The company has raised $4.2 million as of November, including a $3.6 million seed round, according to TechCrunch.
  • Tidal Cyber — We couldn’t do a DC RealLIST Startups and not include a cyber company, right? Incorporated in 2021 by several former MITRE employees, Reston, Virginia’s Tidal Cyber earned a $5 million seed round to support its SaaS-based threat detection platform.
  • Escalate — This Silver Spring, Maryland-based startup nabbed a $1.26 million pre-seed in October to scale its tech, which uses AI and machine learning to identify and provide career development resources for overworked frontline workers likely to leave their positions.
  • FairNow — This McLean-based startup emerged from stealth in March with a platform designed to streamline HR and compliance processes while identifying potential biases and providing clients actionable insights.
  • Homemade in DC — Mackenzie Loy launched this ecommerce platform to connect predominantly women-, LGBTQ- and/or people of color-owned food ventures with corporate catering and custom gifting opportunities. Loy’s venture, through which she aims to combat wealth disparities through culinary entrepreneurship, finished the Halcyon incubator last year and became a Destination DC DEI Business Fellow this year.

 

Shoutout to former lead DC reporter Michaela Althouse for help compiling this list.

Companies: NearStar Fusion / University Startups / Standd / Techstars
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST
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