Even through this rough and unusual year, local companies and leaders are still making the best of 2020.
We started the new decade as usual here by highlighting the Technical.ly DC RealLIST Startups, which always makes me — Market Editor Michelai Graham — optimistic for the year and ecstatic about the opportunity to cover all of the meaningful work #dctech companies and entrepreneurs are doing. By March, life as we knew it changed as we all started to think about how to work through the global health crisis, and by June, the civil unrest made our plates a little fuller.
We still have a little over two months, and one incredibly consequential presidential election, to go in this year. With all of the pivots, new tools and initiatives, it’s important that we celebrate the wins in our communities.
The Technical.ly Awards return this fall with a more intentional aim of reflecting this moment: More than celebrating success for success’ sake, we want to honor challenges overcome, as well as ongoing work to make local tech and entrepreneurship communities places that also challenge racism, the pandemic and the unjust status quo.
The 2020 Technical.ly Awards winners for D.C. will be announced next Friday, Oct. 30; details to be announced very soon. But first, you need to pick those winners.
We solicited nominations from members of the community earlier this fall and curated these final nominees based on our own reporting. Now, it’s time for your vote on who deserves to be celebrated this year: Voting is open through Monday, Oct. 26. Read more about each nominee below (and refresh yourself on 2019’s nominees and winners).
Invention of the Year
What product, project or release this year is positioned to ease the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism or the recession?
- Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition — Announced in September and scheduled for December, this pivot from Steve Case’s local venture firm will invest $2 million in Black founders via a virtual pitch competition.
- Aperiomics’ Xplore-COVID-19 testing kits — The Sterling, Virginia-based pathogen testing company cofounded by CEO Crystal Icenhour launched its own test that can detect COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
- OurStreets Supplies grocery crowdsourcing app — Driver safety crowdsourcing startup OurStreets pivoted its focus back in April to launch this platform for grocery and convenience stores. The well-used app was retired over the summer as the company shut down business operations.
- Internet for All initiative — The $3.3 million program run by D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education aims to connect 25,000 low-income families of local students to free internet access for the 2020-2021 school year.
- LoveCast hosted by CarpeDM and District IRL — This virtual dating experience from a dating app developer and a digital media and marketing company allowed audience participation to match singles competing live.
Impact Leader of the Year
Who has most made this community better through impact work, leadership, policymaking or other pathways?
- Rachel Koretsky, DC Startup Week organizer — An entrepreneur herself — she founded fitness community engagement app Upace in 2014 — Koretsky led the annual event series’ all-volunteer team in a tough pivot to virtual this September.
- Dawn Myers, Vinetta Project DC director — The women-in-entrepreneurship org’s new local leader, who is also the founder of hair styling tools designer THE MOST, wrote for Technical.ly in June that “the tech and venture industries must support Black founders ‘swiftly and without hesitation.’“
- Nasir Qadree, Zeal Capital Partners founder and managing partner — The former Village Capital VC founded Zeal earlier this year to grow high-growth, early-stage companies with a focus on diversity.
- Kate Goodall, Halcyon CEO — The head of the local social impact incubator, which recently scored a big grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand its Opportunity Intensive program, is big on “empathetic organizational leadership.”
- Kelly Miller, Tech Rebalanced co-organizer — Miller, who is also senior director at FTI Consulting, is the equity in tech org’s cofounder and comms lead who helped it rebrand from Tech Lady Hackathon, launch its podcast and expand its leadership team.
Technical Leader of the Year
Who is incorporating community-minded action into their technical leadership?
- Yuan Chen, Aperiomics CTO and cofounder — Chen designed and developed the biotech startup’s flagship platform, Xplore-PATHO, which the company says can accurately identify nearly 40,000 microorganisms, including over 12,000 clinically relevant pathogens.
- Gale Smith, Novavax VP of discovery and preclinical research and chief scientist — As head of vaccine technology at the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based, clinical-stage biotech company that develops vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases, Smith was the one to sign the public statement for collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine development back in April.
- Caitlin Henry, Aquicore technical lead — Henry made a return to the growing proptech company — which raised $14 million this summer — in December 2019 after previously serving as a software engineer from 2016 to 2018 and working elsewhere for a year. She has also held top technical leadership roles at Optoro and Deloitte.
- Shavini Fernando, OxiWear founder — Fernando is a video game, virtual reality and web designer and developer who is working on bringing her startup’s flagship product, a wearable vital monitoring and emergency alert device, to market.
- Christian Vogler, Gallaudet University’s Technology Access Program director — Vogler is a professor in the Communication Studies program at Gallaudet and has also led partnerships between the university and tech companies such as AppTek and Apple.
Startup of the Year
What promising young company is inspiring a brighter collective future?
- Sorcero — The Adams Morgan-based startup built its Language Intelligence Platform to make it easier for a company’s team members to find answers to questions within internal documents. The two-year-old startup closed a $3.5 million bridge to a Series A in June.
- Poppy — The Ivy City-based, tech-enabled flower company is on a mission to make picking event flowers a fun and easy process. After offering at-home floral arranging kits earlier this year, the startup was selected to participate in the Techstars Atlanta 13-week accelerator program.
- Goodfynd — This Black-owned biz aims to make locally made food more accessible by connecting users to food trucks in their area via an app, while enabling small and growing food businesses to better connect with their communities. The company hit the $100,000 revenue mark back in June.
- Socially Determined — The Wharf-based healthcare analytics company offers a platform focused on the science and measurement of the social determinants of health. The three-year startup closed a $11.1 million Series A in January.
- CultivatePeople — The three-year-old compensation consulting and software company provides HR services to help companies retain their employees. CultivatePeople launched an equity-minded, machine learning-based compensation product a few months ago and its founder and CEO, Lola Han, is a part of the inaugural cohort for the Google for Startups Accelerator program.
Growth Company of the Year
What growing company is using its success to support its larger community?
- Xometry — The Gaithersburg-based on-demand manufacturing marketplace raised a $75 million equity round this summer. CEO Randy Altschuler wrote in the spring that he hopes COVID-19 will “be the spark that ignites a renaissance” of American manufacturing.
- Morning Consult — The six-year-old data intelligence company based in downtown D.C. closed a $31 million Series A in the spring and launched a fund to help small businesses damaged by looting in June.
- Axios — The Arlington, Virginia-based digital media company with around 200 employees is expanding to cover local markets in 2021. Axios’ leadership said it would pay medical bills and bail for employees who protested in June, and we saw a thoughtful approach to pausing hiring early in the pandemic.
- HUNGRY — Last year’s Startup of the Year winner has graduated to growth stage with a celebrity-driven $20 million Series B. The four-year-old Rosslyn, Virginia-based company has 80 full-timers as of April, when it pivoted to shipping food straight to consumers at home.
- Pie Insurance — The #1 startup on Technical.ly DC’s 2020 RealLIST Startups raised an eye-popping $127 million in the spring. Founded in 2017, the downtown D.C.-based insurance tech company provides workers’ compensation insurance to small and medium-sized businesses.
Culture Builder of the Year
What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive and resilient? (“Leader” doesn’t need to mean they hold a leadership title.)
- Shanaz Chowdhery, Vemo Education chief of staff — Among her day-to-day operations tasks, Chowdhery also led the charge on the company’s transition to remote work when the pandemic hit.
- Yvette Scorse, Byte Back communications director — Scorse is a vocal advocate for digital inclusion and closing the digital divide in the D.C. region.
- Aaron Saunders, Inclusive Innovation Incubator founder and CEO — Saunders’ work is centered around elevating technologists, entrepreneurs and creatives from underrepresented backgrounds.
- Melissa Theiss, Quorum VP of operations — Theiss led the charge on the company’s Path for Progress pledge, a step-by-step outline designed to help small and medium-sized businesses build diversity and inclusion programs from scratch.
- Diego Mariscal, 2Gether-International founder and CEO — Mariscal is on a mission to help D.C.’s disabled population create and execute business ideas through his organization’s accelerator program, which went virtual.