Awards / Business / Communities / Startups

DC, meet your 2021 Awards winners

Here's who you voted in as the top movers and shakers of 2021 across six categories — Invention, Community Leader, CTO, Culture Builder, Startup and Growth Company of the Year.

CarpeDM cofounders Naza Shelley (left) and Sali Hama. (Courtesy photo)
It’s here!

For the 2021 Awards, we wanted to give the community a much-needed opportunity: the chance to toot their horns and commemorate some of the biggest achievements of the year.

After introductions of vaccines, cicada broods and a remote work revolution, we wanted to brag-tag some people who made 2021 their moment. With our annual awards, the goal was to honor the leaders shaping teams and communities, small (and large) business wins, and the leaders creating the future.

To accomplish that mission, we chose six categories to represent the DMV of 2021: invention, community leader, startup, growth company, culture builder and CTO. After soliciting nominees from the community and doing our own curation of this year’s top contenders (find the full list here), we allowed a week of voting from y’all to show support for your faves.

And now, the time has finally come to announce the winners of the 2021 Awards in DC. The official ceremony was held on our public Slack earlier today; pop in to see the full play-by-play.

Give us a drumroll, please …

Invention of the Year — Healp

At a time when telehealth is more relevant than ever, Healp is a new app for crowdsourced healthcare information. Created by Elizabeth Tikoyan, Healp is a swiping-style social platform that allows users to speak with fellow patients about their medical conditions, discuss experiences and even crowdsource treatment information. The company is already at work growing in the DMV and beyond, and landed a spot in 2Gether International’s first-ever tech accelerator in October.

“I’m so thankful to everything the DC startup ecosystem has done for me and my startup,” Tikoyan wrote on Slack. “I was soooo embarrassed about what my health condition resulted in with my life and instead of being embarrassed I used it as fuel to create Healp.”

Culture Builder of the Year — Angelica Geter

On the day-to-day, Geter is the chief strategy officer of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, a national nonprofit for the health of Black women and girls. This year, she oversaw the launch of the Workplace Equity Initiative, which centers on how removing racism in the workplace can improve the physical and mental wellbeing of Black women employees. For the initiative, Angelica and her team developed tools like an evaluation index and instructions on how to connect with a mentor and negotiate salaries.

CTO of the Year — Olga Osaghae

After 13 years in the department at Howard University, Olga took over all IT responsibilities in July when she became interim CIO and head of enterprise technology services. This included managing the university’s IT strategy, policy, budget, network ops and management of all products regarding the school’s cloud-based system, Workday. She also led the school through a cyber attack in October.

Startup of the Year — CarpeDM

Cofounders Sali Hama and Naza Shelley officially launched their dating app and matchmaker service for Black women this fall. The app is specifically designed to offer a positive dating experience for Black women and just added a background check service for additional user safety.

“CarpeDM is so humbled by this win,” Hama wrote on Slack. “Thank you DC for allowing us to build something very special for professional Black women all over the country.”

Growth Company of the Year —

In 2021, IDme, helmed by CEO Blake Hall, raised not one but two $100 million dollar rounds of funding. With it, the company managed to reach unicorn status (one of our best-read stories of the year) and add 1,300 employees to its team, all while maintaining its tight-knit company culture. All in all, it serves over 60 million members on its network.

Tech Community Leader of the Year — Lateefah Durant

As the innovation VP at CityBridge, part of the District’s CityWorks initiative, Durant is a key player in building the tech talent pipeline in DC, particularly among young students of color and women. She helps shape tech education policy and leads a three-year apprenticeship program that places students in roles with top tech firms.

“I can’t thank you enough for this honor,” Durant wrote on Slack. “At CityWorks DC we are striving every day to ensure that our young people have access to opportunities in high-wage, high-demand careers — particularly tech careers.”

Surprise:’s overall Startup of the Year is CarpeDM

In addition to the winners decided by the public,’s editors also named an overall winner in each category, picking from among the local winners. And the winner of this year’s overall Startup of the Year is none other than CarpeDM.

How did we make the call? We looked across our five markets to determine who best represented each category of leaders, judging according to who we felt was poised to most shape their industry’s future, or impact their communities. When we look back on 2021, we’ll remember it was their year.

Congrats to all the winners and honorees!


Thanks to everyone who joined our “live” ceremony on Slack and helped celebrate these awesome people and companies! Join us there to see all the messages of congrats, and hey, stick around for the community.

Join the Slack
Companies: Healp / CarpeDM / Howard University /
Series: Awards

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