Awards / Business / Communities / Startups

Baltimore, these are the winners of your 2021 Awards

Check out the winners across six categories, from startup to CTO to community leader of the year: We've got videos of every announcement.

Some of the 2021 Awards winners. (Graphic by
You’ve nominated. You’ve voted. We’ve tallied. Now, the results are in.

The winners of the 2021 Awards in Baltimore have arrived.

After community nominations and curation of finalists by our newsroom, our community voted on the winners of awards from the best in Baltimore tech and entrepreneurship. We’re taking a moment here at the end of the year to recognize those who posted business wins, led progress in communities and shaped inclusive environments in their workplaces.

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 for the audience itself.

We announced the winners Dec. 15 on our public Slack. Luckily, you can relive the moments when we shared who won with video clips we’ve prepared. In each,’s Baltimore lead reporter Donte Kirby and Deputy Managing Editor Stephen Babcock announced the nominees and winners in true award show fashion.

It’s an honor to present these awards to leaders in the community that show vision to bring change, grit to overcome challenges and a connective spirit to solve problems.

Now let’s get to it. Here are the winners:

Tech Community Leader of the Year — UpSurge Baltimore team

Formally launched in April, UpSurge Baltimore set the bold goal to make Baltimore an equitech city, and in turn, a leading tech city. Coined by UpSurge, equitech is a framework that prioritizes ventures with leadership by underrepresented founders, diverse teams and solutions that aim to address systemic societal challenges.

Through this lens, it is looking to convene the startup community within the city and set a course for action, as it did with the team’s initiative that offered 150 recommendations for equitable, entrepreneur-driven growth. Through a partnership with national startup resource network Techstars, it also started an equitech accelerator this year and plans an electrification-focused accelerator next year in partnership with Stanley Black & Decker. It’s making connections within the community and drawing folks from other cities to Baltimore.

“Baltimore is an amazing, growing, gamechanging tech community, and it’s an honor to work with so many brilliant innovators everyday on the vision to become the first Equitech city!!” UpSurge Baltimoe CEO Jamie McDonald wrote on Slack, accepting the award on behalf of the org.

Invention of the Year — LinkLabs AirFinder OnSite

An image of Link Labs’ AirFinder OnSite. (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore-area companies are building connected devices blending digital tools and the physical world, and voters threw their support behind this recently released product.

Annapolis-based Link Labs was founded by a group of engineers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. AirFinder OnSite is its asset-tracking platform for campus-based environments, built to increase accuracy and affordability. With six patented innovations, the real-time location system is designed to be used by businesses for uses such as work-in-process, inventory, equipment, tools, packages and personnel. It uses a Bluetooth low-energy radio to support both Bluetooth LE and phase ranging, with what Link Labs says is a flexible architecture.

CTO of the Year — Kenyatta Powers Rucker, Maryland Department of Human Services

Kenyatta Powers Rucker. (Courtesy photo)

Powers Rucker is CIO of the state department that serves as the key health and human services provider for Maryland. Leading the department’s Office of Technology for Human Services, she oversees hundreds of staff and dozens of applications that reach thousands of end users. She is also a frequent speaker and willing mentor who founded Taste of Technology, which is designed to expose women and underrepresented youth to career opportunities in IT.

Startup of the Year — The Black Brain Trust

Angel St. Jean is CEO of The Black Brain Trust. (Courtesy photo)

A recent graduate of the Accelerate Baltimore program from ETC (Emerging Technology Centers) and led by CEO Angel St. Jean, the startup has secured $150,000 from leading Baltimore organizations. The company has created a scoring methodology to quantify and measure equity in for-profit companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations called the Equity in Action Score, or EIA Score.

Growth Company of the Year — b.well Connected Health

b.well Connected Health’s digital health apps. (Courtesy image)

The pandemic has sped up tech adoption in healthcare, and b.well Connected Health is right in the midst of the wave, with a platform that serves as the “digital front door” for access to data, appointments, health history info and more. With a team that has tripled and a $32 million Series B raised this year, it is looking to keep growing.

Culture Builder of the Year — Nakeia L. Drummond, The WELL, NLD Strategic

Nakeia L. Drummond. (Courtesy photo)

Drummond is connecting Black women entrepreneurs and helping them build the network they need to succeed with the Women’s Entrepreneur Leadership Lab (WELL) for the past three years. After pivoting to virtual gatherings and mentorship during the pandemic, Drummond took lemons and turned them into lemonade by expanding the outreach of the WELL network and expanding to chapters in DC, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Detroit next year.

It’s also building through connections with other organizations. Through a partnership with CLLCTIVLY,yearlong grant opportunity was awarded to Dominiece Clifton. Through The WELL, Drummond is cultivating an environment for Black women entrepreneurs to thrive.

Surprise:’s overall Tech Community Leader of the Year is UpSurge Baltimore

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 Tech Community Leader of the Year is none other than UpSurge Baltimore.

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: UpSurge Baltimore / b.well
Series: Awards

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