Startups / Awards

These are the 20 DC-area startups worth watching this year: realLIST 2019

From biometric tech to email protection and more, here are the tech companies worth your attention.

The HUNGRY team. (Courtesy photo)
The Washington, D.C. startup scene continues to grow, and we’re definitely noticing. After digging back through our own archive of startup coverage and receiving suggestions from the local tech community, we are confident these are the tech startups to follow in 2019.

Since launching the realLIST in 2017, this article topped the charts again in 2018 as the most-read article for DC. Now in its third year, the realLIST is back with a new batch of startups we are most excited to watch. From expansions, to winning pitch competitions, securing major partnerships and more, here’s a reminder of the factors we focus on when picking startups for our realLIST:

  • Have been no more than three years old. That sunset period stems from cofounder Christopher Wink’s 2012 definition of a startup. This sunset period took away lots of real contenders, as well as the companies which have moved out of that early stage. We had to draw the line somewhere.
  • Make the majority of their revenue from a product. That means agencies are not eligible.
  • Have not exited or undergone an acquisition or something close to that nature.

With the continuous growth within startups each year, the #dctech community will experience major changes in 2019, like Amazon’s second headquarters moving into Northern Virginia and what this could mean for the area’s tech talent, to prominent incubator and coworking company 1776 DC temporarily closing with hopes of securing a new site this year. Either way, we think these companies will prosper in realms of funding, hiring, partnerships and more.

If your company isn’t on this list, don’t sweat it; that does not mean it’s “unreal.” This roundup is simply a preview into the startups we are most excited to follow this year.

Are you ready for this?

Here is DC’s 2019 realLIST:

10. Equiday

CEO and founder Justin Dayhoff launched this Rockville, Md.based edtech startup in 2018 that created a SaaS solution to help district finance leaders model student-driven funding formulas and landed a partnership with a prominent school district in the DMV. Equiday first secured a deal with Indianapolis Public Schools in September 2018 to implement a student-driven funding formula for the 27,000-student, 74-school district. The edtech startup’s financial modeling tool is now being used to manage a progressive, data-centered school funding model for Prince George’s County Public Schools’ 130,000-student, 208-school district.

9. Kerb

Kerb continues to show growth by collecting and measuring foot traffic data for restaurants, retail and real estate developers and brokers. When we last checked in with the D.C.-based startup at WeDC Fest, the company reported that it has conducted foot traffic studies in New York and is currently scanning 50+ blocks of downtown D.C. The tech company has partnered with Verizon 5G in NYC to test new tech to stream its foot-traffic services back to its servers in real time.

8. Yombu

Joe Falit and Derek Sanford cofounded Yombu, a Tysons Corner, Va.-based company using biometric payment methods. The fintech startup primarily serves two markets: memberships, where facility access can be used in places like gyms, and quick serve, where payment can be streamlined in places like coffee shops. With a year and some change on the market, Yombu has secured partnerships with  MakeOffices, Teas’n You, Scramble and more.

7. Inky

This Rockville, Md.-based email protection startup makes a cloud-based email security platform powered by unique computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning. INKY has been in business selling its email security solution for about a year and a half, and has secure $5.6 million in Series A funding last June led by ClearSky Security. In October 2018, the company released its flagship product, INKY Phish Fence, which detects phishing attacks using computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

6. Twenty Tables

TwentyTables, a Washington,D.C.-based company that curates an app that finds meal deals and gives back, has continued to grow since launching its app last January offering $6 lunches and $12 dinners at dozens of local food trucks, quick- and full-service restaurants. Last year, the company secured a partnership with Richmond-based Performance Food Group, a $17.45 billion national food product distributor. This partnership allows TwentyTables participating restaurants and food trucks the opportunity to access Performance Food Group goods and services as a preferred vendor.

5. GetUpside

This D.C.-based startup created an app offering rewards on purchases. Since the company grew its gas station rewards program, GetUpside has expanded to add grocery stores and restaurants. The D.C. startup’s app offering cash back on purchases is now being used in 29 cities.

4. Real Atom

This woman-founded company built a platform to to help commercial real estate developers find loans. After closing a $4 million seed round supported by Startups 500, a prominent startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, the Tysons Corner, Va.-based startup said it will use these funds to continue to invest in its tech platform and scale customer acquisition.

3. Goodworld

After relocating to WeWork when 1776 DC decided to temporarily close at the end of 2018, Goodworld is still working and growing. Goodworld’s tech enables users to link their bank accounts to their social media accounts to send charitable donations in order to support social payments and philanthropy. The company recently secured a a $750,000 investment from Mastercard to expand its social giving efforts to make charitable giving frictionless.

2. WhyHotel

In December 2018, WhyHotel closed a $10 million Series A funding round led by Highland Capital Partners. The company temporarily turns brand new luxury apartment building units into pop-up hotel suites and first came to NoMa mid last year. With this funding, the alternative lodging service will open three more locations in Northern Virginia at the Ballston Quarter, the Centro Arlington and The Boro.


The Rosslyn, Va.-based office catering startup curates an online marketplace that connects independent chefs directly with the catering market. HUNGRY came to the District in January 2017 and continued to grow ever since. After acquiring Philly-based Local Stove in August 2018 to move into another market for the first time, the company said it was at a $6 million revenue run rate in December to conclude its 2018 earnings, showing 500 percent growth in revenue last year. HUNGRY COO Eman Pahlevani recently told that 2019 will be an explosive year for the company by bringing in new partners and investors. The startup also has plans to expand into more markets this year.


Honorable mentions (in no particular order):

Companies: Placemakr / Kerb / The Mentor Method / Goodworld
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST

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