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These are the 20 #dctech startups worth watching this year: realLIST 2017

From picture frames to lobbying data, these young companies are the area's most exciting.

What do the locals do around here? (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)
“What’s the most interesting startup in D.C. these days?” We at get asked this question with a regularity that is at least noteworthy, if not altogether unsurprising. For consistent trackers of #dctech’s new and growing companies, there’s certainly plenty to be excited about.

But this is a difficult question. First of all, what definition of interesting are we operating under? Is an interesting startup one that’s raised a bunch of money? Won some big award? Acquired a devoted following? Or one that somehow seems capable of doing all this and more?

So we broke out a pad of paper and a pencil and got to work. We added names, thought about it, then subtracted names. We combed the DC archives, followed up and asked questions. And finally we came up with some answers to your question — the 2017 realLIST. These 20 companies are ones we’re watching closely, and ones that have already proven themselves as “real.”

So what makes a startup real, you ask?

A bold idea, streamlined execution and a capable team are certainly important factors. We also laid a few definitional ground rules, to just narrow the possibilities. To be considered for our realLIST companies had to:

  • Have been founded no earlier than 2013. That sunset period stems from cofounder Christopher Wink’s 2012 definition of a startup. This sunset period took away lots of real contenders (Social Tables, Mapbox, etc.) 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 were not eligible.
  • Have not exited or undergone an acquisition or something close to that nature.

(One important caveat about this list: Not making this list does not mean we deem a startup “unreal.” This is simply a snapshot of what we’re most excited about right now.)

So without further delay, here is DC’s 2017 realLIST.


10. GoodShuffle

  • GoodShuffle is taking a historically fragmented events rental industry and bringing it online. We never want to plan an event in a world where something like GoodShuffle doesn’t exist. And founders Andrew Garcia and Erik Dreyer have proven their savvy by pivoting their business away from a peer-to-peer stuff rental marketplace (very hard to execute) to the current, very common sense, model.

9. Rooam

  • Rooam wants to make it standard for you to be able to pay your bar tab from your phone. And we’ll admit we were skeptical at first — mobile payment systems have struggled in many areas. But the app’s slick UX and the fact that it integrates with existing point-of-sale systems on the bar’s side was enough to pique our interest. The company’s big challenge? Getting the requisite density of bars so as to be genuinely useful to the going-out set.

8. GiveCampus

  • This Y Combinator-backed startup keeps quiet, but has managed to take a popular element of the tech startup zeitgeist (crowdfunding) and make it work for schools and universities.

7. PYT Funds

  • This Vinetta Project $20K challenge finalist marries founder Stacie Whisonant’s experience in banking with her understanding of the challenges of college affordability to give microloans to high-potential students that just need a little more money to finish college.

6. Galley

  • Food delivery startup Galley has really mastered the art of the slow and steady expansion. From its kitchen in Ivy City, the company founded by two Living Social alums can serve D.C., Baltimore and out into the Viriginia suburbs. The big question is, how does Galley scale the model to a totally new city? We’re worried about that part.

5. Verodin

4. TransitScreen

  • From national partnerships with coworking spaces like MakeOffices to those with digital jukebox chain TouchTunes to deployments at CES in Las Vegas, this smart-cities company is a global brand that seems to be always growing.

3. Upside

  • The startup aiming to make business travel better may have just launched, but it’s pursuing an interesting problem with a formidable founding team. Take note.

2. Framebridge

  • As another company to come out of the Living Social diaspora, online framing startup Framebridge provides another great example of finding success by taking a clunky, old-school process and bringing it online.

1. Quorum Analytics

  • Quorum tracks what’s happening in government both on Capitol Hill and in states around the country and, well, there’s a lot happening in government, and lobbyists aren’t going away anytime soon. The new federal administration (and all its feverous activity) “puts a new focus on the importance of our work,” cofounder Alex Wirth told in a recent conversation.

Honorable Mention

In no particular order.

Companies: Barkly / / Galley / Goodworld / Quorum Analytics / TransitScreen / Contactually / UrbanStems / Framebridge
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST

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