Tech Titans 2017: Washington’s 100 Top Tech Leaders


Ask about the health of Washington’s tech scene and you’ll get a range of opinions. That’s what Washingtonian did for this year’s Tech Titans, our biannual survey of the most influential and interesting people in the local tech scene, from start-up founders to government officials to venture capitalists.

“I want to see a Snapchat,” says NextGen Venture Partners’ Dan Mindus. What Washington is missing, he means, is a multibillion-dollar phenomenon, something to galvanize the sector and bring more money and talent to the region. At one point, LivingSocial, the daily-deals site valued as high as $6 billion, was exactly that—and, like Snapchat, it was a consumer-facing service instead of some anonymous back-end enterprise software.

LivingSocial as we knew it is no more. Some contend that’s what’s needed to create a thriving start-up economy—not the rise of behemoths but their fall. “I’d argue you need that giant to blow up,” says Social Tables’ Dan Berger, “and spread that talent around.”

This decentralization has already begun. Onetime employees at LivingSocial have gone on to create their own companies—such as Susan Tynan with Framebridge—just as veterans of AOL did in the aftermath of that giant’s wane. Start-up accelerators are being founded every day. The community organization Fosterly found in its 2016 start-up “census” that 25 percent of companies surveyed were less than a year old.

Problems still exist—there was near unanimous opinion that not enough venture funders focus their dollars on Washington start-ups, even firms headquartered here. Meanwhile, government programs and positions that drew civic-minded techies to the area during the Obama administration will likely vanish under Trump.

“We’re never going to be Silicon Valley or LA or New York,” says Steve Balistreri, who works with start-ups as a director at Deloitte. “But we could be every bit as vibrant. There are already billion-dollar companies here.” 

Proximity to the seat of government means Washington has advantages over other cities in areas such as enterprise software, education technology, and cybersecurity. One place where Washington appears to be shooting ahead is diversity. Recently, a cornucopia of community groups have popped up to increase the number of women and minorities in tech. These include Black Female Founders, the Vinetta Project, In3, and Beacon—the last of these an initiative, hatched at a party, that seeks to make DC the number-one US city for women entrepreneurs.

Where the local tech scene will be in another two years is the question. Read on for a look at the people shaping the future of not just technology but potentially the city itself.

Originally posted in The Washingtonian.