Revisiting the 100 DC Tech Startups I Don’t Hate
Aww those DC Tech Startups. Got to love them or hate them. In today’s post, we ((we love calling me we) look back at the 100 #DCTech Startups we as in I don’t Hate.
Way back in April 2014 I made a friendly wager with the Washington Post’s Steven Overly that I could name 100 DCTech companies that didn’t make me want to vomit. Thusly (he said with the grand pomposity of one who refers to himself as we), the 100 #DCTech Companies I Don’t Hate: The Steven Overly Challenge was born.
I lost that wager because at the time I was only able to come up with 42 companies. Probably because most of the good companies aren’t stupid enough to be constantly yelling, “Hey! Look at me!” at the local tech press like DCInno or Tech.co or Techally.Dc.(look for the upcoming Mr. Cranky post on the Buzz to Biz Ratio). Most of the good companies hide in the isolation of caves and come out when they’ve made it.
Now 3 years after the challenge, I… oops we mean we which means my entire organization of me, take a more discriminating look back and see where we stand on these companies. In addition.. maybe add a few more if possible.
DC Tech Startups Destined for greatness:
- Social Tables – Real revenue traction, continued growth, customer acquisition market dominance, well funded and 2 strong VC investors: Bessemer and Questmark (Note: I’m an Investor & appropriately don’t count myself as one of the strong investors).
- Industry Dive – Originally I did this to annoy the CEO, Sean because he shuns the spotlight. But since then I’ve dug a little deeper… this is going to be a thing!
- Power Supply – Two reasons and they are people: CEO Patrick Smith and Investor Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures.
- Gusto – Nextgen point of sale for casual family dining. Founded by the former Vice President of R&D from the global leader in hospitality R&D and funded by one of DC’s surviving VCs, John Backus at New Atlantic. Showing great traction selling to great brands.
- Fugue (formerly Luminal) – Was on the Late Harry Weller’s (of NEA) “companies to watch list.” Fugue has invented a new way to protect applications in the cloud. Has raised over $70 Million including $41 Million from NEA this January.
- Hurdlr – Self-funded, mix superior strategy with flawless execution. This one is on its way to thinghood. Raj Bhaskar is one of the smartest, most disciplined and focused CEOs I’ve ever met. The founder of this puppy bootstrapped a real estate app to a profitable company and a nice private exit. Raj’s probably going to strangle me for saying this, but he was formerly one of the most active Angel Investor in DC. I’m not investing anymore but if this guy would let me invest I’d invest one more time. Hear that Raj? I’m in!
- WeddingWire – I don’t know a thing about these guys except everybody talks about them and the traction seems to be legit.
- EverFi – Because it’s Tom Davidson and team executing and growing. Best individual Angel Investors you could have… Bezos, Eric Schmidt. This is a good one.
Some of the DC Tech startups were removed from the list thanks to Acquisition (Real Acquisition as in money making a positive return to investor type acquisition, unlike Speek
- Veenome – Secret Sauce, cool app, quietly dominating their market, Profitably acquired by Integral Ad Sciences, March 2015. (Note, I was an investor).
- DataRPM – Acquired by Progress Software March 2017
- nVite – Acquired by their largest competitor, Eventbrite, April 2017.
- FoundationDB – Because Dave Sandrowitz likes them and he doesn’t like anything and Sandrowitz it seems like for the first time in his life… he was right… acquired by Apple, March 2015.
- iStrategyLabs – Yes DC, Mr. Cranky said iStrategyLabs and didn’t make the sound of a raspberry. They did cool stuff for cool Global Brands and they were acquired by advertising giant, J Walter Thompson in the summer of 2016. I just hope Peter Corbett didn’t gouge his eyes out so he can enjoy all that cash!
- Macaw – One of DC’s most impressive Kickstarter campaign successes raised $280K of nondilutive cash and then was acquired by InVision, January 26, 2016
- MailerMailer – Raj Khera… a class act…. sold to J2 after publishing (update 4/17)
The DC Tech Startups I Still Don’t Hate:
- Talk Local (Formerly Seva Call) – Doggedly trying to make it work (Note: I’m an investor).
- Ringio – Strong technology, great month over month revenue growth, huge market potential, focused and doggedly persistent, quality CEO (Note: I’m an investor).
- Urgent.ly – Some great strategic partnerships.
- Contactually – Tell these guys it can’t be done and done it will be. The little train that could and does. Another CEO who works to doggedly plow ahead.
- 10Pearls – Good quality work in a crowded field.
- Canvas – Strong culture, large user base, and good growth.
- Revmetrix – Tremendous technical product addressing a very difficult market.
- Mercaris – One of my favorite CEOs in an interesting market.
- Brightline Interactive – Some of the most fun projects coming out of DC with the worlds biggest brands at featured at the worlds coolest events like Super Bowl, MLB All-Star Game, NCAA Final Four.
- Brazen Careerist – Ed Barrientos who’s done it before surrounded by folks who are going to do it again.
- Thinking Storm – Completely bootstrapped profitable EdTech company that is a DC secret.
- Cerberus – Commercial consumer product from a company that owns it’s DOD market niche.
- GRYPHN – Hard to tell what’s going on here.
- Snobswap – Creative CEO pivoting to break out of a crowded space.
- Spree Commerce – No idea what’s happening here.
- InStreamWealth – No idea what’s happening here.
- Synapsify – No idea what’s happening here.
- nClud – Plugging along.
- Sisarina – No idea what’s happening here.
- Frakture – No Idea what’s happening here.
- YoSabe – No Idea what’s happening here.
- TrackMaven – Hard to tell what’s happening here.
- SworKit (formerly Nexercise) – Keeps plugging.
- Bloompop – Smart CEO keeps pivoting and adjusting the plan.
- Interfolio – Raised $13 million January 16th but I have no clue what’s up with them.
Not DC Tech Startups Anymore
DC Tech Startups Done… Gone… Kaput (as far as I can tell)
New to the List and Not Hated:
- Invincea – Which was just acquired a few months ago and I should have “not hated” them earlier. (Note: I was an investor in Spotflux which was acquired for stock by Invincea)
- Phone2Action– I love the two founders… good people, smart people
- Radius Networks – Look at how busy these guys are doing silly things like selling stuff
- Snagajob – Quietly getting massive. They own a huge market
- Zoomdata – Big customers, big investors supporting big ideas
- Clarabridge – How the hell did I miss them the first time around
- MakeOffices – Real Startup office space, instead of that noisy predatory 1776 frat house pretending to be an accelerator.
Summary and some trash talk about DC Tech Startups (because people love car accidents and trash talk).
There are a bunch of companies that I don’t know and I don’t want you to confuse them as companies I hate just because they aren’t on the list. For instance, I probably should have mentioned UberOffice (now MakeOffices) back in the original post as a company I don’t hate. I still like them as opposed to 1776, which is a company I’ve heard about but haven’t listed if you get our (me plural again) drift.
I intentionally left out Speek at that time and Speek is no longer a thing thanks to an “acquisition” with quote marks as opposed to an acquisition that could fund the investors next investment in a stick of gum.
I didn’t intentionally leave trustify off the list but I would have if it was available to not say I don’t hate them at the time. Trustify wasn’t a thing in 2014 so I was deprived of the opportunity to hate that company then as much as I hate them now…. got that Faux-Harvard boy? If I did write about them which I’m not going to do, I would say that it’s a stupid idea, run by an untrustworthy scoundrel who has created a horrible corporate culture. But I’m too classy to get petty like that (have you checked out their glass door reviews).
I intentionally didn’t list Troop Swap or Troop.me or ID.me or Swap Meet or whatever they’re calling themselves today and I intentionally didn’t add them today either.
And then who can forget that turd-encrusted jewel, Surefire Local (formerly Surefire Social). I worked at Surefire Social, in fact, I’m one of the 5 Chief Revenue Officers the company has had in 4 years. So yes, they are intentionally not included. I definitely know them. Here’s a company pretending to be a tech company when it’s a service company. To call the CEO as capricious and dishonest as Donald Trump is to do our president a disservice. This company is driven by the strategy and the vision of a CEO who has a new hairbrained idea every 15 minutes and a new strategy every day. His strength is taking the advice of the smartest guy in the room which is always he and anyone who disagrees with him must leave the room.
But that’s just me, I mean us, we mean we mean us. We’re cranky that way. So the final count? Out of the original list, we love 8, 7 were acquired, 1 bit the dust, and we still don’t hate 25 DC Tech companies.