Photo-illustration by Sean McCabe.
1. Michael Edson
Director of Web and new-media strategy, Smithsonian Institution. The 20-year veteran of “the nation’s attic” has helped launch its first blog and adapt some of its collection for an alternative-reality game.
2. Sean Glass
Venture partner, Novak Biddle. A former game-company founder backed by Richard Branson, Glass is seen as a leader of the next generation of local venture capitalists.
3. Ginny Hunt
Head of public-sector projects, Google. People inside and outside of government are coming to know Hunt as Google’s “DC fixer.”
4. Clay Johnson
Creator, Big Window Labs. A veteran of the Howard Dean presidential campaign and the Sunlight Foundation, Johnson has launched an incubator for companies hoping to disrupt “what’s core to Washington”—politics, government, and media.
5. Charles W. Steger (president, Virginia Tech)
6. Steven Knapp (president, George Washington University)
Both universities are making big tech plays, with GW increasing the size of its Loudoun research center and Virginia Tech expanding into a large Ballston facility focused on health technology and cybersecurity.
7. Jim Long
Cameraman, NBC News. By day he’s a mild-mannered cameraman, but on Twitter and at tech conferences he transforms into @NewMediaJim, one of the area’s favorite tech thinkers.
8. Catharine McNally
Founder, Keen Guides. Deaf since she was eight months old, McNally worked at the Kennedy Center and the Freer and Sackler Galleries before starting a company focused on captioned video tours.
9. Robert Musslewhite
CEO, Advisory Board Company. While the David Bradley–founded company is known for its health-care consulting and “best practices” research, it’s pushing to become more of a software company.
Senior counselor, Palantir. A former legal-affairs reporter for U.S. News and an NPR correspondent, Ragavan is helping sell one of Silicon Valley’s most intriguing companies—backed by PayPal founder and Facebook funder Peter Thiel—as it expands into providing analysis and software to the intelligence community.
11. Katharine Zaleski
Digital News Products head, Washington Post. One of the original staff at the online Huffington Post, Zaleski—who spends her free time crisscrossing the country rock-climbing—is helping to speed the Post into the digital age.
12. Christine A. Varney
Assistant attorney general for antitrust, Justice Department. The respected former head of Hogan & Hartson’s Internet-law division, Varney is at the center of the discussion about whether Google is too large.
13. Frank Baitman
Chief information officer, Social Security Administration. The former IBM business strategist is rethinking how one of the government’s biggest programs and data sets can be more efficient, responsive, and useful.
14. Adam Sharp
Twitter. The microblogging site’s first Washington hire, formerly an executive producer at C-SPAN, is just months into his new role guiding politicians and policymakers through the site.
This article first appeared in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.