A decade after the dot-com boom in Northern Virginia, the world of technology is bigger than ever. Between social-media start-ups in DC, green-technology firms in Maryland, venture capitalists in Virginia, and government contractors throughout the region, technology is a key driver of the economy—and one that has helped the area weather the current recession better than most other cities.
Washington was alone in the nation’s top four markets in adding jobs during 2008, according to George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis. According to a study by TechAmerica, Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of tech workers; Maryland is fifth, DC sixth.
This cluster of innovation exists even though Washington has none of the strong engineering universities, such as MIT or Stanford, that have been instrumental in the development of a vibrant tech communities elsewhere. Instead, a handful of companies—in particular AOL, MicroStrategy, and the Washington Post Company—have, along with government research and spending, helped spin off many talented leaders and start-ups.
To get a clearer picture of what the region’s tech community looks like, we interviewed entrepreneurs, dealmakers and investors, political and government officials, and corporate and community leaders to compile a list of Washington’s 100 top tech leaders. We focused our search on two factors: (1) success, defined as a proven track record in the tech world, and (2) influence, being listened and look to by others for leadership and vision. We weeded out players who are simply loud as opposed to influential, so some names familiar in the media may not appear here.
Sid Banerjee, cofounder and CEO, Clarabridge. Part of the MicroStrategy diaspora, Banerjee’s latest business-intelligence company seems likely to repeat the success of Claraview, his previous venture.
James Bankoff. A former AOL executive and senior adviser at private-equity powerhouse Providence Equity Partners, Bankoff is betting that avid sports fans will turn his SBNation into the Web’s top online sports community.
John Crupi, CTO, JackBe. “Mash-ups” may just be a hipper word for “combination,” but this Chevy Chase–based start-up has been demonstrating its value to organizations as diverse as NutriSystem and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Mark Ein, founder and CEO, Venturehouse. While Washingtonians may know Ein mainly as owner of the Washington Kastles tennis team—and as owner, though not resident, of Katharine Graham’s former Georgetown mansion—he’s made his mark on the tech community through the investment company Venturehouse and its projects, such as the building-security firm Kastle Systems.
Raul Fernandez, chairman and CEO, ObjectVideo. The Silver Spring native, who once interned for Congressman Jack Kemp and made millions as founder of Proxicom, now splits his time between the video-analytics company ObjectVideo and his co-owner role with the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics.
Sean Greene, cofounder, LaunchBox. Now helping others jump-start their ideas through LaunchBox’s resources and training programs and with the Twitter-based rating-site start-up Thummit, Greene founded the Away.com travel network before selling it to Orbitz.
Rob Jewell, founder and CEO, Gratis Internet. SocialCash, one of Gratis’s main products and the latest from Jewell’s company—which pioneered online incentive marketing such as iPod giveaways—helps developers make money from all those trendy Facebook applications.
Ted Leonsis. While gossip-column readers might be excused for thinking that Leonsis’s first name is Billionaire, it’s hard to overstate his role in the local tech community as a longtime AOL exec, investor, adviser, talent scout, movie producer, philanthropist, and sports magnate.
Marissa Levin, founder and CEO, Information Experts. Often honored for her entrepreneurship, Levin has led her team from annual revenues of $19,000 in 1995 to more than $6.5 million today, with clients including AOL, Marriott, and the World Bank.
Chris McGill, CEO, Mixx.com. The founder and self-described “troublemaker-in-chief” of Mixx—which lists user-recommended sites, photos, and videos—has a successful history at firms such as Yahoo and USA Today.
Phillip Merrick, founder and managing partner, Bibury Partners. If you look at Merrick’s VisualCV, a recent project that offers job hunters dynamic online résumés, you’ll understand why he had a track record of growing revenue as CEO of webMethods for eight years.
Haroon Mokhtarzada, cofounder and CEO, Webs.com. The head of this Web-publishing site has a long entrepreneurial history: When he was growing up in Silver Spring, his lemonade stand was the best on the block.
Tim O’Shaughnessy, cofounder and CEO, LivingSocial. Ask around in social-media circles and the name LivingSocial, once called Hungry Machine, keeps popping up as one of the few local start-ups that might make it big. It already has more than 6 million users who review and share their favorite things. Plus, he’s about to marry into the Washington Post’s Graham family, never a bad move for a would-be media titan.
Joanna Pineda, founder and CEO, Matrix Group International. Her interactive agency focuses on nonprofits, and its proprietary software, MatrixMaxx, powers many trade-association Web sites.
Hooman Radfar, cofounder and CEO, Clearspring. The McLean-based firm, founded in 2004, might be the most successful Washington tech company you’ve never heard of. It promises “Your Content. Everywhere.” And with more than 470 million unique users of its widgets across more than 80 platforms and sites, it’s close to delivering.
Michael Saylor, founder, chairman, and CEO, MicroStrategy. For 20 years—a span that has included more ups and downs than a Six Flags roller coaster—Saylor’s been the head of MicroStrategy, which has evolved from a consulting firm to a large public company with datamining operations in 40 cities in 24 countries.
Chris Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral Network. After playing a leading role at Washingtonpost. Newsweek Interactive, Schroeder is overseeing a new vertical approach to providing health-care information, backed by media giant Barry Diller.
Daniel Simpkins, founder and CEO, Hillcrest Labs. The eight-year-old firm, backed by some of the region’s top dealmakers, looks to revolutionize entertainment through devices such as the Loop—nicknamed the bagel—a new motion-sensitive remote control.
Pete Snyder, founder and CEO, New Media Strategies. The Rosslyn-based communications firm, headed by Snyder since its 1999 inception, is a leader in online promotion for everything from movies to C-SPAN.