Washington’s tech industry hasn’t been immune to the pandemic. Companies such as the IT giant DXC and the event-organizing platform Cvent cut jobs amid the slowdown. But some, including the hot cloud-computing company Appian, committed to hundreds of new hires.
Indeed, plenty of other good business news came from Washingtonian’s Tech Titans during the past year. Our 2021 winners—who were selected through both reporting and an informal process of nominations from their peers—managed to start up new and innovative companies, close on huge funding rounds, ink massive contracts, and announce initial public offerings.
Some of this year’s Tech Titans expanded their companies not only in spite of the pandemic but because of it. Michael Chasen, founder of the “edtech” firm Blackboard, leveraged the demand for at-home education to launch Class, a company that creates virtual classrooms using Zoom. Class has already raised more than $40 million. Blake Hall, founder of ID.me, which offers digital identity-verification tools, saw a surge in demand from state unemployment agencies that suddenly had to process millions of applicants.
Other companies executed nimble pivots. Tobin Moore and Adam Vitarello, founders of Optoro—which offers technology to help retailers process, manage, and resell returned and overstock inventory—created a nationwide contactless-return network in 2020. Shy Pahlevani, founder of Hungry, an Uber-like app that connects independent chefs with the corporate catering industry, retooled to connect chefs directly to individuals.
Venture capitalists had a big year, raising plenty of cash while the economy teetered. The government has been buzzing, too: The Biden administration brought in new officials to serve in influential cybersecurity roles. Some will be charged with safeguarding against another SolarWinds-style attack.
Those are just a few of the more than 170 people who make up the 2021 class of Tech Titans—a group of power players, innovators, networkers, lobbyists, and government officials who proved resilient in these uncertain times.
“Digital transformation” may be the buzziest words in business as firms turn to tech to reinvent themselves. That helps explain why 10Pearls, which develops apps for companies undergoing digital transformations, has made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies the past two years. It was founded by brothers Imran Aftab, who works in Vienna, and Zeeshan Aftab, who mostly works in Pakistan.
Reggie Aggarwal, David Quattrone, and Chuck Ghoorah
CEO and Founder (Aggarwal), CTO (Quattrone), and President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing (Ghoorah), Cvent
What do the founder and cofounders of a leading events company do when events get canceled because of a pandemic? Pivot to digital. Cvent’s Virtual Attendee Hub has brought as many as 43,000 people together for a single digital conference. Still, because of the sudden stop to in-person conferences in 2020, Cvent cut about 10 percent of its workforce. The company may now be back on the upswing, with nearly 350 positions open around the world.
Justin Antonipillai and Amol Deshpande
CEO (Antonipillai) and Chief Scientist (Deshpande), WireWheel
Deshpande is a computer scientist who teaches at the University of Maryland, and Antonipillai is a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Commerce. Their company uses cloud-based software to help firms secure sensitive customer data and quickly comply with evolving data-privacy regulations. WireWheel closed a $20-million funding round in February.
Brian Ballard and Jeff Jenkins
CEO (Ballard) and CTO (Jenkins), Upskill
Upskill, whose augmented-reality software powers smart glasses and other devices worn by workers in a range of industries, was acquired in February by the German firm TeamViewer. Ballard and Jenkins have stayed on.
Sid Banerjee and Mark Bishof
Founder, executive vice chairman, and chief strategy officer (Banerjee) and CEO (Bishof), Clarabridge
When the pandemic closed stores and offices around the world, companies looked to interact with customers in new ways, including by phone, through private messaging, and via online chats run by real people or chatbots. That led to a revenue surge for Clarabridge, whose products make those online-communication channels run more smoothly.
Sanju Bansal, Aneesh Chopra, and Dan Ross
Chairman (Bansal), CEO (Ross), and president (Chopra), CareJourney
CareJourney mines public and private databases for information that can help healthcare firms and other companies make more informed strategic decisions. Chopra, who in 2009 became the first federal-level chief technology officer, was recently named to chair an effort by George Mason University to build an “innovation district” in Rosslyn and Ballston.
Founder and CEO, Interos
Bisceglie is one of the few women leading a machine-learning company. Her firm uses both human and artificial intelligence to alert customers about anything that could dis-rupt supply chains, from weather to cyberhacks. Interos picked up $17.5 million in funding last spring and already works with several governmental clients that might look to deploy Interos’s tech more broadly in light of the SolarWinds attack.
Randy Brouckman and Edmund Wilson
CEO (Brouckman) and COO (Wilson), EdgeConneX
This Herndon firm specializes in developing “edge” data centers—facilities that either fill in gaps in internet connectivity or boost signal service in high-traffic areas. In February, it announced a joint venture with India’s Adani Group to de-velop full-scale and edge data centers across India, whose digital economy is booming.
Founder and CEO, Appian
Want to work for a billionaire who’s also a World Board-gaming Championship contestant? You may be in luck. Calkins—who took his software-development company public in 2017 and has watched its stock soar by more than 300 percent since—told the Washington Business Journal that his Tysons-based Appian will substantially add to its 1,500-person workforce this year.
CEO, Altamira Technologies
In February, Chappell—who spent 36 years in executive roles at Raytheon—was named CEO for Alta-mira, which provides tech-nology systems to the Department of Defense and US intelligence agencies.
CEO, Class Technologies
The founder of Blackboard is back with a company specializing in creating virtual classrooms using Zoom. The firm, founded last year, just got $30 million in new funding earlier this year.
CEO, The Knot Worldwide
Although 2020 wasn’t a good year for the wedding industry or for The Knot, which digi-tally pairs couples-to-be with wedding vendors, Chi’s company expects 2021 to be a boom year, thanks to pent-up demand and widespread vaccine distribution.
Jason Crabtree and Andrew Sellers
CEO (Crabtree) and CTO (sellers), Qomplx
A merger this March made Qomplx, an analytics firm, much bigger. The Tysons company founded by Crabtree, a former top adviser to the head of the US Army Cyber Command, and Sellers, an Iraq War veteran, is now valued at $1.4 billion and plans an IPO as soon as this year.
Tom Davidson, Ray Martinez, and Jon Chapman
Everybody, it seems, wants to work with EverFi, a darling of the “edutech” world. Beyond Meat, MasterCard, and the NFL are among the firms that have recently partnered with the DC company. Meanwhile, EverFi announced in late 2020 that it will spend $100 million over three years to offer courses that address causes of systemic social injustice and economic disparities across the US.
Brandon Torres Declet
Cofounder and CEO, Measure
Measure calls itself an “aerial intelligence company.” Translation: It makes the software that helps drones fly while also collecting data about their missions. The business is taking off, as is Declet’s influence. In January, he landed a spot on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Advisory Committee.
Founder and CEO, REQ
Since its founding as an online “reputation management” company, REQ has diversified a lot. It now crafts social-media strategy, creates new branding for clients, and has worked on lobbying campaigns. A 2019 acquisition made Donnelly’s REQ the third-largest public-relations firm in Washington, according to the Washington Business Journal.
Founder, director, president, and CEO, CoStar Group
CoStar bought the real-estate tech firm Homesnap in late 2020 for $250 million, cementing a place near the top of the real-estate information-and-analytics business. Florance started his DC company in 1987, pioneering the idea that commercial real-estate firms should outsource their research-and-data collection to third parties.
Donald Graham and Tim O’Shaughnessy
Chairman (Graham) and CEO (O’Shaughnessy), Graham Holdings Company
In 2020, Graham’s diversified company sold a podcast sub-sidiary, Megaphone, to Spotify and split SocialCode, a firm run by Graham’s daughter Laura O’Shaughnessy, into two entities. It also acquired the hot local company Framebridge.
Founder and CEO, ID.me
As millions of Americans suddenly went on unemployment during the pandemic, many state unemployment agencies brought in ID.me to help. The McLean firm founded by Hall, an Iraq combat veteran, of-fers digital identity-verification tools. It has now inked contracts with 21 states and, it says, blunted nearly 1 million fraudulent unemployment claims across the country.
Tim Hwang, Gerald Yao, and Josh Resnik
Cofounders (Hwang and Yao) and chief content officer (Resnik), FiscalNote
FiscalNote, already the top player in legal analytics, is getting bigger: It closed a $160-million funding round in December, and in February it acquired the political-advisory firm Oxford Analytica (not to be confused with the scandalized Cambridge Analytica).
E. Wayne Jackson III
The Fulton, Maryland, supply-chain automation-and-cybersecurity company was acquired by the Austin firm Vista Equity Partners in 2019 and is now embarking on a global expansion.
CEO and president, Unison
Unison (formerly Compusearch) was sold off by the Carlyle Group investment firm in 2010 but was reacquired by Carlyle in early 2020—with the financial help of Jackson and his management team. The company provides cloud-computing and IT services to the government and government contractors.
LeaseAccelerator’s app automates the processes of leasing, allowing lessors to track assets and process renewals more easily. Keeler is a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service graduate.
Last July, SocialCode, which had been run within Graham Holdings by Laura O’Shaughnessy, split into two entities. Decile is one of those, and Lawrence, a Georgetown graduate who was a cofounder of Social Code, is based in Washington. Her new company offers a customer-data-and-analytics platform that helps other com-panies better understand how their clients are engaging with them. The Miami Heat are among Decile’s clients.
Robert M. Lee, Justin Cavinee, and Jon Lavender
CEO (Lee), chief data scientist (Cavinee), and CTO (Lavender), Dragos
Dragos works to safeguard industrial-controls systems—the kinds that keep, say, the electrical grid functioning. The company secured a whopping $110 million in a funding round that closed in December. Hewlett-Packard and Koch Industries are among the firm’s backers.
Storyblocks believes it’s the world’s largest distributor of royalty-free video content, which clients can browse and edit via Storyblocks’ digital platform—services much in demand these days. In the summer of 2020, Storyblocks was acquired by a Boston private-equity firm, but it will keep operating from its Arlington headquarters.
Chris Lynch and Nicole Camarillo
Cofounders, Rebellion Defense
Lynch and Camarillo, along with UK-based Oliver Lewis, launched this firm in 2019, quickly raised $63 million, and garnered lots of media for its use of artificial intelligence to analyze video shot by drones. One reason for the early success: A board member is Eric Schmidt, the billionaire who’s a former CEO of Google.
Tobin Moore and Adam Vitarello
CEO (Moore) and President (Vitarello), Optoro
Optoro makes money off of the fact that there are millions of things retail customers either don’t buy or do buy but return. Last year, for example, as online shopping skyrocketed, it introduced a nationwide contactless-return system that allows shoppers to scan a QR code and drop off unwanted items at more than 1,000 Staples stores without having to repackage or ship them.
Cofounder and CEO, Phone2Action
After receiving an investment from Frontier Growth in 2019, Phone2Action, which makes software that organizations use to power legislative and regulatory strategies and issue advocacy campaigns, went on a buying spree of its own, acquiring two firms in late 2020. In 2020, nearly 25 percent of all advocacy messages sent to Congress originated from campaigns managed on the Phone2Action platform.
CoFounder and Head of Technology, Hungry
At the start of last year, Hungry was delivering 100,000 meals a month through an Uber-like app that connected top chefs with the corporate catering industry. That business went under when the pandemic began. Pahlevani successfully rebooted by connecting chefs directly to individuals. The company has drawn $20 million in funding from the likes of Jay-Z and Usher.
President and CEO, IntelliBridge
IntelliBridge is a cloud, cyber-security, and analytics firm that was formed in March 2020 through the merger of two companies, each of which employed about 300 people. Panciocco, who had headed the Beltsville IT contractor ASRC Federal, announced further growth through acquisition in February when IntelliBridge bought the Fairfax IT-services firm Alethix.
Bill Pardue and Beverly Parker
Chairman and CEO (Pardue) and executive vice president (Parker), Athenium Analytics
Pardue and Parker worked at both LexisNexis and the IT-research firm Gartner—where Pardue was president—before cofounding Weather Analytics, which acquired and merged with Athenium in 2018. The DC firm provides weather and predictive-risk software to insurance companies.
President and CEO, LiveSafe
LiveSafe’s warning-system app, which was developed partly as a response to the Virginia Tech shootings, was put to work during the pandemic: It offered health alerts and screening tools clients used to determine if their workplaces were safe. LiveSafe plans to use the cash from its late-2020 purchase by Tampa’s Vector Solutions for expansion.
Founder and CEO, ImagineBC
The Gaithersburg company offers individuals the chance to monetize their personal data rather than just giving it away to tech companies. Recently, Rind, a George Washington grad, also acquired Data Union, a nonprofit arm of ImagineBC’s work.
Interfolio’s software steers ap-plicants and faculty committees through the higher-ed hiring process. Rosen, who took over as CEO in 2015, is an alumnus of two of Washington’s best-known tech firms, Blackboard and MicroStrategy.
Cofounder and CEO, Pie Insurance
Swigart left a longtime job at Esurance to found Pie, and it’s now one of the fastest-growing “insurtechs” in the US. Pie’s platform helps small businesses find discounted rates on workers’ comp and other types of insurance. Last year, it closed on $127 million in new financing.
Deepwatch, a firm that specializes in network security, last fall closed a $53-million funding round. Thomas is former CEO of the local telecom Net2000, which once had a market capitalization of $1.5 billion but went bankrupt after the dot-com bust in 2001.
President and CEO, Alarm.com
Trundle was with MicroStrategy for almost a decade before it spun off Alarm.com, which makes home-automation- and-monitoring products, including a touchless video doorbell. Today the Tysons firm is a high-flier: Revenue and income were way up in 2020.
Founder and CEO, Framebridge
Tynan’s hot company has long offered online framing—you mail your art, they fix it up and mail it back. But during the pan-demic it managed to open brick-and-mortar shops in several cities. Before founding Framebridge, Tynan worked at the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration and, later, at LivingSocial.
CEO and Cofounder, Socially Determined
Williams is a physician and former managing partner at the Advisory Board Company. He now leads a healthcare-technology-and-analytics firm trying to quantify how things such as food insecurity and lack of stable housing affect health. The company closed an $11-million funding round in January 2020.
CEO and Chairman, Telos
After five decades in business, his cybersecurity firm finally issued an IPO last November. Wood has been with Telos for three decades and is current chairman of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, a trade group that lobbies the feds to modernize their digital tech.Back to Top
Founder and managing partner, Rethink Impact
Already the largest venture firm in the US dedicated to investing in female tech entrepreneurs, Rethink added a new $182-million fund in July.
Executive chairman, Grotech Ventures
Adams started Grotech in 1984 with $12 million in man-aged assets. It has raised $1.5 billion since then and put money into tech companies nationwide. It was an early funder of LivingSocial.
John Backus, John Burke, and Thanasis Delistathis
Cofounders and managing partners, Proof.vc
Backus, Burke, and Delistathis did well for their Reston venture-capital firm in 2020. Three of their invested companies had IPOs, two made acquisitions, and Proof.vc closed on a new $120-million investment fund.
Peter Barris and Scott Sandell
Chairman (Barris) and managing general partner (Sandell), New Enterprise Associates
One of the most important VCs in tech, Barris has grown a bit less influential as he has stepped back from some of NEA’s daily work, but he still commands enough money to be a kingmaker. Meanwhile, Sandell relocated from the West Coast to take up some of the work that Barris has ceded.
Jason Booma, Jim Fleming, Patrick Hendy, Monish Kundra, and John Siegel
Partners, Columbia Capital
Columbia, which has invested in several local tech firms, was part of a $60-million funding round that will help create a ground-and-satellite 5G network for the Tysons satellite company Omnispace, whose CEO, Ram Viswanathan, is a new Tech Titan this year.
Chairman and CEO, Revolution
The AOL cofounder who heads big-money investor Revolution has been active during the pan-demic in looking for ways to invest in “foodtech”—tech solutions to food shortages.
Chris Darby and Simon Davidson
CEO (Darby) and vice president (Davidson), In-Q-Tel
This CIA-backed venture-capital fund is tasked with making spy technology commercially available through a program called IQT Emerge. The idea isn’t to give away government secrets but to create a market for government-owned tech that could also bolster the private sector’s ability to defend itself against attacks.
Managing director, Motley Fool Ventures
Douglass took over as managing director for the Mot-ley Fool’s early-stage tech-investment fund in 2018. Working out of Alexandria, he’s active on the boards of several young tech companies in the area.
Chairman and CEO, Capitol Investment Corp. V
Ein, one of the best-known people in local tech, announced the formation of his fifth “blank check” company in November. It raised $345 million within weeks and, in March, used that cash to combine with Doma Holdings—a San Francisco machine-intelligence firm—in anticipation of an IPO.
Managing director, Sands Capital
In late 2019, Frederick—who was business-development and federal head at New Enterprise Associates—joined Sands, which is based in Arlington and reports $68 billion in client assets.
Dayna Grayson and Rachel Holt
General partners, Construct Capital
Grayson was a partner with New Enterprise Associates, and Holt was vice president for New Mobility at Uber. The new company they cofounded, which has already raised $140 million, looks to invest in early-stage firms that are developing disruptive approaches to manufacturing, supply chains, or transportation.
Carter Griffin and Jon Seeber
General partners, Updata
This 23-year-old VC firm fo-cuses on B2B software companies such as Storyblocks—led by new Tech Titan TJ Leonard—which Updata backed early on. In 2020, it closed a new $308-million fund.
Ron and Cyndi Gula
President (ron) and Managing Partner (Cyndi), Gula Tech Adventures
In addition to raising several million this year to expand its current investment fund, Ron has advised the Biden White House informally on what federal cybersecurity ought to look like. His idea: Bring on a Dr. Fauci for cybersecurity.
Managing partner, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
Hall, a former Washington PostCompany exec, is responsible for investment sourcing, exe-cution, and oversight of this $150-million investment ve-hicle, which backs seed-stage companies that aren’t in Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boston.
Founder, PAX Momentum
Hanson started a new tech accelerator in late 2019: He and other investors are putting money into very early-stage companies—$50,000 at a time.
Founder and partner, Revolution Growth
The Capitals/Wizards/Mystics owner’s venture-capital firm announced the formation of a new fund in November. It’s a big one: $500 million.
Managing director, Grain Management
The firm focuses its investments on companies that are developing 5G technology to work in underserved areas.
Dan Mindus and Brett Gibson
Founders and managing partners, NextGen Venture Partners
NextGen, which has continued to do business under its original name after being acquired in 2018 by Brown Advisory, closed on a new $52-million fund last spring. Its portfolio has a distinctly local flavor, having backed Avizia, Interfolio, Upskill, and UrbanStems.
Nigel Morris and Frank Rotman
Founders, QED Investors
The firm, founded by two Capital One veterans, continues to spread its wealth around. In February 2020, it closed on its sixth investment fund, this one worth $350 million. In November, it opened an office in India.
Steve Pann, Peggy Styer, and Richard Moxley
Cofounders and managing partners, Razor’s Edge Ventures
The focus of this investment firm in recent months has been on finding companies that work in national-security tech—a boom industry even before SolarWinds.
Managing partner, Revolution Ventures
Revolution Ventures puts money into early-stage tech companies that are not in Silicon Valley. Its investments have included the local companies Framebridge and Homesnap. In late 2019, it closed on a $215-million fund that Savage says was “oversubscribed,” meaning investors wanted to put more money into the fund than Revolution had sought.
Fredrick Schaufeld and Anthony Nader
Cofounders and managing directors, Swan & Legend Venture Partners
Swan & Legend is a big backer of local tech. In 2020, it was among those that invested in Class Technologies, the new startup from Michael Chasen, founder of Blackboard.
Michael Steed, Mark Maloney, and Edward Albrigo
Cofounders (Steed and Maloney) and chief operating officer (Albrigo), Paladin Capital Group
Paladin is a big cybersecurity backer that often invests locally. Albrigo joined after serving five years as CEO of the Center for Innovative Technology. Steed is CIT’s chairman of the board.
President and CEO, Center for Innovative Technology
Stolle took over as CEO in September at this nonprofit tech accelerator backed by the state of Virginia. An Annapolis graduate who was Secretary of Commerce and Trade in Virginia under Governor George Allen, he joined CIT in 2011.
Head of business development, Silicon Valley Bank
This longtime, highly connected Tech Titan got a new title last year and new responsibilities drumming up tech business for a bank that has already done business with 40,000 startups across the country.
Devin Talbott and Pierre Chao
Managing Partner (Talbott) and Operating Parnter (Chao), Enlightenment Capital
In 2012, Talbott, who helped start Cohen Group Financial Partners, teamed with Chao, who’d spent decades investing in aerospace and defense firms, to found their own private-equity firm. It has raised about $480 million since then and used that money to start two local companies—EverWatch and Intellibridge.Back to Top
The Cybersecurity Specialists
President and CEO, Cyber Threat Alliance
Daniel was a cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council during the Obama administration before joining CTA, a trade group that shares intelligence on malware and other cyberthreats.
Cofounder and CTO, Cofense
US investment firm BlackRock put a reported $10 million into Cofense in April 2020, upping its existing stake. Cofense specializes in phishing prevention. Higbee, who formerly held positions at Lucent and Time Warner Cable, cofounded Cofense in 2007.
Founder and CEO, NetAbstraction
Hunt was named one of the top 100 women in cybersecurity last year by Cyber Defense Magazine. Her company offers software that works something like an invisibility cloak: It obscures the networks that organizations use to move their data, making them harder for bad actors to target.
CEO, Hunt Technologies
Hunt is a big name with a new outfit. A former chief technology officer for the CIA, he also oversaw cybersecurity for government clients at Accenture. In October, he started his own cybersecurity, analytics, and cloud-computing consultancy.
Cofounder, Krebs Stamos Group
What do you do if you’re one of the most senior cybersecurity officials in the US and the President fires you—by tweet—because you’ve declared the 2020 election the most secure in the country’s history? If you’re Krebs—former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency—you team up with Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, and start a bicoastal consulting firm.
CEO, LookingGlass Cyber Solutions
The founder and first chief of In-Q-Tel, Louie had been serving as executive chairman when he took over as CEO during a management shakeup in October. He also runs an investment firm, Alsop Louie Partners, and was a member of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which in March published a 752-page report critical of US investments in AI.
Investors keep pouring cash into this firm, cofounded by Merkel, who once hunted hackers for the feds. In 2019, Expel landed $40 million in financing; in the spring of 2020, another $50 million. That will fund a big expansion at the Herndon headquarters, where it offers cyberattack-detection-and-response services.
Senior Director of Cybersecurity Services, Venable
Schneider left his post as the federal government’s chief information-security officer in August, telling the Washington Post at the time that he was proud that his office, which he joined during the Obama administration, had remained nonpartisan. He’ll now work on cyber issues for Venable clients.Back to Top
The Networkers, Nonprofits, and Incubators
Managing partner, 1863 Ventures, and professor, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Bradley’s venture fund is wants to create $100 billion in new wealth for minority entrepreneurs by helping them found, fund, and expand their companies.
Founder and CEO, Sprockit
Glazer’s “innovation marketplace” brings together more than two dozen companies looking to solve corporate challenges using startups. Glazer also founded Mindshare, a yearlong training program that fosters collaboration between startups.
Regional director, Vinetta Project
Myers, a Howard law-school graduate, took over as director of the Vinetta Project’s Washington chapter in January 2020. Vinetta organizes forums and other events that connect investors with female-led tech companies. Myers also runs her own company, the Most, which makes tools for styling textured hair.
Managing principal, Technology Practice leader, McCormick Group; membership programs co-chair, International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals
At Arlington’s McCormick Group, Page, an executive recruiter, helps clients find top tech talent. Meanwhile, she works to expand the tech talent pool with her work at the New York–based nonprofit Consortium, which aims to increase the number of minority students pursuing cybersecurity careers. Members—whom Page recruits—offer leadership training, mentoring, scholarships, and career placement.
CEO, Future of Privacy Forum
In 2020, this group expanded in-ternationally and started to serve as an incubator to fledg-ling groups pushing for ethical handling of personal and professional data. Polonetsky is a former AOL chief privacy officer and a onetime consumer-affairs commissioner for New York City.
Emerging Growth Company Practice leader for Greater Washington, Deloitte
In February, Smith was named to this role, which aims to help entrepreneurial companies—a lot of them tech firms—as they expand. It’ll be familiar ground: Smith has spent many years working with Deloitte’s Greater Washington Technology Venture Center and has served with the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association and Northern Virginia Technology Council.
Executive director, Mid-Atlantic Venture Association
The Surge, MAVA’s main annual event, which puts early-stage companies in front of investors, had to operate digitally in February. Still, Spicer, who has run the organization since 2002, was able to draw a number of other Tech Titans to give presentations.
President and CEO, Northern Virginia Technology Council
Taylor took over in Sep-tember from Bobbie Kil-berg, who spent 22 years leading this trade group, which has nearly 500 local members. Taylor is a Washington-area native who previously was a vice president at the Consumer Technology Association.
Chairman and CEO, Opus8; founder, Connectpreneur
Even in a pandemic, Wong’s Connectpreneur Forum, which boasts 25,000 members, pulled off monthly pitch-and-networking meetings—virtually—connecting company founders and investors who may not have met otherwise.Back to Top
US senator; chair, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Cantwell, from Washington state, is the first woman to lead this committee, which will tackle issues important to Big Tech. One of the first people hired at the Seattle streaming company RealNetworks, she has long been a tech-company critic in the Senate. In 2020, she released a report suggesting Facebook and Google were killing off local journalism.
US congressman; chair, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law
Democrats haven’t spoken out against Big Tech with the same vitriol as Republicans, but the party in power still has problems with Silicon Valley. Cicilline’s committee is already investigating Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. That’s one reason why the New York Times said the Rhode Island representative may be “tech’s biggest threat.”
Administrator, US Digital Service
In 2019, a bill was introduced in the Senate to quadruple funding for this small agency that focuses on, among other things, making federal agency websites more functional. The legislation went nowhere. But Cutts—a former Google executive who was appointed by Obama and managed to be popular with Team Trump—might see his agency grow after all. The senator who introduced that 2019 bill is now Vice President of the United States.
Chief information security officer, White House
DeRusha was CISO for the Biden campaign, so his ap-pointment to the federal post came as little surprise. A former chief security officer for the state of Michigan, DeRusha also held top cybersecurity-adviser roles in the Obama administration.
Director, Defense Digital Service
This young federal agency runs a program called Hack the Pentagon that looks for vulnerabilities in DOD systems. Goldstein took over in 2019; previously, he was on the team that launched OpenTable.
Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Greene, a longtime head of federal policy for Symantec, took over as director of this public/private partnership in February 2020. The center, in conjunction with large corporations and small IT firms, develops shareable cybersecurity solutions.
Director, Cybersecurity Directorate, National Security Agency
Joyce, a 32-year federal-government veteran, spent 14 months as cybersecurity adviser to the Trump White House, leaving in May 2018. He took over the Cybersecurity Directorate this past January.
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
President Biden not only made Lander his top science adviser, but he elevated the Office of Science and Technology Policy to cabinet level. Lander was formerly founding director of the Broad Institute, a genomics research facility jointly run by Harvard and MIT.
Director, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
IARPA invests in groundbreaking research such as software that will let drones better distinguish among hu-man faces. Marsh, who took over in 2019, led the team that developed the lithium-ion battery systems used by the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
Chief information officer, White House
Martorana thrilled much of the federal IT world when she took over this job in March. A former general manager and editor at large with WebMD, she apparently won some fans while serving at both the US Digital Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Deputy director for science and technology, CIA
In September, Meyer-riecks announced CIA Labs, “an in-house research and development arm for CIA to drive science and technology breakthroughs for tomorrow’s intelligence challenges.” Meyerriecks, a former AOL executive who spent a decade with the Defense Information Systems Agency, says the lab allows CIA staffers to collaborate with private businesses.
General Paul Nakasone
Director, National Security Agency; commander, US Cyber Command
Wired dubbed Nakasone “America’s most powerful spy.” Since he took over the US Cyber Command, his digital soldiers have reportedly, although quietly, launched attacks against ISIS, Iran, Russia, and likely others.
Nitin Natarajan and Eric Goldstein
Deputy director (Natarajan) and executive assistant director (Goldstein), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security
The Biden administration brought Natarajan and Gold-stein to this agency in February. Natarajan had been with Avan-tus Federal in McLean, a con-tractor that works with DHS as well as privately held companies. Goldstein, who’d served in governmental-security roles before, was head of cybersecurity for Goldman Sachs. Their task won’t be easy. In March, the GAO released a scathing report saying the agency founded in 2018 “isn’t fully up and running,” even though it was supposed to be by December 2020.
Deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, White House
Neuberger, former head of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, left for this newly created role in the White House. She’s primarily tasked with uncovering how the Russian-backed SolarWinds attack happened and what damage was done.
Chief technology officer, District of Columbia
A lot of DC residents may have learned Parker’s name thanks, unfortunately, to a buggy launch of a Covid-19 vaccine-registration portal. After several days of crashes under heavy use, the site—designed in conjunction with Microsoft—was heavily tweaked and relaunched.
Executive Director, Loudoun County Department of Economic development
Due in part to Rizer’s work re-cruiting data centers, Loudoun has become known as Data Cen-ter Alley, with much of the inter-net’s traffic flowing through it. The pandemic made the alley wider: Last year, 4.5 million square feet of new data-center space was added.
Director (nominated), Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
The $1.9-trillion Covid recovery bill passed by Congress in March contained $9 billion for cybersecurity upgrades across government. Silvers, a cybersecurity official under Obama, takes over this agency from the famously fired Chris Krebs.
Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Tompkins, appointed in March, is new to the job but not to DARPA, which often spurs innovation within the broader tech community via contests and cash awards. Tompkins, a former Army intelligence officer, once served as chief of staff and was acting deputy director in 2017 and 2018.Back to Top
The Policy Influencers
Meredith Attwell Baker
President and CEO, CTIA
Baker has led CTIA, the top trade group representing wireless-communications companies, since 2014, but her role has recently taken on added importance thanks to the arrival of 5G technology.
Vice president and head of US public policy, TikTok
TikTok came into President Trump’s crosshairs in 2020, and it looked for a while as though the wildly popular Chinese-owned social-media platform would be sold to Microsoft. That didn’t happen, but TikTok—which brought in Beckerman, former CEO of the Internet As-sociation, last March—has hired a half dozen other policy pros since Beckerman came aboard.
Vice president of public policy and government relations, Google
Among the things keeping Bha-tia busy these days is legislation proposed by Senator Amy Klo-buchar to let different news publishers negotiate as a bloc to get better revenue-sharing deals from Facebook and Google.
Head of federal affairs, Uber
Burr personally took the lead in December as Uber pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare ride-share drivers essential workers and prioritize their access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Senior vice president of corporate affairs, Amazon
Amazon, which is plenty powerful on its own, is now about as connected as you can be to the White House, thanks to having hired Carney in 2015. Before he served as Barack Obama’s White House press secretary, Carney was communications director for Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden.
Chief government affairs and public policy officer, BlackBerry
Dickman was named BlackBerry’s first-ever government-affairs officer in Washington last March. She’s a Georgetown Law graduate who worked for Wiley Rein and has spent 23 years working in public policy—the last 16 for Intel. Her appointment comes amid BlackBerry’s transition from handheld communications to cybersecurity.
Vice president for cybersecurity policy, US Chamber of Commerce
Eggers may have some arm-twisting to do this year. Congress seems poised to consider legislation mandating that companies share information on data breaches that have the potential to spread from one firm to others, such as the SolarWinds attack. The Chamber of Commerce has objected to such a mandate in the past.
President and CEO, Software Alliance
Espinel’s trade group, which advocates for Adobe, IBM, Microsoft, and others, was part of a tech-industry push to include funds for cybersecurity in the $1.9-trillion Covid-19 relief bill. The legislation ended up with $2 billion for cybersecurity and IT. Espinel worked on intellectual-property issues during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
Vice president, federal government affairs and public policy, Salesforce
Gamble was counsel to three influential Republican senators—Saxby Chambliss, Thad Cochran, and Trent Lott—before joining Salesforce in 2015. The company runs one of the most successful customer-management platforms in the industry.
Alexandra Reeve Givens
President and CEO, Center for Democracy & Technology
Givens moved to the helm of this center after serving as executive director at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy. The nonprofit CDT is backed by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Givens is the daughter of late actor Christopher Reeve and serves on the District’s Innovation and Technology Inclusion Council.
Vice president of US government affairs, Microsoft
In February, Humphries, who has been at Micro-soft 21 years, wrote a letter to employees ex-plaining that the com-pany would suspend donations through 2022 to any candidate who had voted to block the certification of electors on January 6. He also said Microsoft would change the name and makeup of its political-action committee so employees who don’t want to donate to candidates could in-stead help fund issues “important to the preservation and promotion of democracy.”
Vice president of public policy, Amazon
Huseman has to answer to the press and Congress for a lot of what Amazon does, and that sometimes puts him in a defensive posture. But in November, when Amazon marked the second anniversary of its Virginia HQ2 announcement, Huseman got to deliver some happy news: The online retailer was donating $9 million to local charitable causes to mark the anniversary.
Vice president of global public policy, Facebook
Lawmakers from both parties have gripes with Facebook, and Democrats especially have issues with Kaplan, who came in person to Capitol Hill in 2018 to support the nomination of Supreme Court jus-tice Brett Kavanaugh. Kaplan has reportedly also intervened on many occasions to preserve controversial posts by people on the right. Whether Democrats like him or not, Kaplan—once deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush White House—speaks for one of the most powerful tech companies on the planet.
Vice president, global public policy and philanthropy, Twitter
Meche came to Twit-ter in 2020 after head-ing government rela-tions for Waymo—the autonomous-car company that spun off from Google—and serving in a top policy post at Netflix. Soon after she was brought on, Twitter began label-ing many of Presi-dent Trump’s tweets as misleading—then banned him. Conser-vative lawmakers continue to cry bias—likely to be an issue for Meche.
Senior director, US policy, Palo Alto Networks
The $3.4-billion Palo Alto Networks—a California company that provides cybersecurity for government clients and issues watch reports on hacker activities—brought on Mehta in 2017 to lead its federal interactions. He was director of legislative affairs for the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
Vice president and head of global government relations, PayPal
PayPal announced in November that account holders in the US can buy, hold, and sell cryptocurrency through PayPal. That could make Nash—who has run the company’s Washington office since its 2015 spinoff from eBay—a leader in trying to explain just what cryptocurrency is to a Congress that has struggled with whether it should regulate the cash alternative.
President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council
There’s a global semiconductor-chip shortage, and Oxman’s trade group—which represents the biggest names in tech, including Amazon, Facebook, and Apple—is among the leaders trying to get the government to do something about it. In February, the Biden administration answered the call and asked Congress to allocate $37 billion to make new chips in the US.
Senior director of government affairs for the Americas, Apple
Powderly, a George Washington University law-school graduate who has been with Apple since 2011, was elevated to the company’s top policy position in 2020 after its former chief in Washington, Cynthia Hogan, left to join the Biden campaign team.
President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
This Arlington trade group, which Shapiro joined in 1982, is best known for the flashy trade show it puts on in Vegas ever year. Because of the pandemic, the Consumer Electronics Show 2021 was held virtually in January. Even so, it boasted almost 2,000 exhibitors, 300 speakers, and an appearance by pop star Dua Lipa.
Executive Director, Blockchain Association
With the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again of Bitcoin, this trade association has been busy pushing the blockchain agenda in Congress. Smith, whose association represents 35 companies, has degrees from GW and Georgetown and was once deputy chief of staff for Denny Rehberg, a former Republican representative from Montana.
K. Dane Snowden
CEO, Internet Association
Amazon, Twitter, Google, eBay, Postmates, Groupon, Zillow, PayPal, Doordash, and Microsoft are all members of this trade group, which calls itself “the unified voice of the internet economy.” Snowden was COO of the Internet & Television Association prior to his appointment as CEO here in January.
Vice president of global public policy, Snap
Snap, which runs the Snapchat app, hired Stout, a James Madison graduate, in 2017 just months before it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange. She had been deputy chief of staff to John Kerry when he was Secretary of State; worked on legislative issues in the Obama White House; and, from 1998 to 2000, was a legislative aide for then-senator Joe Biden.Back to Top
The Industry Heavies
Vice president, worldwide public sector, industries, and training, Amazon Web Services
Carlson, whose teams sell AWS cloud services around the globe—including to NASA, for its Mars Perseverance rover—has said that the Covid crisis proved to many that cloud-based work is the future. That might signal a big 2021 for the busi-ness run by Carlson, who joined Amazon in 2010 after almost a decade selling Microsoft’s wares to the feds.
President, General Dynamics Information Technology
Gilliland, an Annapolis graduate who grew up in the Washington area, commands a workforce of 30,000 in this key General Dynamics division. GDIT had a huge 2020, inking big deals that included a $4.4-billion contract to deliver cloud services for the Department of Defense.
President and CEO, Neustar
Neustar, in Sterling, has been called “the world’s most powerful company you have never heard of.” The 2,000-person firm provides a variety of web services, including identity-resolution tools that help companies op-timize marketing and mitigate fraud.
Roger A. Krone
Chairman and CEO, Leidos
Krone’s government-technology company has grown by big-dollar acquisitions of late. This year and last, it has spent $3 billion to purchase a technology firm, an airport-security-and-automation compa-ny, and a shipmaker. Krone, an aerospace engineer, came to Leidos by way of General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing.
Chairman and CEO, General Dynamics
General Dynamics saw revenue and net income dip last year as sales of Gulfstream business jets slumped during the pandemic. Still, Novakovic, a CIA and DoD veteran who has been at the helm eight years, said after reporting a strong finish to 2020 that she expects a revenue rebound in 2021.
President and CEO, DXC Technology
Salvino took the reins of this 138,000-employee IT giant in September 2019. In May 2020, DXC cut 4,500 jobs. In October, it sold its state health-services business for $5 billion. With its balance sheet looking healthier in early 2021, DXC received an unsolicited buyout offer of $10 billion from a French IT company. DXC walked away from that deal.
Michael J. Saylor
Chairman and CEO, MicroStrategy
Many Tech Titans cut their teeth with Saylor’s MicroStrategy, a onetime high-flying company that was nearly wiped out when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. Saylor has steadily built back his Tysons software company since then, and he has lately become a major backer of cryptocurrency. He has reportedly invested more than $1.3 billion in Bitcoin since August—holdings now worth more than $5 billion.
Chairman, president, and CEO, Lockheed Martin
Taiclet took over as president and CEO last June from Marillyn Hew-son, who had spent seven years in charge. The handoff, which was planned, put Taiclet—an Air Force pilot who served in the Gulf War and helmed the real-estate-investment trust American Tower since 2003—in the top spot.
Chairman, president, and CEO, Northrop Grumman
Warden, who rose up the aerospace and defense giant’s ranks af-ter starting as a gen-eral manager of the company’s cybersecurity business in 2008, led Northrop Grumman to an impressive close of 2020. In Sep-tember, the company signed a massive $13.3-billion contract to modernize the na-tion’s intercontinental-ballistic-missile system. In December, the company sold off its federal IT division for $3.4 billion.Back to Top
The Satellite Makers
Director, aerospace and satellite, Amazon Web Services
Before joining AWS, Crosier, a retired Air Force major general, was director of a Space Force planning task force in the Department of Defense. Last August, he joined Amazon, where his team works with satellite networks, rocket-launch operations, and space-exploration missions.
Desch, who flies a turboprop plane in his spare time, managed to keep his business growing during the pandemic even though a lot of Iridium’s cus-tomers are in the hard-hit aerospace industry. The company’s stock has been on a tear lately and is up by 400 percent since 2016.
CEO and cofounder, Lynk
In March 2020, Lynk said that for the first time it had sent a text message from a satellite to a standard mobile phone on the ground. The company’s goal is to build a network of tiny satellites that will offer space-based service to 5 billion cell phones worldwide. Miller is a former senior adviser to NASA.
President and CEO, Ligado Networks
Space is an expensive place to operate, especially for this Reston firm that offers satellite-powered 5G networks for companies making products that are part of the “internet of things.” Ligado looked to be headed toward bankruptcy in 2020, but late last year Smith, a former Nextel veteran, managed to raise $3.85 billion to stay out of Chapter 11.
President and CEO, Omnispace
Viswanathan, who was on the team that developed XM Satel-lite Radio, has head-ed Omnispace since 2016. In February, his company raised $60 million to help launch its hybrid 5G system, which combines satellite and mobile telecom technology.
*This article was corrected since its original posting.