The VideoBlocks team.
Image via DC Inno

50 on Fire will bring together D.C.’s best and brightest to recognize the disruptors, luminaries and visionaries that are pushing our city forward. Buy your tickets now and join us on Dec. 10 at Howard Theatre for the celebration and winners reveal.

Washington D.C. is a tech hot spot and highlighting just a few of the people and companies heating up the innovation scene isn’t easy for this year’s 50 on Fire judges. That’s one reason that there are more finalists in this category than any other. They’ve built virtual worlds, protected us from hackers and even gone into space in the name of innovation. Meet the finalists below and come see who won on Dec. 10.

Appian – Appian has built a cloud-based platform that offers a kind of content management system to help people build programs and applications even if they aren’t coders themselves. This year it has expanded its portfolio of both federal and private customers and has grown to more than 300 employees while being named one of The Washington Post’s best places to work.

APX Labs – Initially a company building technology for the military, APX Labs started in 2010 by building enterprise software for smart glasses. APX Labs created Skylight, the world’s most used business software for smart glasses. This year, the company raised $13 million in a funding round led by NEA to help scale up the business and fuse it with the technology of strategic investors GE and Salesforce.

Blake Hall, ID.me – Blake Hall runs ID.me, which validates customer identity, more specifically military credentials, through a purely online process. This year, he led the company to a $3 million venture debt raise and some impressive expansion of the list of companies using the verification technology. He also helped build the company’s new business-facing website to help grow the number of business clients, like baseball teams and major retailers, using ID.me for verification.

Brazen – Brazen had a busy year, shortening its name from Brazen Careerist right as it raised $4.7 million in a funding round led by Osage Venture Partners. As the company has grown, it has shifted this year  to a focus beyond just career-based help. The company has continued its work with its software platform for real-time messaging and collaborations, and moved into new, larger offices.

Brivo – Brivo and its Internet of Things technology was acquired for $50 million by Eagle Eye Network CEO Dean Drako this year. Brivo then launched a new app system that basically lets administrators of office buildings, gyms and any other Brivo client building give the same phone-based keys that they have without having to install entirely new hardware. Brivo has also been scaling up and expanding its network of clients since the acquisition gave it a greater scope.

Clarabridge CEO Sid Bannerjee.
Image by EHS

Clarabridge – Reston, Va.-based customer intelligence SaaS company Clarabridge had a very good year, and doubled its client list when it bought Ghent, Belgium-based Engagor. The company also revamped its signature product suite as Clarabridge 7 and has been raking in awards, including being named to KMWorld Trend-Setting products list for the fourth year running and being picked as one of the winners of DC Inno’s Coolest Companies contest.

Distil Networks – Distil offers customers security software and services to detect and stop malicious bot-based cyberattacks. In June, Distil raised a $21 million funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Using that money, Distil is in the process of adding 100 or more new employees to the 60-person company.

DMI – DMI provides mobile enterprise and big data solutions and services. This year, it won a contract to provide its Managed Mobility Services to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Treasurey, and it was put in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Managed Mobility Services Worldwide Report on MMS providers for the third year running.

DroneShield – Herndon, Va.-based drone detection technology developer DroneShield has quickly gained fame this year after being used along the streets of Boston for this year’s Boston Marathon. It raised $950,000 in a convertible debt round earlier this year, and is expecting to grow even larger as issues like prison breaks and drug smuggling using drones become more prominent.

EasyPaint – EasyPaint offers on-demand commercial painting services with its online platform. Though still young, the company has garnered attention after being invited to compete in this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, making it to the finals, one of only two such D.C. companies to ever make it that far. The company has already made significant numbers of contracts, multiplying its list clients many times over. It’s also started to get involved in philanthropy, donating services to the DC Design house and helping raise $330,000 for Children’s National.

EndGame – Cybersecurity firm Endgame,’s motto is “automate the hunt,” and that’s exactly what it tries to do when protecting its clients. Its technology can quickly detect, stop hackers from infecting critical systems by monitoring endpoints. This year the company brought on new CTO Jamie Butler and is expanding its efforts to protect federal clients from the endless onslaught of hackers.

Giadha Aguirre De Carcer

Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, New Frontier Financials – De Carcer isthe founder of New Frontier Financials, what she calls the “Bloomberg for weed.” The startup, which closed a $250,000 seed round earlier this year, offers data and analytics for the marijuana industry. De Carcer launched the company while being filmed for a potential documentary, and will be featured with her company in an upcoming episode of The Marijuana Show.

Invincea– Cybersecurity firm Invincea has been kept hopping during this year of major cybersecurity breaches. It software, which can detect and protect against malware while offering pre-breach forensic analysis, is more popular than ever, being sought by private and public customers, itself a tricky balancing act.  The company landed a government research contract for $8.1 million in April and is poised for some explosive growth.

Mandiant – Alexandria-based cybersecurity firm Mandiant was acquired by FireEye in 2014, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from becoming a vital engine to the larger company. Recent stock troubles only highlight the way Mandiant has become an important part of FireEye, sending the stock upward high enough for the dip to matter to begin with.

Opower – Energy efficiency tech startup Opower had a banner year, officially saving three terawatt-hours of energy. By the end of 2015, Opower will be close to saving over 10 TWh in its lifetime, made possible by registering more than 500 billion smart meter readings, nearly two-thirds of all such data. The company also launched a new marketplace platform and made some major hiring efforts.

PlanetiQ – Bethesda-based startup PlanetiQ began testing its new Pyxis weather sensor system this year, a new kind of weather prediction suite that uses GPS signals to collect 8 million data points a day, improving weather monitoring and forecasting for a much lower cost than the current system. Pyxis will go into the 12 satellites the company plans to launch in the next few years, the first commercial network of weather satellites in orbit.

RedOwl Analytics– Dealing in cybersecurity software, RedOwl raised 17 million in a funding round led by Allegis Capital. RedOwl’s management and security analytics software works with major clients like the Blackstone Group and K2 Intelligence. The company has been working on adding new features to its products and expanding its market reach.

Sensics – One of the oldest virtual reality companies in the area, Columbia, Md.-based Sensics makes headsets and software. All of its software and headset design schematics are open-sourced, meaning that anyone can access them and develop their own products from the data, and it’s supported by many local investors ever since it emerged from Johns Hopkins University.

Social Tables

Social Tables – Social Tables and its event planning and coordination software have had a very busy year, working to add several dozen new staff members to its 120-person team. The software is being used by everyone from the National Gallery of Art to the Washington Nationals baseball team. The company was also named one of The Washington Post’s best places to work.

Susan Tynan, Framebridge – Tynan launched Framebridge a little over a year ago and has built up the In the past 15 months, Susan has launched a successful startup, Framebridge, and grown the custom-framing tech startup into an impressive success. The company raised $7.7 million early this year in a round led by Revolution, and recently created a custom gallery-wall creation service to go along with its framing. Tynan has steered the company to this level of success while raising two daughters.

ThreatQuotient – Cybersecurity startup ThreatQuotient has been growing fast after raising a $1.5 million seed round in April led by Blu Venture Investors, the state of Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and the Virginia Tech Investor Network. The company’s Threat Intelligence Platform aggregates and organizes athreat intelligence data, helping clients catch hackers before they can do too much damage.

Tobin Moore & Adam Vitarello, Optoro – Optoro stands out as one of the big names in D.C. tech. Optoro built and runs a platform for retailers to sell returned and excess inventory. Consumers can find better deals and companies can clear out space while getting at least some return on their inventory. After raising $50 million last year in a round led by Kleiner Perkins, the company has hired dozens of new employees to handle its many new clients. Along with continuing to grow its Blinq platform, it’s added a new direct wholesale e-commerce service called Bulq.

Urgent.ly – Roadside assistance app Urgent.ly has been building up partnerships non-stop this year and is hiring up a storm after a $7 million funding in October. AT&T, MapQuest and ParkWhiz have all been integrated with Urgent.ly, expanding the number of users enormously.

VideoBlocks – The Reston, Va.-based subscription-based provider of high quality audio and visual content has had a good year, raising $8 million earlier in the spring and adding new clients to its list. One of the company’s current focuses in on higher education, offering special subscriptions to schools so that students can get access to content for projects legally.

VisiSonics  – College Park-based true 3D audio developer VisiSonics basically created the kind of immersive audio experience that other companies do visually for virtual reality. Its technology is being built into the upcoming Oculus Rift headset, poising it to possibly become the default engine of virtual reality sound.