Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of D.C.’s rising startups from last quarter here.
Large tech companies from a variety of industries call the DMV home, including Capital One, Gannett and Boeing. In addition to the brands we’re all familiar with, the D.C. area is home to a bustling tech scene with new talent graduating every semester from local universities.
The metro area might not be as big of a tech hub as San Francisco or Seattle, but it’s growing fast with countless startups launching every month. These promising young companies are doing big things in their respective fields, each getting creative to solve problems or offer interesting new products to its customers. You may not have heard of them yet, but these startups are pioneers in their own right.
BUILT IN'S FUTURE 5 UP-AND-COMING D.C. STARTUPS, Q2 2022
- Azalio (HR Tech)
- Carafem (Healthtech)
- CarpeDM (Mobile App)
- OneVillage (Healthtech/Social Media)
- Meaningful Gigs (HR Tech)
Azalio is an employee scheduling and labor management app designed for convenience store and retail workforces. The company launched out of stealth earlier this year and replaces the paper and pencil scheduling system many managers at these stores have been using for decades.
“What was happening was managers were writing everything down on paper and then employees would have to come in to look up when they were working next. With that kind of method, there’s no communication happening and it’s not easy to ask for time off because you have to personally go talk to the managers,” Azalio co-founder and CEO Quratul-Ann Malik told Built In in an interview. “The idea behind Azalio was, ‘Can we help automate some [of] these processes so that it’s more enjoyable and transparent for both [the] employer and employees?’”
Azalio has a number of features that the company says are helping convenient store managers and franchise owners “sustainably tackle the Great Resignation.” With Azalio, managers can easily drag and drop employees into time slots.
On the employee side, workers easily clock in and out by taking a selfie on the Azalio app and can easily view upcoming shifts and tasks assigned by managers. The app also allows co-workers and managers to communicate with each other via its messaging feature, making it easy to ask for time off and swap shifts.
With the recent overturn of Roe vs Wade by the Supreme Court, abortion care providers are working harder than ever to help patients get the care they need regardless of their location. Carafem is one of those providers. The D.C.-based nonprofit offers comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including at-home telehealth abortion care.
While the organization provides a number of reproductive healthcare options, including birth control, family planning and STI and STD testing, carafem is best known for its medically supported at-home abortion options, something the organization doesn’t shy away from mentioning. Carafem’s marketing proudly proclaims, “Abortion. Yeah, we do that,” representing the organization’s unflinching dedication to making abortion care accessible and easier to talk about.
The startup offers abortion pills by mail in select states for those who are up to 11 weeks pregnant. Those eligible can schedule a telehealth consultation on the organization’s website, after which pills can be discretely delivered within one to three business days. Once the pill arrives, carefem’s AI-enabled text-based healthbot “Cara” guides patients through taking both pills and answers any questions they may have.
For those seeking abortion care outside of states where carefem is authorized, the organization still has resources to help patients recieve the care they need, including satellite sites near state borders.
When it comes to carafem’s future, the startup’s COO Melissa Grant told Built In the nonprofit “remains steadfast in continuing to provide abortion care and sexual and reproductive healthcare services to people who need them.”
CarpeDM is a dating service made for Black women professionals and singles seeking relationships with them. It combines the traditional, human-led matchmaking with the convenience of modern online dating. Instead of swiping for hours on end, users set their match requirements and are sent both handpicked and algorithm-created matches.
After matches are sent out, users decide who they’re interested in. If one user likes another, they have 48 hours to respond and if both like each other, that gets bumped up to 72 hours. Users respond via a five to 10-minute in-app video chat, after which both members must agree to remain matched in order to continue communicating.
“When I started CarpeDM, all I wanted was to make a better dating app. Now my mission and passion is so much greater than myself. I dream of the day we have our first CarpeDM engagement, marriage and baby,” CarpeDM CEO Naza Shelley told Built In in an email. “I’m excited to bring a service to market that I truly believe is superior to anything I’ve ever used, and I’ve used them all.”
While CarpeDM is currently only available to users in the D.C. metro, the company is soliciting suggestions for where it should take its platform next. Those who are interested outside of the D.C. area can sign up for a waitlist on the company’s website.
OneVillage is a community and product discovery platform for cancer patients. Founded by breast cancer survivor and venture capital investing veteran Ashley Yesayan, the platform allows users to quickly update their friends and family on their treatment, ask for support and meet other cancer patients to build community.
Similar to a Facebook group, OneVillage’s community platform allows users to meet and chat with others and attend discussions on various topics from navigating radiation treatment to managing symptoms and side effects.
“The groups also really help patients learn to advocate for themselves when it comes to their healthcare. What we’re finding in a lot of our discussion groups, is people are like, ‘I’m having this side effect [and] my doctor said, don’t worry about it.’ And other people will chime in and say ‘No, that’s what they told me for a year and here’s what you can do,’” Yesayan told Built In in an interview. “[OneVillage is] helping people find their voice by talking to other people who’ve been through it as well.”
The startup also makes it easy to discover and shop for products and services tailored for specific types of cancer and treatments. For example, if you’re looking for a gift for someone having a mastectomy, OneVillage might suggest an after-surgery pillow or mastectomy shirt. Users can even create registries of products or services that they need, making it easy for loved ones to lend support that’s actually useful.
Meaningful Gigs is a platform that connects designers in Africa with remote jobs at companies across the globe. The startup vets thousands of applicants for its network of designers living in Africa and connects approved talent with global companies looking for new, diverse employees.
One of the benefits of Meaningful Gigs’ network is that designers are able to set their own prices for freelance or long-term work.
“Meaningful Gigs ensures equity by asking the designers what they want to get paid. ... So the designers dictate how much their services are worth, and we also make sure that designers are at least receiving fair market rates for designers in the U.S.,” Meaningful Gigs co-founder and CEO Ronnie Kwesi told Built In in an email. “This means that they typically get three to four times what they would earn locally and some designers are even receiving seven to eight times [those rates].”
Within the network, members have access to various upskilling resources, allowing them to continue building their expertise. Meaningful Gigs’s goal is to create 100,000 full-time, part-time and freelance jobs for designers in Africa by 2028.