You hear a lot about two types of startups in this town — the young and scrappy early stagers, those who are just making their mark with a seed round and a dream, and successful exiters, the Red Hats and the iContacts and what have you.

It’s rare that we shine a light on the hard-working money-makers, because those stories just aren’t that sexy. Yet. Even in drama-starved RTP, where we’re always caught somewhere between up-and-coming and best-place-to-quietly-grow-old, we still get our heads turned by new and flashy or huge wads of cash.


But CED has an award program that portends to trump sexy, shining the proverbial spotlight (and celebrating with a fancy-pants $125 a plate dinner) on 25 North Carolina startups who are in the vaunted second stage.

While we’re at it, total disclaimer, even though I think in the RTP this kind of disclaimer is right up there next to useless, I was the first management hire at Automated Insights almost two years ago.

This is actually a really great thing, in terms of making sure that tabs are kept on our second market second-stage startups as they sweat and bleed from that exciting early place to that exciting final place. Almost every single one of last year’s winners are still slogging it out in the trenches, where sure, you’ve heard of them (Lone Rider, Geomagic, etc.) but they still haven’t broken out into the stratosphere.

These are the heroes of the second market. These are our mentors, our repeat offenders, our potential entrepreneurs-in-residence, dare I say our board members. If we here in the RTP sit around waiting for all the successful exit entrepreneurs to start pulling everyone forward, we’re going to be waiting a long time.

Nah, our second-stagers get the lucky added-bonus of the weight of the ecosystem perched squarely on their shoulders before they’ve raised their first eight-figure round.

So let’s hope a few of them do break out this year, and, for good measure, a few of this year’s winners do as well. I for one know of a scrappy sports-analytics website turned automated artificial intelligence groundbreaker that has some exciting prospects on the horizon.

Here are this year’s winners. Rock on folks:

6Fusion (Raleigh)
ACF Technologies, Inc. (Asheville)
Advanced Liquid Logic, Inc. (Research Triangle Park)
Amidon Contracting Solutions, Inc. (Youngsville)
Argand Energy Solutions (Charlotte)
Argyle Social (Durham)
Automated Insights, Inc. (Durham)
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc. (Moravian Falls)
Combat Medical Systems (Fayetteville)
d-Wise Technologies (Raleigh)
EvoApp (Durham)
Infina Connect Healthcare Systems, Inc. (Cary)
Intelligent Access Systems (Garner)
Mariner Container, LLC (Granite Falls)
Mother Earth Brewing (Kinston)
Netsertive, Inc. (Research Triangle Park)
PharPoint Research, Inc. (Durham)
Prometheus Group (Raleigh)
Relevance, Inc. (Durham)
Smarter Systems (Charlotte)
Southern Fasteners and Supply, Inc. (Winston-Salem)
The Mother Earth Group, Inc. (Charlotte)
Valencell, Inc. (Raleigh)
XS, Inc. (Morrisville)
Zift Solutions, Inc. (Durham)