Update: The NC Tech Madness bracket is live! Make your first round picks here by midnight March 17!

Editor’s note: ExitEvent is excited to bring this contest to life alongside Adzerk! Chris brought the idea to us earlier this year and we loved seeing someone so new to the community wanting to get engaged. Read his story below, and get excited for what we hope will be a new annual tradition to compliment all the NCAA tournament hype each March. Nominate your favorite local startups, and please vote!

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Nine months ago, I left Boston and moved to the Triangle without a job, house or car. While I had enjoyed my six years doing startup marketing there, Boston—blanketed by snow and with too many tourists jokingly saying “Pahhk the Cahh in Hahhvahhd Yahhd”—no longer felt like home.

When deciding where to move, Raleigh-Durham intrigued me because underneath its shell of warm weather and friendly folks lives a robust entrepreneurial scene. For example, in my job search I compiled a list of 750 possible companies to apply to in the area, and even after whittling those down, was left with 200. (In comparison, Charlottesville, my second choice, had 10.)

In August I joined Adzerk, an amazing software company in Durham. And since then I’ve explored and loved the tech culture here. It’s much different from Boston—friendlier, more approachable and warmer. It could be the stereotypical “southern hospitality”, or the lack of chest-puffing that a big VC scene creates, but I think what separates the Triangle, at least to a newbie like myself, is its honest “a rising tide lifts all boats” mentality.

You can see that in ExitEvent’s existence, in the sincere enthusiasm of people at networking meetups, and in the growth of tech workspaces like Durham’s American Underground, Nest Raleigh and RTP’s Frontier.

In many ways, being in tech here with its many growing and nascent companies is like being a child again, where everything has an air of “newness” and therefore a special wonder to it. Like children on a playground, you have a strong desire to play with everyone, because if they have fun, so will you.

This energy is endearing, but it needs to be harnessed to continue to grow. To that end, ExitEvent and Adzerk are hosting North Carolina’s first “Tech Madness” tournament—a friendly competition highlighting some of NC’s most promising tech brands.

This is an idea that stems from a similar event run over the last several years by BostInno in Boston. Our hope with Tech Madness is to remind the community that the Triangle (and NC as a whole) is freaking awesome. Sure, we may not be San Francisco or NYC, but do we want to be? Rather than worrying how we stack up to other tech locations, it’s important we instead recognize just how big, how diverse and how thriving we are.

Logistically, we’ll start with 64 companies and create a winner-take-all bracket format just like March Madness. In each “game”, voters pick which of the two companies they think has more growth potential over the next five years. The company with more votes moves on. In the first round there are 32 match-ups to vote on, 16 in the 2nd, and so on.

It’s open voting, so the winners are selected by the community at large. Feel free to ask friends, family and coworkers to vote each round! The voting will also mirror the real March Madness. After each round, we’ll update you with the winners and next voting deadlines. Expect some fun commentary on the most contentious match-ups too.

As for picking the companies, we want your input. Nominate any company you want via this form by midnight on Thursday, March 9. We’ll then tally the votes, look at other factors including funding, size, etc, and then seed 64 teams based on these metrics. Regardless of seed, though, everyone has a chance to be the Tech Madness winner!

We’ll unveil the first-ever NC Tech Madness bracket on Tuesday, March 14. That’s when voting begins. So let’s have fun and may the most promising company win!

Nominate a company or enter yours here.