Tuesday night’s WRAL TechWire Awards were as much a celebration of the Triangle’s progress as a tech hub as recognition of the impressive technology companies and executives here.
A sold out crowd gathered at Google Fiber’s new space in Raleigh for the annual event, which featured the typical enterprise, startup and Editor’s Choice awards, as well as a new Hall of Fame with five inaugural members. But a theme of progress persisted as awards were presented and The Pink Ceiling’s Cindy Whitehead gave her keynote address.
The lineup of Hall of Famers showed the Triangle’s strong legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its ranking near the top of many national lists, spotlighted by Whitehead, shows its strong reputation today. And the future seems just as bright as people like Whitehead work to elevate the region’s brand nationally and leaders like startup executive winner Tatiana Birgisson of Mati Energy and startup director winner Chris Chuang of Republic Wireless emerge.
WRAL TechWire (also owned by ExitEvent parent company Capitol Broadcasting) broke its own news of progress at the event as well. It plans to unveil a new website with additional features to promote video and multimedia. The team will remove the paywall, and reveal new partnerships around the state.
ExitEvent was honored to be asked to present the startup category awards at the event. Read about those winners below (and the finalists here), and browse some photos (thanks to WRAL). For a full list of winners, visit WRAL TechWire.
Fastest Growing: Eco-site
This Durham-based wireless tower solutions company just landed a $50 million investment from Guggenheim Partners earlier this month. The global investment firm is also acting as administrative agent and lead arranger with the fast-growing startup. Eco-Site builds, owns and operates wireless communications sites and systems for real estate properties, so carriers can offer better network coverage in desirable areas.
Most Steady: Republic Wireless
Raleigh-headquartered WiFi calling carrier Republic Wireless is driven by a mission to make smartphone features affordable and accessible to everyone, through inexpensive mobile devices and flexible coverage plans. Last year, Republic raised $30 million in growth capital and celebrated the win in December by dropping prices on new phones and offering customers six months of contract-free, no-cost service. It’s a spin off company from Bandwidth, another 2017 WRAL TechWire Awards competitor in the enterprise sector.
Best Emerging: Roundtable Analytics
Roundtable aims to help emergency departments improve their performance by eliminating trial and error. This means offering customers on-demand simulation strategies that turn data into action, mapping out patient flow solutions, reducing walkout rates, strengthening emergency assistance teams and ultimately increasing profitability by meeting demands of patients. The company recently raised $1 million in private equity funding and won Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Science Foundation.
Top Startup Director: Chris Chuang of Republic Wireless
After serving in multiple executive roles at Raleigh’s Bandwidth since 2008, including helping to launch the wi-fi mobile phone service, Chuang led the spin off of Republic Wireless in December 2016. Armed with $30 million in capital from Bandwidth and 2016 revenues of $100 million, he’s leading a 160-person team on Centennial Campus that’s competing with Google’s Project Fi to provide fast, reliable and affordable mobile phone service nationally.
Top Startup Executive Leader: Tatiana Birgisson of Mati Energy
She’s well-known in the startup community as a resourceful startup leader, creating her healthy, tea-infused energy drink brand out of a dorm room at Duke University and finding innovative ways to compete in the beverage industry. Birgisson made Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list this year.
Top Startup Founder/Investor: Mark Easley of Gold Hat Advisors
Easley has more than 20 years of experience in multiple tech industries, including engineering, marketing, sales and executive management in semiconductor companies PLX Technology, Adaptec, Intel and HP, according to his LinkedIn profile. Now, he’s an advisor and angel investor to startups like Malartu, Groundfloor, Rocketbolt and Freedom. He’s also an advocate of crowdfunding, working to get North Carolina’s intrastate crowdfunding bill passed last year.
Editor’s Choice: Doug Speight of Cathedral Leasing
This FinTech startup founder, UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate and Durham native made his way back home to North Carolina in recent years to build a startup that brings B2B equipment leasing online. Besides building his company over the last year, he’s served as an entrepreneur-in-residence focused on diversity and inclusion efforts at American Underground through its Google for Entrepreneurs and CODE2040 partnership. He helped organize last year’s Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Program and recently hosted a conversation with entertainment exec and entrepreneur Walter Latham.
Editor’s Choice: NC PACES Team
A pair of lawyers and an angel investor worked tirelessly over several years to get last year’s crowdfunding bill passed and rules surrounding it written. TechWire Editor Rick Smith recognized Benji Jones of Smith Anderson law firm, Jim Verdonik of Ward and Smith law firm and Mark Easley, an active angel investor, for their efforts bringing intrastate crowdfunding to North Carolina.
Photos of the Hall of Famers:
Shannon Cuthrell contributed.