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Eleven leaders in tech — from high school students to large companies — were honored Thursday night during the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s annual awards gala.
The CBIC, a nonprofit council of technology-related businesses, organizes the gala every year to celebrate the area’s achievements in innovation.
“There’s so many things happening in Charlottesville, but it’s nowhere in one place,” said 2018 CBIC Student Entrepreneur of the Year Ashwinraj Karthikeyan. “Here, you can talk to all sorts of people doing really cool things in the entrepreneurial community.”
A recent graduate of the University of Virginia, Karthikeyan founded the chronic wound care company InMEDBio as a student. His award included a $1,000 grant.
More than 400 people attended the event at the Paramount Theater, which included a showcase of early-stage startups and an optional dance party.
“Two years ago, when I came to my first one of these, that’s where I met the person who helped make our first prototype,” said gala attendee Arjun Dirghangi while manning a table for his medical startup, Scanoptix.
To Casey Kerrigan, whose company OESH Shoes won Innovator of the Year, the award presents a chance to do some much-needed marketing.
“We’ve been spending so much time on the actual development and manufacturing that we haven’t gotten the word out,” Kerrigan said. “Maybe somebody who recommended us for the award has a pair of our sandals and that’s why.”
OESH Shoes draws on Kerrigan’s 20 years of research into gait as a medical professor. Now, as a full-time entrepreneur, Kerrigan uses 3-D printing to manufacture the shoes in Charlottesville.
The CBIC also recognized Charlie Rogers as the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year for founding RE Innovative Software Solutions. The company develops custom software for businesses and medical professionals.
“I definitely stand on the shoulders of giants,” Rogers said. “The first giant is the Lord, because only the Lord can take someone out of the projects that only has one pair of pants to wear for the whole year and put them on this stage.”
The gala particularly encourages innovation in education. This year’s speaker was Matt Shields, a Charlottesville High School engineering teacher who recently founded a business to help other schools adopt his hands-on learning model.
“If you’re in the audience right now, chances are some type of education worked out for you and you are doing great things. The growth of your companies — and probably the growth of this country — is going to depend on the next generation of students being prepared to work in your crazy companies,” Shields said.
Monticello High School senior Sophie Condron and Nelson County High junior Chloe Hellerman each won $2,500 scholarships. The scholarships were part of CBIC’s Tech Tour program, which introduces middle and high school students to local tech companies and career opportunities. Condron and Hellerman plan to pursue medicine and engineering, respectively, after high school.
The CBIC awarded $2,500 to 2018 Educator of the Year Chris Stanek, an environmental science teacher at Monticello High, to continue incorporating technology and entrepreneurship into his classroom.
The 2018 CBIC Business of the Year award went to Mikro Systems, which helps to manufacture parts for the aerospace, medical imaging and energy industries. Mikro has even developed a product that will orbit the sun on the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter satellite.
Solar was a theme of the evening, with Apex Clean Energy winning 2018 Job Creator of the Year. Apex designs and operates solar and wind power plants from New Mexico to Alberta. Since its founding in 2009, Apex has expanded into three office buildings in Charlottesville and is planning a new headquarters downtown.
“Charlottesville — the downtown, the city, people like you — makes it easy to sell. It’s an easy sell to bring people here and make them a part of this thriving community,” said Apex’s director of human resources, Eric Wampler, who accepted the award. “So, thank you.”
The Start-Up of the Year award went to Metis Machine, which helps customers to integrate artificial intelligence into their businesses and organizations. Volunteer of the Year went to event co-chairwoman Heidi Tombs. Tombs also runs the CBIC’s new summer intern program.
In addition, attendees voted to honor Tech Dynamism with the 2018 CBIC Social Good Award. Tech Dynamism designed Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Network2Work program, a mobile tool that connects local low-income families to high-quality jobs.