Last year, two Madison entrepreneurs created the Wisconsin Innovation Awards with a concept to bring together innovative thought leaders across the state and celebrate Wisconsin creativity. The bar was set high, with Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E Cheese hosting and sharing stories of how he placed Steve Jobs on the night shift due to coworker complaints. Tuesday met and exceeded expectations.
On Tuesday, business, civic and non-profit innovators gathered for the presentation of ten coveted light bulbs, which symbolize new market products and services. More importantly, the event was a rare showcase where companies throughout the state gather, network, and share stories.
While our guest speaker of evening, Paul Grangaard, CEO of Allen Edmonds, was no Bushnell, he did provided a down-to-earth, employee-centric vision to which most in the room could aspire. I was sitting next to a founder of a Madison company who hung on every word. Plus, we both decided to purchase a pair of Allen Edmonds.
Some of the picks were easy: Exact Sciences in biotechnology, and BrightStar Wisconsin in nonprofit with Epiphany Learning winning the popular vote. The CAMP app, built by our own Hardin developers won Red Card Media their first Wisconsin Innovation Award in the B2B category. The competition for consumer products and manufacturing was formidable, and any of the finalists deserved hardware.
This was a night of celebration -since innovation is tough. Most companies struggled to survive. Yet, of the ten award winners in 2014, all ten are still around in 2015.