Tampa Bay-based firms that have created an immense impact in the community by building the ecosystem or helping solve issues employers face in challenging times were recognized Friday by Tampa Bay Tech.
The nonprofit technology council awarded firms and leaders awards during the annual Tampa Bay Tech summit at Armature Works.
Tampa Bay Tech received nearly 100 nominations this year for seven categories.
Here’s the rundown of the recipients and what they had to say:
Tech Company of the Year: OPSWAT
About: A cybersecurity firm that focuses on threat prevention and process creation for secure data transfers. The OPSWAT firm has made recent strides such as receiving its first equity investment and completing two acquisitions. OPSWAT has experienced a 200% employee growth.
What they had to say: “We are humbled to receive this recognition. What truly makes OPSWAT unique is our mission to protect critical infrastructure. These are technology solutions that protect over 1,500 customers. When you think about the challenge OPSWAT solves, we are truly protecting security for infrastructure that impacts things we do every day – your drinking water, the electricity for our home, the hospitals.”
Stephen Gorham has joined OPSWAT as CIO/Head of Global Operations.
Finalists: Nextech and Digital Hands
Tech Leader of the Year: Charlotte Baker, CEO and Founder of Digital Hands
About: Digital Hands is an enterprise-grade cybersecurity service and supports the mid-market and beyond. Under her leadership, Digital Hands gained national recognition. She has been named one of the most 50 powerful people on the Gulf Coast.
What she had to say: “As a tech leader, I spend my time with my head in the clouds and I love to dream and to dream about things that haven’t been that could be ways things that can be improved, innovations that can make a difference … I have to say this award is not solely mine. I’m under no mistaken impression that as a dreamer, it is the team that surrounds me that makes our company great. It’s the team that makes the leader.” Baker also gave a nod to the Tampa Bay Tech team and said, “there’s never been a better environment [and time] for which to thrive, make mistakes, get up and try again, start a company and grow a company beyond.”
Finalists: Avani Desai, CEO of Schellman & Co., and Elias Torres, CTO/Co-founder of Drift
Emerging Tech Leader of the Year: Brandon Redding, a senior account executive with Salesforce, and Jide Sofowora, a product manager with Jabil Inc.
About: Salesforce is a cloud-based software firm and Jabil is a manufacturing services company.
What Jill St. Thomas, Tampa Bay Tech CEO, said: “Both have been described to be passionate about technologies when they were very young, and now share a passion of how they can take what they’ve learned into their growing Tampa Bay careers and give back. Both have worked at organizations big and small from startups to global brands you would recognize … this past year, they joined forces to co-chair Tampa Bay Tech’s Emerging Leaders Council.”
Finalists: Judah Longgrear with Nickelytics and Saxon Baum with Florida Funders
Tech Project of the Year: Accusoft
About: Accusoft is a privately held software company. During the pandemic, the company developed a system to help companies track vaccination records, exemption requests, Covid test results, health screenings and wellness status for employees. Their customer base has grown by 200% this year.
What he said: “For 30 years we’ve been in Tampa Bay. We are really proud of that,” said Steve Wilson, president of the OnTask division of Accusoft.
Finalists: Spirion and Nextech
Emerging Tech Company of the Year: Chattr
About: Chattr is a firm that uses an automated hiring software system that’s powered by artificial intelligence that manages the hiring process from a job posting to the offer.
What he said: “It’s been an amazing year. We really do wake up obsessed every single morning to help the services [companies] with hiring. I’m sure everyone has been to a Dunkin’ or some sort of fast-food restaurant, retail store and sees the sign that says ‘hey, sorry that we are understaffed.’ It’s a big industry problem and we are super passionate about making that happen [staffing them],” Chattr CEO Jim Schimpf said.
Finalists: Blockspaces and Truststate
Bridge Builder of the Year: Bobby Ceklic with New Horizons Tampa Bay
About: The Bridge Builder award is a new award created to recognize someone in the community who was dedicated to building a tech ecosystem while in the midst of the pandemic when many people felt disconnected. New Horizons is an industry-leading technical training that delivers the most relevant and intuitive computer courses and certifications. It’s staffed largely by veterans. Their mission is to help military veterans transition to civilian life through career opportunities in cybersecurity and tech.
What he said: “This really goes out to the team – 80% veterans. You guys are doing amazing work.”
Finalists: Erica Woods with Tech4Good/Apex Systems and Jesus Vidaurri with U.S. Digital Service
Community Dedication and Leadership Award winner: Scott Price, CEO of A-LIGN
About: Price had identified a hole in the market and found a cybersecurity company long before cybersecurity was a household term. That vision turned into one of the fastest-growing companies in Tampa, A-LIGN. The company provides cybersecurity compliance assessments to a number of Fortune 500 companies and others. This year, A-LIGN received a $54.5 million investment from New York-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus. A-LIGN is likely to become the next unicorn company in Tampa. He has made vast contributions in the tech community serving with multiple groups and is involved with educational initiatives.
What he said: “I remember meeting with Tom Wallace [Managing Partner at Florida Funders] after I sold my first company on what I should do next … he didn’t know me but offered to open doors for me. Linda Olson [CEO and Founder at Tampa Bay Wave] brings the energy to open a thousand doors. She gives me an overabundance of credit for the cybersecurity accelerator. She and her team are the driving force behind the program. The immediate past winner, Steve MacDonald, hired me to provide cybersecurity compliance services for his then small company – myMatrixx – A-LIGN was much smaller at that time. He opened doors for me and he allowed our firm to go upmarket to the parent company that acquired his company … my purpose in sharing these stories is these leaders opened doors for us and our community to walk through. Let us be the leaders to open doors for others to walk through.”