Last night, the fifth annual Moxie Awards came to a close, with Chicago's hottest digital tech companies coming together to celebrate a year's worth of innovation, success, and sheer hard work. Throughout the night (and afterward) attendees took to social media to show off some love for the city's tech scene. (We also had some awesome photographers on site — check out their photos from the night here).
Though there could only be 14 winners, the nominees represent the top-tier digital tech companies that Chicago has to offer.
Without further ado, here are you 2016 Moxie Award winners:
Best Consumer Web
If you had the chance to walk a mile in any founder’s shoes, your best bet might just be Raaja Nemani or Aaron Firestein, co-founders of Chicago-based BucketFeet — and not just because you’d be rocking the hottest kicks in the room. Over the past five years, BucketFeet has built a veritable shoe empire: online sales have skyrocketed, brick-and-mortar stores have begun to pop up like summer dandelions, and they’ve built a truly global community of customers, artists, and fans who now walk with a little more spring in their steps.
Best B2B Startup
Strike only moved its headquarters to Chicago earlier this year, but the data-driven adtech company is already finding itself at home. To be sure, the company has had offices in the city for over a year, but the move from Los Angeles acts as a reminder of the strength of Chicago’s tech scene. “There’s a lot of good talent here,” said co-founder Mark Shore at the time of the move. “It’s probably the best combination of both advertising and technology. It’s one of the greatest advertising cities in the world, and it’s just a booming tech city as well. So it’s kind of a perfect storm for us.”
Best New Startup
If there’s one thing this car-tech startup knows well, it’s (fittingly) acceleration. Having launched in just July of last year, DRIVIN has already raced to the top of our list of Chicago’s most exciting startups. In about a year, the company — whose tech platform uses data to help car dealers find, source, and ship prime inventory — saw two separate rounds (the first for $10 million; the second, $7.5). They’re hiring aggressively, and if things go according to plan, they just might be the new face of Chicago tech.
Startup of the Year
By just about everyone’s standards, Uptake’s 2015 was one for the books. Incorporated in 2014, the stealthy predictive analytics startup began to pique interest in March of last year following a minority investment by Caterpillar. By June, they’d snagged their first Moxie Award for Best New Startup. Come October, they’d breached 300 employees and raised $45 million — enough to value the company at a spectacular $1 billion. Not one to end on a bad note, Uptake was named the Forbes Hottest New Startup by year’s end.
Best Social Impact Startup
Zero Percent’s platform aims to connect grocery stores and restaurants with Chicagoland nonprofits so that fresh, nutritious, and excess food stays out of the dumpster and on the plates of those in need, regardless of location or socio-economic status. So far, the company has rescued more than 1.1 million meals from over 100 local businesses and delivered it to some 70-plus charities in Chicago.
Most Disruptive Startup
VISANOW is disrupting one of the most antiquated, bureaucratic, painful, and confusing issues facing the 21st century today: immigration processes. In concert with a cream-of-the-crop legal team, VISANOW’s technology helps individuals applying for visas save time, money, and unnecessary stress. Their tech-first, streamlined process helps reunite families, connect businesses with talent, and support individuals as they see their dreams realized.
Digital Agency of the Year
Talk about a sweep. For the fourth year in a row, Rise Interactive has taken home to coveted prize for Digital Agency of the year. The company, which was founded back in 2004, is pushing the boundaries of digital marketing, media, analytics, and customer experience — and saw their team grow by more than 80 percent last year alone.
Best B2B Company
The past 12 months were transformative for Yello, a B2B software innovator for talent acquisition and hiring processes — and not just because of their shiny rebrand. In the past year, they also grew their headcount by an impressive 150 percent, watched their customer base grow to over 70 Fortune 500 companies, and tacked on an addition $5 million in funding, to boot.
Best Consumer Web
You’d be hard-pressed to talk Chicago tech without tipping your hat to online loan provider Avant, a four-year-old startup that’s taken the city by storm since its launch in 2012. Providing installment loans and lines of credit to middle-class borrowers with scores just below prime, Avant leans on machine-learning algorithms to better assess risk. With more than $2 billion in funding, hundreds of employees, and a valuation of over $1 billion, it’s safe to expect big things from Avant in the coming year.
Best Office Space
Boasting 58,000 square feet, SAP’s Fieldglass is truly a sight to behold. But don’t take our word for it — here’s what Rob Brimm, President, Fieldglass had to say when we profiled their space a few months back:
“When SAP Fieldglass relocated to our new headquarters on Canal Street, we made it a top priority to create a space that embodies our company culture and cultivates an open workspace,” he said. “With the changing dynamic of the traditional office and the technology innovations that have allowed employees the flexibility to work remotely, our goal was to create an environment that inspires our employees in every way. I’ve talked to so many people that have said many times they would rather come into the office even when given the option to work from home. That was our number one goal and I’m excited that we’ve achieved that. Of course, the porch swings, beer garden happy hours and shark tank-inspired conference rooms don’t hurt either.”
Best Company Culture
There’s much to be said about the award-winning, people-first culture that’s been built at kCura of the years, but if we’re being honest, the company says it best itself: “Ask us ‘why kCura?’ We say, ‘our people.’ kCura is a team of passionate tech and business geeks solving data challenges, big and small. We are grounded in our community, living our core values from day one. What else makes us stand out? Clear communication: check. Accountability: check. Professional growth: check. Killer Queen: check.”
Breakthrough Digital Company
By our count, Uptake was the fastest company in Chicago’s history to reach “unicorn” status, or a tech company whose market value sits at or above $1 billion — and only the third one in all of Illinois. Founded by serial entrepreneurs and Chicago tech pioneers Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, the company is poised to leave lasting marks on the size and strength of Chicago tech proper.
Woman in Tech, Amanda Lannert, CEO
After winning a Moxie for CEO of the Year for the past two years running, Amanda Lannert went home with a different statue this year. The celebrated Jellyvision CEO won in the Woman in Tech category — a category she said she was humbled to be part of when it comes to the outstanding tech companies lead by women in Chicago.
CEO of the Year, Rishi Shah
Congratulations to all of the winners!