A brief history of the Moxie Awards

by Sam Dewey
April 21, 2017

“This is f---ing incredible.”

That’s how Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney put it in 2012 after picking up an award for CEO of the Year at the very first Moxie Awards.

“When Mike [Evans] and I started Grubhub back in 2004, this community didn’t exist. The community, though it was nascent when we started, has grown and amplified over the years and it’s been really exciting to watch it grow,” he said at the time.

Fast forward a few years, and the community Maloney was so energized by has evolved into something even more powerful. There are thousands of digital tech companies in Chicago, many of which are backed by local investors who have have seen the city through some record-breaking years of fundraising. Tech organizations like 1871 and Techstars Chicago are stronger than ever, with bootcamps, meetups, coworking spaces and hackathons popping up left and right for techies of all interests, backgrounds, and creeds.

Presented by Built In Chicago, the Moxie Awards is a night dedicated to the world-changing innovation that’s being built right here at home. From established tech leaders who laid the foundation for the community’s success to scrappy newcomers who are hungry to prove themselves, we’re tipping our hats to the palpable levels of imagination, talent, potential and grit spreading their roots and planting their seeds in the city.

Nominations for this year's Moxie Awards are open now. Mark your calendars for June 7, and we'll see you at Morgan Manufacturing!

In the meantime, enjoy our look back at some of the highlights from year’s past.


  • Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee pick up awards for best Startup Founder or Co-founder. Code Academy (now part of Fullstack Academy) tacks on another two Moxies: Best Educational or Recruitment Startup and Best Bootstrapped Startup.

  • Desiree Vargas Wrigley takes home two awards: Tech Woman of the Year and Best Consumer Web Startup. GiveForward won an additional award in 2013.

  • Grubhub wins its first two Moxies: CEO of the Year and Breakthrough Digital Company of the Year. The company would go on to receive three more, including two in 2015 for Beth Birnbaum (Woman in Tech) and Brian Lanier (CTO of the Year).

  • Dylan Richard wins the award for Best Beard.

See all of the 2012 winners here.


  • Harper Reed takes home CTO of the Year for his work on the Obama for America campaign.

  • SpotHero takes home Best Consumer Web Startup, which it would go on to win again in 2014. SpotHero also won Startup of the Year in 2015.

  • Belly brings its Moxie total to three, and Branchfire takes home two Moxie Awards for Mobile App of the Year and Best Bootstrapped Startup.  

See all of the 2013 winners here.


  • Sprout Social ups its total Moxie count to four. The social media management startup had previously won in 2013 for Best Software Company and in 2012 for Best Mobile App.

  • After winning the award for Best Software Company, Signal takes the lead in total Moxie Awards won by an individual company, with six in total. The company and its leaders have won awards across the board, including CEO and CTO of the Year as well as Best New Startup.

  • Civis Analytics wins Best New Startup, and Jimmy Odom, Daniela Bolzmann and Kirk Lashley receive awards for Best Startup Co-founders for WeDeliver.

See all of the 2014 winners here.


  • Rise Interactive takes home a Moxie Award for Digital Agency of the Year — its third consecutive win in that category. (Rise goes on to win the award again in 2016.)

  • Jellyvision wins big, receiving trophies for Best Software Company, Best Company Culture and CEO of the Year for Amanda Lannert. Lannert also took home the award in 2014.

  • Avant and Uptake win for Breakthrough Digital Company of the Year and Best New Startup, respectively. Both companies are considered “tech unicorns,” and both are younger than the Moxies themselves.

See all of the 2015 winners here.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaTKkQbGefU width:600 autoplay:0]


  • Uptake follows up 2015's Best New Startup award with the 2016 Moxie Awards for Startup of the Year and Breakthrough Digital Company.
  • DRIVIN lands the Moxie Award for Best New Startup.
  • The individual awards for Woman in Tech and CEO of the Year are brought home by Jellyvision's Amanda Lannert and Outcome Health's Rishi Shah, respectively.

See all of the 2016 winners here.

Thanks — as always — to our sponsors who make the Moxie Awards possible.

Nominations are open for this year's Moxie Awards. Make yours today, and we'll see you on June 7 at Morgan Manufacturing!

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