Despite Slow Economy, Six County Companies Are Posterchildren for Growth

The annual SAMCEDA Awards of Excellence honored businesses for their innovation and impact on the community.

While numbers and statistics may reflect the , six individual San Mateo County companies proved that business was still thriving along the Peninsula. At the Oracle conference center, the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA) honored the business community at its annual Awards of Excellence for its continuing innovation and entrepreneurship in these difficult economic times.

The successes of a wide range of businesses demonstrated that all sectors—from biotech to social media—were capable of growing even in a slow economy.

“The one commonality that I’ve noticed in all the CEOs’ descriptions of their companies is the word ‘growing,’” SAMCEDA president and CEO Rosanne Foust said. “The future of San Mateo County is in this room.”

Redwood City company Zamzee uses teenagers’ obsession with online games to combat the growing obesity plague that has cost the healthcare industry $150 billion. The online rewards program encourages teens to engage in more physical activity in exchange for currency at the online Zamzee store, according to CEO Jonathan Attwood. By simply carrying around a flashdrive-sized device that tracks their movement, teens increase their movement by 30 percent each month, the equivalent of running a marathon.

Redwood-City based embraces globalization and connects employers to contractors from around the world. oDesk CEO Gary Swart used his own company as an example, saying it hired a stay-at-home mom in Tennessee to manage a remote team.

San Mateo-based Digital Chocolate has seized opportunity with one of the fastest growing markets: social games. “We’re capitalizing on this migration of hardcore gamers and recognizing the growing demand,” said CEO Trip Hawkins, who also founded Electronic Arts and calls San Mateo “my town.”

Another San Mateo-based company, SugarSync, recognizes the growing number of smartphones, laptops and tablets that the average person owns.

“You no longer ever have to worry about forgetting an important document ever again,” said CEO Laura Yecies. “We store everything in the cloud so you don’t have to worry about it.”

Redwood City-based Genomic Health has been improving the quality of cancer treatment since 2000. The company has created a diagnostic test that could identify the 15 percent of women would might experience recurring cancer. This eliminates unnecessary chemotherapy treatment for the 85 percent of women who could forego the painful procedure.

Lunera Lighting in Redwood City provided the bright panels on the stage that illuminated all the winners. The Environmental Innovator winner is leading the transition from traditional fluorescent lights to more energy-efficient LED technology.

Sitting in the Oracle conference room weren’t just businesspeople and entrepreneurs preaching to the choir. Elected officials and education board members were also in attendance, including San Mateo County Schools Superintendent Anne Campbell, Superintendent James Lianides and Superintendent Jan Christensen.

“We are also recognizing the intersection of business and government,” said SAMCEDA Chairman of the Board Steve Mincey. “Just looking at all the elected officials here. We can see that they’re setting the right environment to rev up our communities.”

Award Winners:

  • Genomic Health, Redwood City: Biotech Innovator
  • Lunera Lighting, Redwood City: Environmental Innovator
  • Zamzee, Redwood City: Aspiring Innovator
  • oDesk, Redwood City: Fastest Growing Innovator
  • Digital Chocloate, San Mateo: Social Media/Entertainment Innovator
  • SugarSync, San Mateo: Technology Innovator
  • Steve Westly, founder of clean technology-oriented venture capital firm The Westly Group: David D. Bohannon Memorial Award of Excellence, Menlo Park


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