Geographically, Silicon Valley may reside in Santa Clara County. But on Friday afternoon, the true stars of innovation hailed from San Mateo County companies.
The San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA) honored six companies for their vision and impact on their respective industries, from green technology to social gaming. Attendees at the annual 2012 Awards of Excellence included several elected officials and key players from the private sector.
Keynote Speaker Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recognized innovation as one of the pillars of society that keep the community strong and progressive. In her speech, she traveled centuries back in time to reference the Founding Fathers as the first innovators, embedding innovation into our country’s heritage.
“It’s in the DNA of the American people,” she said.
Eshoo credited these start-ups for providing job opportunities that continue to drive down the county’s unemployment figure to approximately 7 percent.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these companies,” she said. “Their visions persisted amongst all the difficulties of starting a company.”
SAMCEDA Executive Director Rosanne Foust also championed the business community and identified innovation as an economic priority. Innovation allows creative minds to take existing challenges in the world and continue to iterate solutions, she said.
“So I invite you all to join us,” Foust said. “Be a part of the innovation here in San Mateo County.”
The 2012 Award Winners:
RockYou, Social Media/Entertainment
RockYou has produced some of the most addictive online games in the market, like Gourmet Ranch and Zoo World. But for the Redwood City-based company, these aren’t just games. They’re an opportunity for advertisers to interact with the players during the game, creating a more meaningful experience.
“All boats will rise,” said CEO Lisa Marino of the benefit for players, advertisers and developers alike.
Because of the millions of eyeballs on the games, companies like RockYou have an incredible opportunity to provide messages and become content distributors. Marino said the company could be the pioneers of advertising in this field.
Only 2 to 3 percent of players actually pay, according to Marino, so the advertisers have an enormous opportunity to target the free users.
The Redwood Shores-based company has been creating games across a multitude of platforms including iPhone, iPod Touch and Android to ensure that most smart phone owners can play its games.
CEO and co-founder Perry Tam said that these games encourage people to be social because it involves interaction with others, in contrast to many solitary games in the market now.
The most popular games include World War, iMobsters, Pet Shop Story, and Bakery Story.
Tam said the company decides a game concept after much research and analysis of trends.
“We look at the research up, down and sideways to make sure it’s what people will want to play,” he said.
Storm8 has accumulated more than 210 million downloads across more than 58 million devices and is continuing to grow.
Every year, hundreds of thousands die worldwide because of the lack of antibiotics for multi-drug resistant bacteria like K. pneumonia and E.coli. South San Francisco-based Achaogen seeks to solve this problem in an industry “that has a shortage of innovation,” said Eliana Armstrong, Achaogen’s Director of Microbiology.
“Pharmacies don’t see the research as lucrative,” Armstrong said. “So we’re definitely not in it for the money.”
The company is currently in Phase II of receiving approval from the FDA and anticipates it will complete the final Phase in 2015.
By using their web browsers, radio listeners can effectively take over a radio station in real-time. In 20 different radio stations across the country, San Mateo-based Jelli allows users to determine exactly what is played.
“It’s bringing democracy back to the FM waves,” said CEO Jateen Parekh.
In a music era when most people already have control of what they listen to via iPods and set music lists, Jelli is able to convert listeners back to the radio.
Good bye to the days of the DJs and hello to listeners running the show.
Trilliant, Green Innovator
Redwood City-based Trilliant is ensuring that electric utilities can have two-way communication throughout the electric grid. Utility companies now have the ability to community from the head-end operations center to all devices on the grid, like meters and in-home energy management.
Trilliant CEO and President Andrew White explained that they use public and private networks to gain a robust mesh of networks.
Marketo, Fastest Growing
The San Mateo-based company is changing the way marketing and sales departments interact with each other. Traditionally, marketing employees send any and all leads to the sales people, who often feel inundated by the information, said Jen Howard of Marketing Communications. Marketo’s software prioritizes which leads are most optimal and can bring in revenue.
“It really empowers the marketing people because they can now contribute to the revenue side,” Howard said.
Rather than viewed as a cost setter, marketers can become revenue generators, she said.
The company has seen 1400 percent growth since it first launched in 2008.
Clients range from healthcare companies to schools.
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