Ah, awards season. My inbox is full of invitations these days from this group or that handing out another slice of credibility in the marketplace.
I’m a sucker for such do’s, if only because everyone is usually in a good mood and well lubricated and — if I am lucky — just a little chatty.
Last week, I made my way to the Tech Council of Maryland’s annual fete at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. The place was chockablock when I arrived; organizers said the event drew more than 850 people, a bump up from last year, which was an increase from the year before.
The Tech Council has been going through a transition in recent years, having merged separate organizations representing the region’s tech and biotech communities. But on Tuesday night it was all one big happy family.
There were all the trappings of an awards-fest: an open bar, twirling spotlights, an energetic after-dinner dance number and an introductory pep talk by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who reminded the crowd he will formally approve plans soon to launch a new $75 million fund to invest in promising young tech companies.
Some of the winners I was familiar with, and some not.
Peter Buzy, the chief financial officer, treasurer and executive vice president for finance at Martek Biosciences, was named chief financial officer of the year. That’s what happens when you manage the financials for a home-grown Maryland company that turns algae into a nutritional supplement, and winds up being bought for $1.1 billion.
I never met the executive of the year, Moe Abutaleb, or his company, UltiSat, which just goes to show I need to get out more. UltiSat, as it happens, is a growing satellite communications company in Gaithersburg. And, surprisingly for the industry it is in, it claims to be debt free. Abutaleb is the co-founder and chief executive.
Vaccinemaker Novavax won the biotech firm of the year; Aegis Mobile, a wireless services company, was picked as the high-tech firm of the year.
I’ve met the Aegis folks but the tiny company is hardly a household name. I left the banquet thinking maybe an award or two more would change that.