Friday Sep 13, 2013 by Dennis Keohane - Staff Writer, VentureFizz
It was a great night at the Seaport Westin as many of the superstars of Boston's tech ecosystem gathered for an evening of awards and a celebration of some of the areas most important innovators.
The highlight of the evening was the talk given by 2013 Commonwealth Award winner Ray Ozzie. Ozzie is best known for creating Lotus Notes and for his various roles at Microsoft, including taking over as the company's Chief Software Architect after Bill Gates.
In his speech, Ozzie talked about his long career at the forefront of technology, especially as tech (and Massachusetts) transitioned through various stages of innovation. "I've been fortunate enough in my career, because I like to build things, to have seen different waves of computing in our industry," Ozzie said.
"When I came out here [around 1969], it was during the transition from the mainframe era to the mini era. I was fortunate enough to be part of the transformation from the main[frame] era to the PC era, and then from the PC era to the network PC/cloud server era, and of course the web era."
"This is what I love about tech," Ozzie explained, "as long as you stay engaged, there is always something amazing to work on."
"I really can't believe the period that we are in right now, it's more exciting than any of those past eras," he added.
"There is so much out there and there is so much opportunity for Massachusetts because of the natural flow of talent that comes out of the universities.
"I think that people forget that this natural resource of the university system keeps things fresh in a way that other areas don't have."
Ozzie took a few minutes during his talk to discuss some of his concerns with the role of technology and society.
"I was born in '55. I lived during the Cold War. Around me were the echoes of the time that I was living through: McCarthyism, the damage that J. Edgar Hoover did to the credibility of the federal government by abusing the surveillance capabilities," he said. "We read Orwell in school and really talked about what it meant because it was a relevant topic."
"Right now," Ozzie said, "we are in a really interesting discussion out there and technology is a core part of the discussion. I have a little bit of a fear, and that fear is complacency. The tech industry tends to build things and move them ahead, and I love that, I love that about technology. But we are building the surveillance tools, we are building the technology that can easily bring things forward."
Ozzie continued, "I think its incumbent upon us to think, do we want to be the builders of technology that is privacy-enhancing technology or do we want to be careless about it and not think about the data exhaust our systems are generating."
"I really think," he concluded, "that this audience, this group could do society a great service by paying attention to what's going on in the news cycle."
Tom Menino was awarded the 2013 Policy Leader of the Year, but couldn't be there to accept the award. In his place, Boston's Chief Innovation Officer, Bill Oates accepted his award and thanked the audience for all their work driving innovation forward in the city.
The 2013 Workforce Development Leader of the Year was Elaine Mistretta, a math, computer sciences, and robotics teacher at Haverhill High School.
Some of the most competitive award categories offered some surprises as Infinio beat out Hadapt and Stackdriver to win the "Best Startup of the Year," and Jonathan Bush of Athenahealth won the "CEO of the Year" besting Art Papas of Bullhorn, Care.com's Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Jeremy Hitchcock of Dyn and TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the evening (although appropriate and well-deserved at the same time) was uTest winning the "Private Company of the Year" against a stacked field of finalists that included HubSpot, Wayfair, and Actifio.
"Public Company of the Year" went to TripAdvisor, and Intrepid Pursuits/Timbre's CEO, Mark Kasdorf took home the "Emerging Executive of the Year" award.
Vlad Sejnoha of Nuance won the "CTO of the Year" award beating out some other impressive finalists including Acquia's Dries Buytaert.
"Innovative Technology of the Year for Big Data" went to Localytics for their Closed-loop App Marketing and Analytics Solution.
The "Innovative Tech of the Year for the Cloud" award was won by Plexxi and their Affinity Based Scale-out Networking Product Family.
The "Innovative Tech" award for gaming went to Disruptor Beam's "Game of Thrones Ascent," while Muzzy Lane Software won in the Ed Tech category for its Government in Action product.
WiTricity's "Prodigy" won in the "Innovative Tech" energy category, Vaxess won in the healthcare/life sciences category, Lilliputian Systems "Nectar" was the most innovative in mobile, and Vsanp won in the sales and marketing category.
Another mini-upset happened in the "Innovative Technology of the Year - Robotics" category with Corindus Vascular Robotics' CorPath System beating out Rethink Robotics.
Ubersense won the "Consumer Product of the Year" category.
All in all, it was a great night.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the poignant moment when Akamai's Danny Lewin, who tragically died on 9/11, was acknowledged and received the loudest round of applause of the night.