Socio, Malomo, Eli Lilly and Co., GadellNet Consulting Services, 3oe Scientific, PIER Group, NearWave and IU Ventures were among the big winners Thursday at TechPoint’s 22nd Mira Awards, which was held virtually for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But two of the night’s most notable victors were KAR Global and OneCause, who won the awards for Pandemic Pivot of the Year. Kar Global won the Pandemic Pivot of the Year in the Institutions and Large Enterprises category and Once Cause in Small-Medium Businesses category.
Mira organizer, TechPoint—along with presenting sponsor Salesforce—honored 122 nominees this year and the successes and innovation of Indiana people, companies, places, and products during a live broadcast of the organization’s annual gala.
Last year, an estimated 5,000-plus people watched the first-ever virtual live broadcast of TechPoint’s Mira Awards gala, and event organizers were expecting an audience of 6,000 for this year’s live webcast. There were no live attendees this year or last.
In 2019, the last year the black-tie event was held live, the Mira’s drew a capacity crowd of 1,400 to the JW Marriott downtown.
The Mira Awards is the state’s largest and longest running technology awards program. This year, 16 award winners and honorees were chosen from a record-breaking 211 applications. Fifty-two independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours evaluating applications, interviewing nominees and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included an impressive roster of company founders, CEOs, technology experts, engineers and other industry professionals.
Mira judges noted KAR Global’s dramatic shift in 2021 and its continuing efforts to pull the auto auction industry into the future by adopting new technologies and embracing the digital evolution that’s been dramatically transforming other industries.
When the pandemic hit, KAR voluntarily closed its 140 physical auction locations to protect customers, employees and communities. With the sudden need to pivot, KAR leap-frogged its own product roadmap by months and in some areas by years, and within two weeks launched its fully-automated, auctioneerless sales platform called Simulcast+.
The Mira Awards judges noted that it was KAR’s significant investments in people, especially tech talent, prior to the pandemic that set the company up for such a dramatic shift in its own operations, as well as its oversized role in providing digital solutions for the auto remarketing industry. The first-of-its-kind Simulcast+ platform has proved so durable and effective that by August of 2020, KAR announced it would be sticking with its 100% digital marketplace even after the pandemic, with no plans to return to physical auctions.
Judges were equally impressed by Indianapolis-based philanthropy software firm OneCause.
On March 13, 2020, OneCause went from supporting 200-plus in-person events a week, with 2,100 total on the books for spring to zero, the judges noted. The popular not-for-profit fundraising platform had grown used to spring being peak fundraising season and OneCause officials were expecting another record-breaking year. In fact, they were expecting their best year since the company was founded in 2008 when it won the Startup of the Year Mira Award.
What happened next with the global pandemic and shutdowns was an existential threat to the company and the entire fundraising event industry. OneCause, however, made creative moves that not only earned them 1,400 new customers using their newly created Virtual Events Center, but they helped those not-for-profit organizations raise $500 million in just two quarters, Mira judges noted.
“OneCause has essentially created the gold standard model for the virtual and hybrid fundraising events industry, and they are expecting 2021 to be yet another record-breaking year for the company,” the judges said.
Here’s the full list of winners (along with abbreviated judges commentary):
Community Impact Award: Anushree Bag, executive director of risk and compliance, Indiana Office of Technology
“As a senior IT leader at the Indiana Office of Technology, Anu could see just how underrepresented women are in state government tech, especially at the higher levels. Based on her own experiences with systemic barriers that impact female advancement in STEM fields, and after collaborating with colleagues, Anu founded a group called Government Women in Technology, an affinity group that is the first-of-its-kind, not only in the state of Indiana, but in any state government in the country. The Mira Awards judges were blown away by Anu’s audacity, the good kind, that led her to envision a supportive ecosystem within government that would not only improve the representation of women, but better serve the people and improve lives.”
Rising Tech City Award: City of Bloomington
“While economies were contracting worldwide due to the pandemic, and most municipalities were focused on fortifying what they could to prevent losses, Bloomington’s economic development partners were fearlessly investing in tech community building and attracting funding sources for driving new economic activity. What Bloomington accomplished in 2020 would have been noteworthy in any year, but it’s particularly impressive given the challenges and complications of the pandemic.”
Tech Education Award: CIO Matt Etchison, CDO Brad Watts and the Ivy Tech Community College ITS Team
“The IT team at Ivy Tech Community College spent most of 2020 building and implementing what one Salesforce official has called ‘the most innovative and comprehensive student system in all of higher education nationally.’ The new constituent relationship management platform at Ivy Tech centralizes student data and is configured specifically to improve and automate the school’s processes. The Mira Awards judges were impressed by how on point Ivy Tech’s new CRM is with the need to improve educational attainment to meet the current and future workforce needs of Indiana.”
Tech Product of the Year: 3Oe Scientific–Iggy
“As the world was racing to find hand sanitizer during the pandemic, 3oe Scientific was introducing a cloud-enabled smart device called Iggy, that sanitizes hands in seven seconds using aqueous ozone, a process that was first developed right here in Indianapolis at Delta Faucet by one of 30e’s co-founders. The Mira Awards judges love that Iggy not only meets a critical need for places like schools hospitals and office buildings, but that the product itself is sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
Service Partner of the Year: PIER Group
“Located in Jasper between Bloomington and Evansville, PIER Group is a woman-owned consulting firm that provides tech solutions for the research and education industry (PIER is short for Partners in Education and Research). Though the company was founded just a little over two years ago, PIER Group’s seasoned professionals have decades of experience and strong relationships with key research partners. The Mira Awards judges were impressed by PIER Group’s aggressive moves to help clients develop solutions in response to a wide variety of new technical challenges created by the pandemic in 2020.”
Innovation of the Year: NearWave Imager
“What began as a class project for two PhD students at the University of Notre Dame, is now a potential game-changer in the fight against breast cancer that will not only save up to $14 billion annually, but tens of thousands of lives due to early detection and determining the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment in days rather than months. The Mira Awards judges believe NearWave is on track to become a new standard of care in breast cancer treatment and detection, and that, with the backing of 50 plus peer reviewed scientific articles, this new imaging technology has the potential to have a massive impact on women and their families across the globe.”
Trailblazer Award: Justin Christian, CEO and founder, BCforward
“Justin Christian co-founded IT consulting firm BCforward in 1998, which he has since grown into the state’s largest information technology solutions and staffing corporation and one of the top 10 largest black-owned companies in the country. He is an inspiring and influential visionary whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on Indiana and its technology ecosystem.”
TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award: Carlotta Berry, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
“Carlotta Berry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, is a highly regarded, internationally known engineering and robotics expert who is a vocal and relentless STEM education advocate, especially for underrepresented students like she was entering college in the late 1980s. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Berry worked with colleagues around the world to start two new non-profit organizations, Black In Engineering and Black In Robotics. She has a special passion for diversifying the engineering profession by encouraging historically marginalized and minoritized populations to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.”
Rising Entrepreneur Award: Yaw Aning, Malomo co-founder and CEO
“Serial entrepreneur Yaw Aning’s latest venture is Malomo, a shipment tracking platform for high-growth merchants. Malomo has tracked millions of shipments since Yaw co-founded the company in late 2018, and grew 500% in 2020. Yaw has raised a total of $8.2 million in funding so far, he’s credited with one of the largest single Indiana seed funding raises of the last year and the largest by a Black founder. When less than 2% of venture dollars go to Black founders, securing the largest investment of the year in your state is a big deal. The Mira Awards judges were impressed by Yaw’s story of success, including his failures, from which he learned, grew and moved on to solve new business problems that are clearly gaining more than just traction, but significant national attention and financial success.”
Investor of the Year: IU Ventures
“The Mira Awards judges noted that with 15 separate investments and follow-on fundings, IU Ventures was one of the most active funding sources in the state during the pandemic, and not just in central Indiana, but statewide. The judges also pointed to IU Ventures dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion as a great example for others, as more than 50% of the companies IU Ventures has invested in since 2018 have had women or minority founders, CEOs, or other C-suite members.”
Startup of the Year: Malomo
“In 2020, Malomo’s shipment tracking platform helped ecommerce merchants and their customers track more than seven million orders around the world, alerting them of delivery issues as they happen. The startup has transformed shipping from a cost center into a profitable marketing channel by driving millions of dollars in repeat revenue for retailers. Malomo also doubled its headcount and grew its revenue by 500% last year.”
Exceptional Employer Award: GadellNet Consulting Services
“Certified B Corporation GadellNet Consulting Services is a managed service provider for small- to medium-sized businesses that has appeared on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America list for the past nine years. The company built an internal leadership academy, providing $3,000 a year for each employee to spend on training, and they have a full-time training and development leader dedicated to facilitating upskilling opportunities.”
Large Enterprise of the Year: Eli Lilly and Co.
“Enabled by numerous advanced technologies, Lilly brought the full force of its scientific, medical and technical expertise to attack COVID-19, while keeping its employees safe and continuing to supply medicines for the 40 million people around the world who rely on them. Lilly was the first pharmaceutical company in the country to offer on-site drive-through testing, which they launched in just three weeks.”
Scale-up of the Year: Socio
“Socio re-engineered its in-person events management platform in less than three months, stood up a professional services team and continued hiring to keep up with an explosion in demand for virtual events during the pandemic. Socio has since found a recipe for continued success with its approach to hybrid events. The company is profitable and preparing to double in size and revenue again this year, all while maintaining its award-winning company culture at locations in Indianapolis, Lafayette and in Istanbul, Turkey.”