At Tuesday’s Full Steam Ahead Awards presented by WRAL Tech Wire at Motorco in Durham, 12 entrepreneurial companies were recognized with the customary conductor’s hat and train whistle as leaders in their category. Another five individuals were recognized for their careers of service.

Startup award recipients included Raleigh-based Liz Tracy and HQ Raleigh, Cary-based Jonathan Hayes of Reward Stock, Wilmington-based Next Glass, Durham-based Smashing Boxes, and Morrisville-based Syncfusion.

“As a first-time nominee, and a relatively new startup, we are honored to be a part of the award process,” said Jonathan Hayes, founder and CEO of Reward Stock, which was nominated in five separate categories. Hayes received the “Conductor” award in the startup individual category, and noted that one of their earliest users had nominated them for the award.

“Winning this award is great,” said Hayes, “It will help small companies, like mine, gain a little notoriety.”

Kurt Taylor, founder and CEO of Next Glass, accepted the “Express” award in the startup company category on behalf of the company. Taylor traveled from Wilmington, N.C., where the company is based, to Richmond, Va. earlier in the day, and drove in from Richmond to Durham to receive the award, all before driving back to Wilmington.

The drive was worth it, said Taylor, whose company recently acquired Untappd and is now generating a positive revenue stream from their Wilmington, N.C. headquarters.

“It’s really rewarding for the team to get recognition outside of our hometown,” said Taylor, “We love what is going on in RTP, and as a town, we want to be more like the Triangle.”

Wilmington-based companies were well represented in the nominations for this year’s event.

“The whole city of Wilmington is proud of the fast growth of Next Glass,” said Jim Roberts, founder of Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington and Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs, “They are a great corporate citizen at the coast and very active around town mentoring other promising startups who may be future winners of statewide awards.”

More votes were cast for this year’s awards than in any previous year, said WRAL TechWire co-founder and editor Rick Smith, and in many cases, the voting was close.

It was especially close in the enterprise award categories–close enough for there to be a tie for the “Tycoon” award, given to the enterprise leader that led their company to serious success in the past year. This award was shared by Scot Wingo, executive chairman of Channel Advisor, and Cindy Whitehead, former CEO and founder of Sprout Pharmaceuticals.

Other enterprise award recipients included Wayne Holden of RTI International, DeLisa Alexander and Red Hat, SAS, and eTix.

Two lifetime achievement awards were given to recognize the contributions of two individuals that made significant impact in North Carolina’s startup economy: Charles Hayes, retired CEO of Research Triangle Regional Partnership, and Dave Rizzo, retired CEO and founder of NC IDEA and IDEA Fund Partners.

Hayes was described by WRAL Tech Wire and event emcee Smith as “a champion of economic development for more than two decades,” and as someone that could go toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin and win. Rizzo was described by Smith as a “driving force behind North Carolina’s entrepreneurial explosion.”

In receiving the award, Hayes toasted the crowd of nearly 70 people with the North Carolina state toast: “Here’s the the land of the long-leaf pine, the summer land where the sun doth shine, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great, here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State.”

“It was fun to lead NC IDEA,” said Rizzo in receiving his award. “Thank you for choosing me; it’s a real honor to be a part of such a vibrant community.”

A full list of winners, and the categories in which they won, is below:



  • Engineer: Liz Tracy, HQ Raleigh
  • Tycoon: Brooks Bell, Jesse Lipson, Christopher Gergen, and Jason Widen of HQ Raleigh
  • Conductor: Jonathan Hayes, Reward Stock


  • Express: Next Glass
  • Freight: SyncFusion
  • Subway: Smashing Boxes



  • Engineer: DeLisa Alexander, Red Hat
  • Tycoon: Scot Wingo, Channel Advisor; Cindy Whitehead, Sprout Pharmaceuticals
  • Conductor: Wayne Holden, RTI International


  • Express: Red Hat
  • Freight: SAS
  • Subway: eTix

In addition to these awards, three Editor’s Choice Awards were posthumously awarded to individuals that played a pivotal role in the creation of the entrepreneurial economy we now see in North Carolina and in the Triangle.

These awards were given to:

  • Betsy Justus, founder of the N.C. Technology Association and one of the original female high-tech pioneers in the Triangle
  • David Murray, a founding partner of Southern Capitol Ventures and founder and president of Clear Image
  • Randall Gregg, a long-time journalist in the Triangle responsible for founding eight publications including Triangle Tech Journal and the Raleigh Telegram.

“He believed in people following their passions,” said Eric Gregg, Randall Gregg’s brother, who accepted the award in his honor, “and he believed thoroughly in entrepreneurs.”