The Harris Theater buzzed Tuesday night as a full house of technology, business and entrepreneurial types cheered each other's successes at the 10th annual Chicago Innovation Awards show.
The award presentations weren't all serious ponderings, however, as a duo from the Second City comedy troupe made light of native Chicago "des" and "dos" and big guys who like to eat, a la the 1991 Saturday Night Live skit about Chicago Bears' Superfans. Their definition of innovation included Chicagoans electing someone not named Daley as mayor (or "mare," as the pronunciation would have it).
Besides the 10 Innovation Award honorees, which the Sun-Times profiled Wednesday, the event recognized 10 Up-and-Comer finalists -- start-ups in an early stage of development that show great promise.
These companies get to pitch their product or service to Chicago's venture capitalists, and one of them will be picked as the Up-and-Comer winner in 2012.
The finalists are:
Power2Switch, which enables consumers to switch to the lowest cost electricity provider.
Tap.Me, an in-game, mobile advertising platform that connects gamers, games and brands.
FeeFighters, an online comparison tool where businesses can search for the best bid from credit card processors at the lowest prices.
Nexvu, which delivers analytic solutions to the retail industry that optimizes in-store technology in real-time.
Eved, an online meeting and event marketplace that connects members of an event supply chain, allowing them to interact and transact online.
Clean Urban Energy, which determines how much to pre-heat or pre-cool a building during off-peak hours.
GiveForward, a crowdfunding website where family and friends can contribute to loved ones during times of need.
Alltuition, which allows students and their families the ability to better navigate financial aid systems.
Excelerate Labs, a successful Chicago start-up incubator and accelerator.
Technori, which writes magazine-style articles profiling Chicago entrepreneurs.
Also recognized were Abbott Labs Chairman and CEO Miles White, the Visionary Award winner, and William "Beau" Wrigley, Jr., former chairman, president and CEO of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., who oversaw the sale of Wrigley to Mars, Inc. in 2008, cited as this year's Distinguished Innovator. Both gave pep talks urging the crowd to take risks, follow their hearts and honor capitalist traditions.
Wrigley revealed that his latest interest is promoting an effort to protect the world's oceans by creating a single index that would function like a "Dow Jones of the ocean." The Wrigley Foundation has provided a $2.5 million research grant that aims to figure out how to determine the "health" of the world's oceans and identify gaps in the kinds of information that's been collected underwater.