On Friday night approximately 200 tech luminaries gathered from Palm Beach County at West Palm Beach’s beautiful Waterfront Pavilion. The event was the First Annual Golden Palms award the organization that put all this together was West Palm Beaches very own Palm Beach Tech Association. The event was lead by Palm Beach Tech’s Co Chairs Cam Collins from DockMaster Software & David Bates from Gunster with Adam Steinhoff of Dedicated IT as the master of ceremonies.

Full house at the Waterfront Pavilion

Joe Russo the founder and executive director of Palm Beach Tech started out small. Standing in front of who’s who in technology, told the story of the first Startup Weekend in exact location. The Startup Weekend, which was organized by Nick Mohnacky and Chris Callahan of Startup Palm Beach, kicked off his vision to turn Palm Beach County into a technology hub of Florida.

I remember it well, we were on the same team and we built in 54 hours we developed, designed and marketed an called “The Yo App” (technical note: this was about a year before he more famous “Yo App” was created). The Startup Weekend process forces teams to get together, and not just develop technology but also to develop a business plan and determine that there is sufficient need for your product, before finally presenting it to the Judges. One of whom was West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio.

Palm Beach Post Article on the first Startup Weekend – photo features Joe Russo and The Yo App team

The Yo App made it into top three of that year’s Startup Weekend projects, but more importantly it set off a chain of events that would lead to this night. Honoring people who have worked with Joe Russo and Palm Beach Tech to further propagate technology in Palm Beach County.

Honorees were divided into the following categories

Excellence – Awarded to those who have contributed exceptional efforts to build our tech industry

  • Mayor Jeri Muoio, Chris Roog, & The City of West Palm Beach
  • Chris Nielsen, Ryan Gay, & Levatas
  • Dan Cane & Modernizing Medicine
  • Rhys Williams & FAU Tech Runway
  • Christian Boniforti, Barbara Cambia, & Lynn University

Emerging Leadership – Awarded to emerging business & community leaders in our tech industry

  • Shay Berman, Founder & President @ Digital Resource
  • Yulia Konovnitsyna, Founder @ Straight Fwd Co
  • Sarah Nohe, UI / UX Lead @ Nebular Agency
  • John Calloway, President @ Halo Technologies
  • Greg Van Horn, Founder & CEO @ Launch Potato

Community Leadership – Awarded to those who have selflessly impacted our tech community

  • Aaron Wormus, CTO @ SmartX Advisory Services
  • Jeremy Lawson, Platforms Manager @ Arrow Digital
  • Damian Montero, Founder @ Moned
  • George Whitaker, Director of Engineering @ PGA
  • Gissela & Sean Biganski, Executives @ Hello Labs

Many forget that Palm Beach County was the original Silicon Valley. When IBM developed the first PC in Boca in 1967 and went over grow the workforce to 10,000 high-tech employees at their height during the 80s.

The fact is that technology drives so much of today’s industry. And I believe that Palm Beach County is uniquely qualified to be a new Technology Hub. The live-work-play qualities of a West Palm Beach and other down Palm Beach County downtown’s, make perfect environment for tech workers. The close proximity to Ft. Lauderdale & Miami as well as Brightline to connect them all. Palm Beach and access to potential to venture capital. Not to mention Florida’s tax-free status which is huge incentive for high-wage salary earners to relocate to the area.

The irony is that we already have so many of these pieces. But all of these individual components don’t add up to much unless you have an organization who is willing to connect all of these pieces. Connect the these individual companies and create the ecosystem for both technology leaders business Builders as well as a thriving opportunities for people who work in Tech.

This is exactly what Palm Beach Tech brings to the table. And if we’re interested in the growth of Palm Beach County it’s so important to support this and other technology focused organizations. Whether you’re a current resident, who wants to find a reason to get your kids to move back to the are after collage. Or you’re a event-producer looking for a younger crowd to market your events to. Or you work for the Convention center and are looking to host technology conferences. Or you’re in the food & dining industry and you want to serve the thousands of out-of-towners that come to the area for those tech conventions. Or you’re a real-estate developer looking to create a modern new downtown business district. Or a FinTech firm looking to hire the brightest developers to create the next big thing. Each of these industries benefit greatly from the work that Palm Beach Tech is doing.

But back to the event. As each of the honorees stepped up to accept their Golden Palm Awards they all told their stories of live and work in Palm Beach County. And then the event broke up to individual celebrations, official and unofficial after-parties.

I left the awards with a feeling of pride of what is being accomplished with Palm Beach Tech, as well as gratitude to Joe Russo and the Palm Beach Tech Association team all the work they have done over the last 5 years to bring us here.

David Bates, Cam Collins, Frank Barbato, Gabriel Goldstein, Alan Murphy, Michael Fowler, and Joe Russo – Board Members who Palm Beach Tech Association’s Award for Meritorious Service