OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards

Celebrating Oregon’s brightest and best entrepreneurs.

It’s like the Oscars, but with less glam and more grit. Each fall, over 600 local business leaders converge at the OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards to honor Oregon’s brightest, boldest, and best entrepreneurs.

Now in its 25th year, the OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards Dinner is Oregon’s largest and most prestigious business networking event. It not only celebrates the skill and courage that it takes for entrepreneurs to create a business out of an idea, but also highlights the importance of entrepreneurs to the region’s economy.

Allyson Strowbridge

The OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards Event was a fun-filled night, complete with inspiring stories and entertaining MCs, plus great networking opportunities for new business owners such as myself! It was evident on many levels what a supportive community of visionaries and leaders OEN continues to gather, develop, grow and nurture. A big cheers to everyone who contributed to the successful night. Sign me up for next year!”

Allyson Strowbridge, Ctrl+SHIFT+Space

Award Categories

Bootstrap Stage Company Award

OEN’s Bootstrap Stage Company Award honors a for-profit startup that has achieved significant milestones over the last 12 months without ever raising equity or debt capital. The company may have small funding sources through personal resources, friends and family or receivables, and a past-year revenue of $0 – .5 million.

Early Stage Company Award

Recognizes a for-profit startup that has achieved significant milestones over the past 12 months and may have raised angel, venture or grant funding (NSF as an example). Revenue $0 – 1 million.

Development Stage Company Award

OEN’s Development Stage Award honors Oregon’s “Next Business Home Run.” Development Stage companies have past-year revenue of at least $1 million and projected revenue for the current year of $1-$8 million.

Growth Stage Company Award

OEN’s Growth Stage Award honors Oregon’s “Next Household Name.” Growth Stage companies have past-year revenue of at least $8 million and projected revenue for the current year of over $8 million.

Entrepreneurial Achievement Award

OEN’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award honors an entrepreneur or founding team with a track record of outstanding success over the last 18 months.

Game Changer Award

The Game Changer Award honors a for-profit or non-profit company with a novel solution to a social problem.

Wyatt Starnes Battle of the Schools Award

OEN’s Wyatt Starnes Battle of the Schools Award honors our region’s most promising up-and-coming young entrepreneur, between the ages of 18 and 30.

Nominations & Judging

Nominations for each year’s Awards open in May. OEN forms six judging committees comprised of seasoned business leaders and industry experts. In 2017, these committees reviewed over 150 nominations and personally met with over 35 finalists and semifinalists across six Awards categories.

Through a series of interviews and reviews, the judging committees narrow the field to 3-4 finalists per category, ultimately selecting one winner. The exceptions are the Game Changer Award, which is determined by a combination of input from the judging committee and an audience vote, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given at the discretion of OEN’s Board of Directors.

2017 Award Winners


Meet all past winners & finalists here.

2017 Startup Stage Company Award

WINNER: AbSci—Sean McClain, Founder & CEO

AbSci has developed a proprietary bioengineered E. coli expression system, SoluPro™, which allows allows protein-based drugs such as insulin to be produced at a fraction of their current cost. AbSci was chosen because its leadership has demonstrated tremendous tenacity over the years, making real progress toward becoming a substantial employer and contributor to the biotech sector in Oregon. The company’s value proposition is extraordinary, and its team is remarkably cohesive.

The two other finalists for this category were:

  • 360e
  • Evelyn & Bobbie


2017 Development Stage Company Award

WINNER: RADAR, Inc.—Mahmood Sher-Jan, CEO

RADAR is a first-to-market SaaS incident response management platform focused on addressing the complex regulatory requirements imposed by data breach notification laws. RADAR was chosen because of its great leadership team, positive culture, excellent traction with important customers, unique expertise, strong competitive position, and long-term strategic view.

The three other finalists for this category were:

  • Bright.md
  • Hubb
  • Mirth Provisions


2017 Growth Stage Company Award

WINNER: Cloudability—Mat Ellis, Founder and CEO

Cloudability specializes in cloud management tools that enable companies to manage cloud spending across departments, products and infrastructure. Cloudability was chosen because of its unique product niche with short list of competitors in the space; demonstrated strong, stable growth; defined company culture and sense of identity; low turnover; and connection to the community.

The three other finalists for this category were:

  • DWFritz Automation
  • Vacasa
  • ZincFive


2017 Entrepreneurial Achievement Award

WINNERS: Ben Corrado and Justin Rigling—Co-Founders, Rigado

Ben Corrado and Justin Rigling co-founded Rigado in 2010. Corrado currently serves as CEO and previously ran engineering design teams at Garmin and Andrews-Cooper Technology. Rigling serves as CTO and was a design engineer at Garmin International. In 2004, Corrado and Rigling set the world record for longest wifi connection: 124 miles. Corrado and Rigling were chosen because they are unafraid to pivot and take risks, maintain 100% conviction in their idea and abilities, and have achieved phenomenal revenue growth, growing much more quickly than forecasted.

The three other finalists for this category were:

  • Allie Magyar, Hubb
  • Chris and Sadie Lincoln, barre3
  • Shannon Keith, Sudara


2017 Lifetime Achievement Award

WINNER: Sam Blackman, AWS Elemental

Sam Blackman founded Elemental Technologies in 2006 and served as its CEO until August 2017. He rose to prominence as one of Oregon’s most successful and respected tech entrepreneurs. AWS Elemental, which now employs more than 400 people, was acquired by Amazon in 2015.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors a career of entrepreneurial achievement, as well as civic engagement and community investment. As a startup, Elemental donated company shares to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest (EFNW), which was later acquired by OEN. That equity became liquid when Elemental was acquired, $150,000 of which was donated to OEN to help support Oregon’s next generation of entrepreneurs. The other proceeds helped create the Elemental Community Investment Fund, part of the Oregon Community Foundation.

Blackman was fiercely committed to diversity and inclusion in the Portland business community and the broader media and entertainment industry. He co-founded the 4K 4Charity Fun Run Series in 2014 to help support diversity and inclusion initiatives. He also signed AWS Elemental onto the TechTown diversity pledge, and aspired to influence the wider AWS community towards broader civic engagement, the importance of volunteerism and the critical role of diversity and inclusion in industry.

Blackman was a “serial” OEN Award winner, receiving the Growth Stage Company Award in 2014, the Development Stage Company Award in 2011, and the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award in 2011.


2017 Game Changer Award

WINNER: Good Clean Love—Wendy Strgar, Founder

Good Clean Love, the winner for OEN’s 2017 Game Changer Award, was determined by an audience vote, with input from our judging committee. Good Clean Love is a woman owned, B-Corporation that offers organic lubricants and feminine hygiene products. The sexual health product industry has been largely controlled by a handful of large CPG companies that have not invested in any innovative product development or formulations for 40 years. Good Clean Love has been a primary disruptor in this space for the past six years, first leading in organic and now leading in patented, scientific advances and testing.

The other finalists in this category were:

  • Cascade Health Alliance
  • GO Box
  • Wild Me


2017 Wyatt Starnes Battle of the Schools Award

WINNER: Chris Vlessis, OSU Cascades


Chris Vlessis is the cofounder and CTO of Shape Integrated Software based in Bend. In just three years, Shape has grown incredibly fast, with significant revenue and profitability. While in high school, Vlessis built a web crawler to automate job checking websites at G5, another startup in Bend, and the software is still used today. He also headed up projects at Intel Labs, called “The Collector,” which was demoed at Intel’s Design & Test Technology conference.

Three other finalists for this category were:

  • Halley Farwood, Pacific University
  • Max Clary, Lewis & Clark College
  • Nathan Braaten, Oregon State University

About Tom Holce

Tom Holce was an entrepreneur and angel investor who built or helped to build dozens of successful Southwest Washington and Oregon businesses.

He was the founder/CEO of such companies as Kentrox, Sentrol, and Mikros, and held senior positions at ESI, and Plantronics. He also served as Chairman of Seasons Foods, BLT Technologies, Mitron, and Decision Dynamics. He served as Chairman of the Portland Art Museum, and Chairman of Pacific University, was a board member of Unicru, Stormwater Management, EID Access, and Study Dog, and sat on the boards of over 20 other Northwest businesses, organizations and institutions.

Tom was the first winner of OEN’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was High Tech Executive of the Year, and was named Philanthropist of the year 2000. Tom had a BS in Math and Physics and an Honorary Doctor of Science from Pacific University. He held over 20 U.S. patents.

See photos from 2017:

Photos by Edis Jurcys.

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