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Leading a startup these days takes vision, smarts, confidence and good old-fashioned luck. Not to mention a solid business plan.

We’ve got some great examples of those qualities among the finalists for Startup CEO of the Year, today’s featured category in the Seattle 2.0 Awards, recognizing some of the top leaders in the region’s startup community.

This is one of more than a dozen categories in this year’s Seattle 2.0 Awards, presented by GeekWire. We’ll be featuring one category a day leading up to the big awards bash May 3 at the Experience Music Project. Public voting began last week after finalists were chosen by our judges from hundreds of nominations received from the community.

Startup CEO of the Year is presented by PayScale. Voting in this category is very close, so if you haven’t registered your choice yet, be sure to do it soon. If you need help deciding, see more background on each finalist below the poll.

Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz: The straight-talking Fishkin laid it all on the line last summer when the $24 million venture capital round for SEOMoz blew up at the last minute. But who needs VCs, anyway right? Fishkin told a group of entrepreneurs earlier this year that his company, started with just $1.1 million in funding, is on pace to hit $18 million in revenue this year.

Ben Huh, Cheezburger: Huh leads a network of more than 60 company-operated comedy sites and 20,000 user sites with monthly visitors of more than 22.5 million. He was one of the leaders of the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act on the national level. And in his spare time, he’s working on a reality TV show with Bravo.

Glenn Kelman, Redfin: The outspoken CEO helped to fuel of the Seattle-based online real estate company’s growth, raising $14.8 million in additional investment as Redfin aimed to cover markets representing 50 percent of the population. “What’s really hard about this job is knowing when to be crazy and when to be calculating, because you can’t just be one or the other,” he says.

Bryan Mistele, INRIX: Under Mistele’s leadership, the Kirkland provider of real-time traffic information raised a $37 million venture round from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, signed a multi-million dollar deal with Google and purchased its biggest European rival.

Keith Smith, BigDoor: Smith pulled in $5 million in funding for the Seattle gamification startup and purchased San Francisco’s OneTrueFan. He also inked deals with Major League Baseball, and grew the team to more than two dozen employees.

Tickets are still available for the awards show on May 3rd, one party you won’t want to miss.

Thanks to our event sponsors FilterProtingentSalad LabsSilicon Valley Bank,  SplunkWashington Partners, Heinz Marketing, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PayScaleBader MartinSEOmozChristensen O’Connor Johnson KindnessKnollAT&TCooleyStartup Weekend, and Creativello for their support.

Email Rebecca Lovell at for available sponsorship opportunities, and learn more here

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