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Jesse Proudman of Blue Box, winner of the 2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Jesse Proudman of Blue Box, winner of the 2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, who went on to sell his company to IBM and is a contender for Deal of the Year this year.

“Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” — The Modern Lovers

Our finalists in today’s category in the GeekWire Awards certainly are heeding the advice from lyricist Jonathan Richman.

We’ve got five amazing candidates competing for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, one of the final categories we’re announcing in the GeekWire Awards. The young entrepreneurs — all of whom are 30 or younger — are doing some amazing things at startup companies in the life sciences, mobile, online marketplace, enterprise software and venture capital arenas.

Awards 2016Over the past two weeks, we’ve been opening voting in select GeekWire Awards categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks from finalists selected by our panel of judges from community nominations. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots, or visit here to vote in announced categories such as Next Tech Titan, Startup of the Year and Geekiest Office Space. All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented byWave — on May 12 at EMP.

Tickets are available for the GeekWire Awards, but they are going fast and this event sells out every year as we celebrate the best of the Pacific Northwest tech community. Make sure to get your tickets here.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year is presented by Fastly. Cast your ballot below and continue reading for more details on each finalist.

Brian Bosche and Dan Bloom of Slope - GeekWire Startup Day 2016
Brian Bosché and Dan Bloom of Slope.

Brian Bosché and Dan Bloom, co-founders of Slope, ages 25 and 28: The co-founders of Slope have made big impressions in Seattle since arriving from Detroit, scoring cash from angel investors and winning the pitch competition at this year’s GeekWire Startup Day. Bosché and Bloom founded Slope at a creative agency in Detroit three years ago, frustrated by the inefficiencies in creative marketing collaboration. They moved to Seattle after participating in the Microsoft Ventures’ “digital work” accelerator.

Ben Gilbert
Ben Gilbert

Ben Gilbert, co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs, age 26: Smart and savvy, Gilbert is one of the founding partners of Pioneer Square Labs, the new “startup studio” launched last year along with tech and venture capital veterans Mike Galgon, Greg Gottesman and Geoff Entress. That’s pretty impressive company, but Gilbert holds his own and brings some key startup chops to the organization, which raised $12.5 million from a who’s who of investors last year. You can hear more from Gilbert — who holds a degree in computer science and entrepreneurship from The Ohio State University and previously worked at Microsoft, Startup Weekend and co-founded Madrona-backed Spare5— in this GeekWire podcast.

Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Biotechnology. (Photo: M3)
Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Biotechnology. (Photo: M3)

Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Biotechnology, age 30: As the leader of an up-and-coming biotechnology company, M3 Biotechnology, Kawas is taking on some of the most debilitating diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, by seeking to regrow brain cells through regenerative medicine.

An immigrant from Jordan, Kawas recently raised $10 million for the company from prominent investors including longtime Seattle biotech executive Bruce Montgomery.

Kawas started working on the idea while studying for her doctorate at Washington State University. She’s “tackling diseases of the brain that have confounded far more experienced executives,” writes science journalist Sally James in a recent profile of Kawas for Seattle Business magazine.

Phil Kimmey
Phil Kimmey

Phil Kimmey, co-founder of, age 26: Kimmey and venture capitalist Greg Gottesman originally hatched at a Startup Weekend event in Seattle. And the online pet sitting marketplace has grown by leaps and bounds ever since, securing more than $50 million in venture capital from powerhouse such as Menlo Ventures, Madrona and Technology Crossover Ventures. Kimmey now leads software development at, with one supporter noting that he has a “true passion for programming and building products.”

Chad Wittman
Chad Wittman

Chad Wittman, co-founder Dolly, age 29: As the co-founder of Dolly, Wittman is helping to provide a solution to a problem that almost everyone has faced: how to move large items when you don’t have a truck or van at your disposal. A startup veteran, Wittman oversees product development and product strategy for the company, which connects people who have trucks with those who need help moving items.

Wittman started the company with other co-founders, including former Wetpaint executive Mike Howell, Dolly’s CEO. The company last fall announced an $8 million Series A investment led by Maveron, with participation from KGC Capital, executive Jeff Wilke and other angel investors.

Best of luck to all Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists. And don’t forget, tickets are still on sale for the Awards, but they are going fast and we do expect the event to sell out this year.

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