They are the captains of the ship, the leaders who set the course and — when danger looms — know how to avoid reefs, rocks and high winds. It’s time to vote for CEO of the Year in the GeekWire Awards.
This year’s batch of finalists — chosen by a judging panel who sorted through dozens of community nominations — show the breadth and depth of the technology industry in the Pacific Northwest.
Last year’s winner in this category was Rover.com CEO Aaron Easterly, whose Seattle startup is up for the Deal of the Year award this year. Other past winners have included Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane, Julep CEO Jane Park and Elemental Technologies CEO Sam Blackman.
This year’s finalists include Sarah Bird of Moz; Mark Mader of Smartsheet; Manny Medina of Outreach; Matt Oppenheimer of Remitly; and Kieran Snyder of Textio. Read more about each of them and vote for your pick in the poll below. And a big thanks to our longtime partner, EY, for sponsoring this year’s CEO of the Year category.
Over the past few days, we’ve opened voting in various GeekWire Awards, and we’ll continue to do so over the next 10 days, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots, and go here to vote in previously announced categories.
All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 4 at the Museum of Pop Culture. Tickets are selling fast, and we do expect to sell out, so make sure to go here to grab yours.
Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz: Sometimes the strength of a CEO is shown during tough times, not when things are flying high. That was certainly the case for Sarah Bird, who stepped up following layoffs at Moz. Instead of hiding from the tough news, Bird and the rest of the team at Moz assisted those impacted, offering resume assistance, mock interviews and recruiting help. It also created a job list that impacted employees could use to apply for new jobs, and even held happy hours to match companies with those who were laid off. For those who know Moz and Bird, the move was not surprising. The 12-year-old marketing software company has long adopted what it calls the TAGFEE code, a set of values that guides Moz through good times and bad. Among the characteristics in the TAGFEE code: Transparent and Authentic; Generous; Fun; Empathetic; and Exceptional. Bird clearly is at the right company, since she embodies all of those principles.
Mark Mader, CEO of Smartsheet: The software executive has expertly guided Smartsheet, building the maker of project management software into one of the region’s fastest growing companies. Earlier this year, the Bellevue company announced plans to grow its workforce by 300 employees, including a new office in Boston. Fueled with $70 million in venture capital, Mader is overseeing the growth spurt, doing so with a commitment to overcoming challenges. “When you find yourself facing a big problem, dig in instead of giving up,” Mader noted at GeekWire’s Startup Day event last year.
Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach: Manny Medina is looking to bring efficiency to the sales process. But he didn’t start with that in mind. He originally founded Group Talent, a Techstars Seattle company which helped match employers with technical team members. But in true startup fashion, he pivoted and formed Outreach, which is growing fast at its offices in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The company, which now employs nearly 150 people and is looking to add 100 more this year, scored $17.5 million from Trinity Ventures and Microsoft — Medina’s former employer — last summer. Born in Ecuador, the former Microsoft and Amazon manager is described by investors and other tech leaders as a relentless and tireless entrepreneur who never gives up, values that he’s passed on to his employees. The father of three also recently instituted a progressive parental leave program that allows new moms and dads to receive a company paid night nurse and meal delivery service. As an immigrant entrepreneur, Medina also touts the power of diversity, which he says leads to better products and more creative ideas.
Matt Oppenheimer, CEO of Remitly: Oppenheimer comes from a strong line of entrepreneurs. And that entrepreneurial DNA is serving him well as he builds Remitly, which is looking to bring efficiency to the money transfer market. It’s a big and complex industry, but Oppenheimer, who came up with the idea for Remitly while working for Barclay’s Bank in Kenya, has the mettle for the job. Last year, the more than 300-person company reeled in $60 million in funding, money it used to expand into Latin America. But even more impressive is the principled approach that Oppenheimer has brought the job. After one of Remitly’s founding employees ran into immigration complications shortly after the company was founded, the Dartmouth and Harvard Business School grad flew to New Delhi and camped outside the immigration office for hours to make sure his employee would return to his job safe and sound. From the earliest days of Remitly, Oppenheimer has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, and he’s taken president Donald Trump to task for his immigration policies, highlighting the important role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy.
Kieran Snyder, CEO of Textio: This former Microsoft manager and past Geek of the Week is using text analysis to help companies craft better job listings or candidate emails. It’s a noble pursuit, and one in which Snyder says she draw inspiration from her daughters, coaching their basketball team and studying how they relate to technology. Snyder, who holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied natural language processing and computational linguistics, has doubled the size of Textio in the past year, adding marquee customers such as Johnson & Johnson, Allstate, and CVS. Customers who get a high score on Textio end up seeing more qualified and diverse candidates, and they fill positions faster. “This is the job that all the other things I’ve done prepared me to have,” Snyder told GeekWire last year. “Although I didn’t know that until I’d gotten started.” The self-described “language nerd” also is making inroads with her three-year-old startup, which raised $8 million from Emergence Capital, Bloomberg Beta and others in 2015.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify information about Moz and Remitly.