The phrase “Let’s do it” from a Black Eyed Peas recording blared last night in the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. It was cheesy yet fitting accompaniment for the “Parade of Finalists” at the New York edition of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
Thirty-eight hopeful entrepreneurs walked across the stage under bright lights, among them Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital LLC, Michael Sepso, co-founder of Major League Gaming Inc., and Andy Dunn, co-founder of Bonobos Inc., dressed in a flamboyant pair of the company’s pants, as well as a Bonobos tuxedo jacket (Italian gabardine wool with polka-dot silk lining) and shirt.
“We want to look good but we don’t like to shop,” said Dunn in a private moment, explaining why men have gravitated to the Bonobos website to outfit themselves (short shorts in bright colors are the look of summer, he added).
Some of the winners were announced before the short ribs and cake were served, others after. All got to see themselves memorialized in videos featuring footage of them answering the phone or working at their computer or giving an employee a pat on the back, livened up with snippets of loud dance music.
The diversity of the finalists was impressive, reflecting the diversity of New York, said one of the judges, Robert Johnston, chief executive of the Executive Council, which operates the New York Venture Capital Association.
Part of the fun of the event was meeting the people behind some clever ideas. Finalist Jeffrey Levy’s company RailWorks Corp. built the system that tells you when the trains are arriving on New York City subway platforms. Finalist Alastair Ong’s GreenSoul Shoes manufactures footwear from recycled materials. Chaim Indig, co-founder of Phreesia, developed a tablet that allows patients to enter their information in the computer system of hospitals and doctor’s offices.
In the end, only nine people walked away with a trophy and the chance to compete for the title of World Entrepreneur of the Year, announced at a ceremony in Monte Carlo.
“Great ideas usually come from a crisis,” said Scaramucci in his acceptance speech. He noted that in 2009 he had taken to calling his company “low bridge, no bridge, or blown-up bridge.” He went on to found the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference and to acquire some of Citigroup’s hedge-fund units.
The other winners were: Michael Lazerow, who with his wife, Kass, founded Buddy Media Inc., which helps companies build their brand on Facebook; Mia and Jason Bauer, founders of Crumbs Bake Shop Inc.; James D’Addario, whose D’Addario & Co. makes guitar strings, drum sticks and other music accessories; Shazi Visram, founder of HappyBaby, which makes healthy baby foods; Michael Cassidy, who built Undertone, an advertising agency; Chetan Dube, founder of IPsoft Inc.; Dr. Leonard Schleifer, who started Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (REGN); and Mike Narula of Reliance Communications LLC.
“There’s a great spirit tonight. These are all company builders and they like talking to each other and hearing each other’s stories,” said Bryan Pearce, the Americas director of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Pearce told Dunn he’d be ordering a pair of Bonobos pants soon, though maybe not in time to wear to the next regional edition of the awards program, tonight in Austin.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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