Awards / Innovation / Philly Tech Week

These Philly change-makers won your 2020 Awards

At the virtual Signature Event during Philly Tech Week, we celebrated six innovative people and companies who have managed to do the important work this year. Here's what they said in their acceptance speeches.

The PTW20 team in our Thursday-night-in-quarantine best. (Screenshot)
Amid an ever-changing and ever-challenging year, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the good.

As we wrote last month when we launched nominations for the 2020 Awards — this year is different. It must be. More than celebrating success for success’ sake, with the 2020 awards program, we aimed to honor the challenges overcome, as well as ongoing work to make local tech and entrepreneurship communities places that also challenge racism, the pandemic and the unjust status quo.

When we announced the categories and nominees for our 2020 Awards a few weeks ago, we received more than a thousand votes in about a week. It’s clear those in Philly’s tech community want a say in spotlighting those worthy of some accolades this year. announced and celebrated our winners last night during the 10th annual Philly Tech Week presented by Comcast’s virtual Signature Event, which included a rare opportunity to let loose this year by way of spins from DJ Matthew Law, speeches from the honorees and Philly innovation trivia. Plus, the mayor popped in from his home, where he’s self-quarantining for another few days:

Hi, mayor. (Screenshot)

But first and most importantly, the six categories and their winners — determined by public vote — are:

Invention of the Year — @yafavtrashman

In little more than three months, sanitation worker Terrill Haigler’s viral Instagram account has earned 20,000 followers and raised awareness for sanitation workers’ needs during COVID-19. Haigler has used his platform to raise more than $32,000 in a crowdfunding campaign for sanitation workers to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to more safely do their jobs. He also uses Instagram to communicate directly with the public about delays and challenges sanitation workers are experiencing during the pandemic.

  • In his own words: “I just want to shout out to the public, because without the public shifting their perspective and shifting their mindset on how they look at sanitation, @yafavtrashman wouldn’t have taken off the way that it did.” Haigler also mentioned that this is his first award for the account.

Impact Leader of the Year — Rajvi Mehta

Mehta is the organizer of Philly’s chapter of Women in Data, which has pivoted to virtual and remained connective during the pandemic. “She has launched a data movement in Philadelphia, leveraging many of the city’s resources and talented people on behalf of Women in Data,” a nominator wrote to us. “She has built networks and created a large interchange of ideas and relationships where there was nothing before.”

  • In her own words: Mehta thanked Women in Data as a whole, saying, “it has been a great platform for women and people of diverse backgrounds coming together and working toward the same goal, which is increasing diversity in the field.”

Technical Leader of the Year — Nicodemus Madehdou

Madehdou is the head of JumpButton Studio, the growing entertainment studio he cofounded in 2012 that develops games, animations and apps. A young entrepreneur himself, Madehou is also an occasional public speaker on the importance of entrepreneurship for young people. Recently, JumpButton created food delivery startup Black and Mobile’s new app and has spoken out for the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • In his own words: Madehdou said he started his entrepreneurship journey in high school because he couldn’t get internships at big tech companies. “I did not ever see myself doing everything that we’re doing now, but because Philadelphia is such a positive ecosystem that has so many support systems that not many people know about and I’ve had the opportunity of seeing,” he said, “I definitely am excited to … show more individuals that there are opportunities, and there are people who want to see you win.”

Culture Builder of the Year — Shannon Morales

Morales has displayed a commitment to diversity and inclusion in tech throughout her work. She is the founder of Echo Me Forward, a digital platform that enables employers to find and hire diverse talent, as well as a resource for that talent to prepare for tech employment via skills training. Morales also recently started the Philadelphia chapter of Techqueria, an organization to support and create space for Latinx people in the local tech industry.

  • In her own words: “Echo Me Forward, I’ve been working on since 2017, and it’s just now getting the notoriety we should have had long ago, and that’s because of Philly Startup Leaders as well as early clients such as Guru, Crossbeam, P’unk Ave, Exyn Technologies and many more that are supporting us with our diversity, equity and inclusion practices and strategies.”

Startup of the Year — Black and Mobile

Since February 2019, founders and twin brothers David and Aaron Cabello have operated this Black-owned food delivery service app that works specifically with Black-owned restaurants and aims to get them a higher profit margin than other food delivery apps. During the pandemic, Black and Mobile upgraded its app to meet a higher demand, and expanded its services to serve Detroit and Atlanta. The Cabello brothers were recently featured in Pharrell and Jay-Z’s “Entrepreneur” music video.

The founders couldn’t make it to the Signature Event, so watch that music video instead:

Growth Company of the Year — STRATIS IoT

The East Falls-based smart home device maker, which was recently acquired by Texas’ RealPage, made this year’s Inc. 5000 list and stands around 60 local employees. The company’s nominator wrote that CEO Felicite Moorman’s priority is “to build a team of diverse humans working toward a similar goal. She embraces and encourages open communication and expression, in particular when it comes to uncomfortable, difficult conversations surrounding race and gender inequality, systemic violence against people of color, and anything else in our current environment that may bring pain or distress to those here at STRATIS.”

  • In their own words: Moorman and Director of Culture Shawn Doyle joined to accept the award together. “This is for the STRATIS family,” Doyle said. “STRATIS is who we are because of them. Our growth has always been about the team and taking on challenges that no one thought they could, and growing themselves. 2020 has tested that like no other year, and really it’s been inspiring to see so many team members step up in so many different ways. We’ve had a clear demarcation here of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, and just remarkable growth from all of our employees. They’re the real stars here.”

P.S. Shoutout to everyone who dressed up like their fave celebs and movie characters and stuck around for trivia. More on that — and the mayor’s visit — soon!

Companies: Black and Mobile / JumpButton Studio / Women in Data — Philadelphia / STRATIS IoT /
Series: Awards
People: Terrill Haigler / Shannon Morales / Nicodemus Madehdou / Rajvi Mehta / Felicite Moorman
Projects: Philly Tech Week

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