Conversational buzz was enormous as business, government and other leaders came together to celebrate the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group’s 2022 Gamechanger Awards at Goal Line Productions in Pleasanton.
It was the first in-person session in two years and people were delighted to touch and converse without masks while tasting wines provided by Darcie Kent Vineyards and Wente Vineyards.
Jay Vijayon set the tone for the evening with the top prize when he updated presenter Les Schmidt’s introduction. He and another former Tesla colleague founded Tekion six years ago and it grew into a $3.5 billion company, $2.5 billion more than Schmidt quoted. The company’s software is designed to improve all aspects of managing your automobile and your dealerships. As Jijayon said, the experience is far from buying something on Amazon.
He said investors urged him to leave the Tri-Valley area for Silicon Valley or San Francisco, fearing he wouldn’t be able to find the right workforce here locally. This hasn’t been a problem as they have grown rapidly and he has made it clear that they are committed to this area. The largest car dealership in the United States now uses its software, as does General Motors for its electric vehicles. He said it wasn’t easy to disrupt an industry that hadn’t been disrupted in 50 years, but they had worked for a company, Tesla, that had done just that.
Tekion was one of 10 companies honored, two from each city. The winners reflected the diversity of the three valleys economy – they ranged from automotive and agriculture (Monarch Tractor) to human resources software and training, beauty and grooming business management software and autonomous guidance systems.
Tri-Valley’s economy was estimated at $42 billion three years ago, about the same as North Carolina’s Raleigh Durham area. Considering the success of these 10 companies, you have to wonder what that estimate would be today.
Schmidt also introduced Glen Schofield of Striking Distance Studios who will be releasing their first video game later this year. He was involved in two of the most successful games ever released, Call of Duty and Dead Space. He built a state-of-the-art studio at the Bishop Ranch in San Ramon and expressed, as I heard Schmidt say a few years ago, that he was done with crossing bridges. He lives in San Ramon and his business is there.
Schofield also said video games are a $247 billion annual business, bigger than movies and music combined. As someone who has never made video games, this stat blew me away.
Michael Fitzpatrick, CEO of Danville’s Crosschq, and his team have developed an artificial intelligence-based platform to improve the hiring process. He pointed out that 46% of new hires are “bad hires,” an unacceptable failure rate. He founded the company in 2018 at Prospector Square in Danville. When tenants started moving after the Covid closings, it continued to take up more space and quadrupled it during the pandemic. They received $36 million in funding from investors, including the investment arm of Salesforce as well as Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson who attracted other NBA players.
Like Schofield, he is committed to continuing to grow the business he founded in Danville.
I’ll write about some of the other winners in future articles, so stay tuned.
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