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Innovators Take Center Stage at Business Journal Event

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Nearly 250 members of the Orange County business community attended the seventh annual Innovator of the Year Awards ceremony last Thursday, Sept. 9.

The event, held at the Irvine Marriott, honors OC-based executives, entrepreneurs, scientists, and other visionaries who have made marks in a variety of industries, both locally and worldwide.

The keynote address was delivered by Indi founder and executive chair Neel Grover, an e-commerce executive with over 20 years’ experience; his firms have sold over $5 billion in products online.

Grover recounted how he turned then Aliso Viejo-based Buy.com into the country’s third-largest e-commerce site, and made it consistently profitable, before its 2010 sale to Japan’s Rakuten.

When competing against the likes of larger firms such as Amazon, Grover’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs was to build deep relationships with vendors, “challenge the status quo,” and “trust yourself.”

“When you have nothing to lose, be very bold,” he told the audience, citing an unplanned meeting with Rakuten’s CEO which helped pave the way for the Buy.com sale, reported at $250 million.

His current venture, Indi, based in Newport Beach, helps designers, artists, influencers, educators, athletes and others monetize their talents.

6 Honorees

The event’s five main honorees, selected from nearly 80 nominees, were:

• Kenneth Chang, MD, of the UCI Health Digestive Health Institute.

• Nicolaas Verheem, CEO of motion picture technology firm Teradek.

• Tim Nguyen, co-founder and chief strategy officer of fintech MeridianLink.

• Claude Tellis, CEO of nutraceutical firm Naturade.

• Tony Smith, co-founder and CEO of software firm Restaurant365.

In addition, a Global Impact Award was presented to Phillip Felgner of the UCI Vaccine Research and Development Center, for his contributions to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Business Journal’s next event is the CFO of the Year Awards, which will run Sept. 28.

Solis Capital Partners managing director Daniel Lubeck is that event’s master of ceremonies; for more information see www.ocbj.com/bizevents.

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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