Agora, Bounce.io, Orbotix, Tusaar, Webroot claim victories

BOULDER – A robotic ball controlled by a smartphone and a solar-powered public Internet “hotspot” idea were among innovations taking top honors at the 14th annual IQ Awards event held Wednesday, Aug. 28 at the Boulder Theater.

The Sonicision ultrasonic surgical device from Boulder-based Covidien’s (NYSE: COV) energy division was both the audience favorite and the judges’ favorite at The Innovation Quotient, or IQ, Awards, sponsored by the Boulder County Business Report. The awards are made to companies with the most innovative new services and products in Boulder and Broomfield counties. Sonicision won both the Innovation of the Year award from the audience as well as the IQ Award for Business Products and Services from a panel of judges at the event at the Boulder Theater.

Finalists in the business products and services category after Covidien were Market Force Information Inc. and Shelfx. Market Force makes a software product that generates data for retailers and restaurants. Shelfx makes a mobile checkout system that can be used at grocery stores.

The Agora Projects, Bounce.io, Orbotix Inc., Tusaar Inc. and Webroot Inc. all won in their respective categories as well. The audience chose the Innovation of the Year through a texting scheme. A panel of judges chose the winners during a brief interlude at the event after listening to short pitches from company representatives. The nonprofit The Agora Projects was chosen in advance of the event.

Snapshots of the winning companies and products:

The Agora Projects won an IQ Award in the Nonprofits category. The Boulder-based group’s Hot Spot project uses solar-powered “canopies” to offer free access to wireless Internet-enabled computers. The project is expected to serve as a “branch library for the 21st century” for people around the world, said Bud Wilson, a founding partner of the nonprofit group. Agora may become a private company in the future, and is looking for funding partners.

“These are virtually bullet-proof, and they’re vandal- and abuse-proof,” Wilson said. “We’re creating 21st century computer tablets in the pedestal charging stations.”

Finalists in the nonprofit category included Bridge House, a Boulder nonprofit that created a program helping homeless people return to work; and Realities for Children Boulder County, which serves abused, neglected and at-risk children.

Bounce.io won an IQ Award in the Internet/social media/mobile application category. The Lousville-based company developed a way to reroute bounced emails back to senders, along with an advertising message. Since an estimated 20 percent of all emails “bounce,” or are returned to senders, the market is currently wide open, said Scott Brown, a Bounce.io spokesman.

Boulder company Spotright Inc., which makes software to aggregate social media data, and 30DB in Nederland were finalists in the category. 30DB makes an Internet application that searches for public opinion on topics of interest.

Orbotix Inc. won an IQ Award in the Consumer Products category. The Boulder-based company makes the Sphero, a robotic ball controlled by a smartphone. Sphero now is used in more than 25 mobile applications. One of the popular apps is “Sharky the Beaver,” in which a user manipulates the ball and sees a display on his or her screen of an animated beaver moving around, rather than the ball itself.

Louisville-based Canaima Outdoors Inc. was a finalist in the category, with its Gibbons Slackline tightrope-style product and gear. Revolv Inc. in Boulder also was a finalist. The company develops technology that lets users control hundreds of wireless devices.

Tusaar Corp. won in the Natural/Green category. The Boulder-based company has developed a process to remove and recover more than 46 different metals from wastewater and other waste streams. The company estimates there is a $3.2 billion market for its services, in the nuclear waste field and in recycling rare earth metals, among other areas, said Gautam Khanna, founder of the company.

Boulder-based Skratch Labs LLC was a finalist in the category for its natural energy/hydration drink Exercise Hydration Mix, which is stocked in 32 Whole Foods stores and many outdoor retail stores. Sir Richard’s Condom Co. in Boulder also was a finalist for its condom/social marketing company.

Webroot Inc. won in the Software category. The Broomfield-based company makes a cloud-based software that serves as an Internet security product. Webroot put itself in the “reinvention” category, after creating new products to work in the Internet “cloud” rather than on individual computers, said David Duncan, chief marketing officer. Since then, the company has grown its annual revenue well past the $100 million mark, Duncan said.

Boulder-based 7D Imaging Inc. was a finalist in the category. The company develops software to go with ultrasound pictures. Boulder-based Culinary Software Services Inc. was the other finalist. The company makes software that helps chefs reduce food waste and potentially increase profits.

A panel of judges previously chose finalist companies from submitted entries. Panelists were Paul Jerde, a consultant, Jerry W. Lewis, Upstream Communications LLC; Tim Bour, Innovation Center of the Rockies; Susan Graf, former president of the Boulder Chamber; and Theresa Szczurek, Radish Systems LLC.

Sponsors included EKS&H PC public accountants in Boulder, Boulder Staffing Inc. in Broomfield, Wells Fargo Bank in Boulder, Photo Craft Imaging in Boulder, Survey Gizmo in Boulder, KUNC-FM 91.5 in Greeley and Connect First Inc. in Boulder.

This year’s event theme was “Game of Innovation,” based on the popular HBO series, “Game of Thrones.”

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