Going All In

Cleveland hosts six high tech events in two-week span

By Terry Troy

For the Greater Cleveland region, it was a unique opportunity. Business and community leaders did not let it go to waste.

Last year, when Forbes announced that Ohio would host its flagship Under 30 Summit for three consecutive years through 2025, it was a clear nod to our state’s impressive community of young entrepreneurs and innovation. Bringing together young and diverse leaders from across myriad industries to collaborate, network, learn and exchange ideas, the first of Ohio’s three Under 30 Summits was recently held in Cleveland, with Cincinnati and Columbus following in 2024 and 2025.

Those two cities will have a tough act to follow in terms of multiplying the impact of the prestigious Under 30 Summit. Indeed, Greater Cleveland used the Summit as an overarching event to help build the city’s and our state’s reputation as being at the forefront of America’s renaissance of technology, infrastructure and industrial manufacturing, from supporting a new generation of electric vehicles to cutting-edge computer chips.

“This year, we decided to bring together six major tech events in the span of just two weeks,” says Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “We had over 10,000 tech professionals, from students to entrepreneurs, at events under an umbrella heading that we called ‘The Land of Trailblazing Tech.’ The idea was to spotlight Cleveland tech with the events, which we would sequence one after the other.

Baiju Shah

“But it was also important that we bring our tech community together. We have more than 58,000 tech workers in Greater Cleveland, by last count, and they work at high tech specific companies like Park Place Technologies as well as at enterprise positions at companies like PNC Bank, Sherwin Williams and Cleveland Clinic. We generally don’t think of ourselves, and we certainly don’t project ourselves, as being a high-tech town. But the fact is we have more IT workers than most Midwest destinations.”

Events under “The Land of Trailblazing Tech” included Futureland, an industry and product conference, Ohio VC Fest and the All In for Tech Day featuring Passport to IT in the morning and culminating with the 17th annual Best of Tech Awards that night.

“However, the Forbes Under 30 Summit was by far the largest of the events, drawing more than 6,000 participants,” Shah admits.

Still the GCP should be commended for leveraging that very popular national event to shine the spotlight on Northeast Ohio’s tech community, especially during the Best of Tech Awards.

“What I like about these events is that it helps us celebrate both emerging innovators as well as established companies that are transforming their fields and our community,” Shah adds. “For instance, Park Place Technologies has been around a long time, but very few people in our community know about them. They don’t realize how big they have become, the kind of services they provide and how many countries they operate in today.”

The All In for Tech Day started with Passport to IT, which attracted more than 750 high school students from 25 different schools from the Greater Cleveland area.

“The goal of that program was to inspire and spark the imagination of students who want to know more about tech and the pathways into tech careers,” says Shah.

The event also included a GCP keynote and City Club Special Forum with David Pogue. With 30 years of experience reporting technology trends, Pogue simplified the complex and prepared the audience to take on the future. His presentation gave attendees a glimpse into innovative technology including self-driving cars, wearable medical devices and AI. He discussed the region’s strengths and opportunities for becoming a tech hub. The day culminated with the Best of Tech Awards.

The aforementioned Park Place Technologies took home Best IT Services Company, Managed Service Provider. Andy Gehrlein, CFO and chief administrative officer of Park Place, accepted the award during the Best of Tech ceremony.

“Park Place has been historically known as a TPM or third-party maintenance company,” says Gehrlein, explaining the breadth and scope of the company’s operations. “That is how we started and that is what we have been doing for 30 years. But today, we have really evolved into a whole infrastructure services provider. This award acknowledges us for managed services, a category that is really exciting and phenomenal for us. We have a very large and quickly growing managed service business that has more than 2,000 customers and is experiencing significant year-over-year revenue growth. It’s a big part of our present and a big part of our future—so it’s great to be acknowledged for that.”

Park Place is hardly a stranger to business and industry awards, although recognition from the Greater Cleveland business community has been a little hard to come by. As Shah noted earlier, the company doesn’t often come to top of mind as a business or industry leader, even though it is considered a leading global data and infrastructure services provider. It serves more than 21,000 customers across 190 countries around the world. It serves half the Fortune 500 companies as well as tens of thousands of other businesses.

The company’s leader, Chris Adams, took home Tech CEO of the Year in the Large Company classification, but was traveling so Hyune Hand, president of sales and marketing for Park Place, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Chris is a phenomenal leader, and many of our company’s accomplishments have come through his ideas,” says Gehrlein. “But he really tends to shun the spotlight.”

Winner for the Most Promising Startup in the medium-size business segment was CHAMP, a company that delivers advanced digital title and registration capabilities to DMVs, insurance carriers and automotive retailers in the United States. It was co-founded by Bernie Moreno in 2018. This fall, the company signed an agreement with its strategic partner Tyler Technologies and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to implement CHAMP’s electronic solutions for vehicle titling and liens.

CHAMP’s CEO, Shane Bigelow, took home Tech CEO of the Year in the medium-sized business segment.

“The bottom line is that Cleveland is a tech hub and we have to start talking about it,” says Shah. “We have to start recognizing all the tech innovators, entrepreneurs, company leaders and dreamers that are in our midst, whether they are working for a tech firm like Park Place or working within tech at major organizations like Eaton, Cleveland Clinic, Sherwin Williams or PNC Bank.

“It’s also really important that Ohioans recognize that Ohio and Greater Cleveland are places where you come to create the future.”

GCP’s Best of Tech Award Winners

Greater Cleveland Partnership’s 17th annual Best of Tech Awards honored the leaders, innovators, companies and organizations who are supporting, advancing and building the region’s tech sector.

Most Promising Startup:
Medium-sized business winner: CHAMPtitles
Small business winner: SonoStik

Best Technology Solution:
Large company winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
Small company winner: Bonefish Systems, LLC.

Best IT Services Company, Managed Service Provider:
Park Place Technologies

Best IT Services Company, Software: M. Genio.

Best Support of the Tech Community: North Coast Ventures

Tech Team of the Year: 
Cleveland Public Library

Tech CEO of the Year:
Large company: Chris Adams of Park Place Technologies
Medium-sized company: Shane Bigelow of CHAMP Titles

Rising Tech Star: Evan Davies of Notus Labs

Excellence in Manufacturing: Innovation Food Services

Best Tech Talent award for TechTalent Innovation: OverDrive

IT Teachers of the Year:
Jami Little of Cuyahoga Valley Career Center 
Tim Moore of Cuyahoga Valley Career Center

Procorps Company of the Year: Eaton