You blew us away with your company culture, bombarded us with thousands of votes and tweeted your support — now, it’s time to reveal who came out on top. It was a tight race, but we’re excited to announce the two winners of our second annual Startup Culture Awards! In a statewide competition driven by Ohio’s tech community, voters chose NaviStone in Cincinnati as the early-stage winner and Everykey in Cleveland as the late-stage winner. To celebrate these great examples of Ohio’s awesome startup culture, we looked behind the scenes to see what makes these two innovative companies so great:
EARLY-STAGE WINNER: NaviStone
NaviStone developed a way to turn customers’ curiosity into sales. The company makes marketing more efficient with visitor tracking, helping businesses identify engaged users when they land on a site. After starting with the support from CincyTech, NaviStone was recently featured in VentureOhio’s Top 50 Startups to Watch. From their offices in Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood, the company isn’t just running a successful startup, they’re helping their employees love work. With music, fresh coffee, an office dog (Ava, the team’s Chief Happiness Officer) and an open work space, their culture is perfect for creativity. And with monthly team-building activities like scavenger hunts, volunteering and jam sessions by the team’s employee band, NaviTones, the company culture doesn’t quit at 5 p.m.
“The most important thing to us is that employees know we care, and people matter,” said CEO Larry Kavanagh. “People can work anywhere. There are lots of places to work. So from the outset, it was very important that our employees know how we want to work together and treat each other. We want to know about people outside of work and let them know they’re valued. We want our team to own their work, and we take our jobs seriously, but we think it’s very important to be able to laugh at your own mistakes. We don’t want someone thinking, ‘People are going to think less of me because I made a mistake.’ We’re all going to make errors. The work is better if you can admit it, laugh at it and learn from it.”
LATE-STAGE WINNER: Everykey
We can all relate to having far too many keys and passwords, and Everykey feels your pain. That’s why they built a Bluetooth device smaller than a flash drive that replaces both physical keys and passwords, enabling users to automatically unlock their devices, doors, vehicles and password-protected websites when they are in close proximity. After getting their start with support from the Great Lakes Innovation & Development Enterprise, the company has continued to grow in Cleveland. In addition to flexible schedules and a relaxed environment, fun perks like a rock-climbing wall, an office cat and creative pineapple displays show the startup’s culture is just as important as their company success.
“At Everykey, we’re really trying to create a friendly culture where people are excited to come into work,” said Chris Wentz, co-founder and CEO. “We have very flexible work hours and a lot of great amenities that help people have fun at work. It boils down to being able to have a good time and enjoy the people that you work with. We have a big open space that allows for collaboration and an open and creative atmosphere where people don’t feel pressured or secluded. Our culture incentivizes people to work hard, which is important for any company, but it also makes people happy when they’re here at work. It’s a great balance of friendliness, collaboration and hard work that’s going to drive us to become a multimillion-dollar company.”
Thanks for making the second annual Startup Culture Awards another great success. Ohio has no shortage of innovative, creative, entrepreneurial companies with amazing cultures. Thanks for nominating, voting and taking us inside! We’ll see you next year for another round of impressive startup workplaces!