Branham Awards find silver linings in industry downturn

OTTAWA – For at least one night, neither protracted industry slump nor threat of global economic recession was able to dampen spirits at the first-ever celebration of the Branham Awards.

The awards, which are intended to recognize and honour excellence in Canada’s information technology industry, were presented Wednesday night at a black-tie gala in the Great Hall of Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada. More than 400 CEOs, presidents and senior level executives of IT companies across Canada gathered at the event.

The big winner of the evening was Research In Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ont., which scooped up the prize for Company of the Year. RIM president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis graciously thanked Canada for creating a safe and free environment for companies like his to flourish.

There were many veteran Canadian IT names among the eight winners and 24 nominees, including Burnstsand, Castek, Open Text and Zim, and that was significant, says J. Wayne Gudbranson, president and CEO of Branham Group Inc., and organizer of the event.

“There’s been so much hype about the new emerging companies but it’s the good, established companies that are percolating to the top,” he said. A good example is Cognos, which was nominated for best company. The business intelligence firm has been around at least 25 years and has always had a history of solid growth and profitability.

Another example is “Turnaround Company of the Year” prize-winner SureFire Commerce Inc., which has been around, in one form or another, for at least 20 years. And RIM Communications itself was around quite some time before it hit it big with its BlackBerry wireless, e-mail device.

Gudbranson stressed that although most of the work done by the Branham Group is internationally focussed, he wanted to restrict the awards to Canadian companies only, and that it is very important to him personally to help build the visibility of the Canadian IT sector.

“We just don’t beat our chests enough,” said Gudbranson. “And here, we’re almost forcing these guys to go up there (on stage to collect the awards).”

The night was emceed by CBC Hockey Night In Canada personality Ron McLean. Performance was by BAM and music by Latin Breeze. Sponsors of the event and presenters of the evening included Plesman Communications.

The 2002 event will be held in Toronto with plans to bring it to western Canada in the following year.

The winners for each of the eight award categories are:

Alliance of the Year

AXIA NetMedia Corp.

Calgary, Alta.

Top Service Launch of the Year

T4G Ltd.

Toronto, Ont.

Company of the Year

Research in Motion Ltd.

Waterloo, Ont.

Turnaround Company of the Year

SureFire Commerce Inc.

Montreal, Que.

E-Business Enablement of the Year

Burntsand Inc.

Toronto, Ont.

Up and Comer of the Year – Product

e2ms Inc.

Whitby, Ont.

Top Product Launch of the Year

Castek Software Factory Inc.

Toronto, Ont.

Up and Comer of the Year – Service

Navantis Inc.

Toronto, Ont.

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