3 local businesses receive Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Visionary Award

Audrey McNamara/Senior Staff

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The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce celebrated the innovative and impactful businesses across three industries — biopharama, climate science and technology — at this year’s city Visionary Awards on Monday.

The Visionary Awards identify entrepreneurs based in Berkeley that are making strides in solving difficult challenges in their respective fields. Recipients of this year’s awards were cancer immunotherapy company Aduro Biotech CEO Stephen Isaacs and climate advisory firm Four Twenty Seven CEO Emilie Mazzacurati, as well as desktop manufacturing company Other Machine Co. CEO Danielle Applestone.

“We look to select people that have grown their business in Berkeley,” said Berkeley Chamber of Commerce co-CEO Kirsten MacDonald. “They’re doing something that revolutionizes their industry, the way we live in the city and hopefully in the world.”

After an hour of mingling at the event, the keynote speaker and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Director Michael Witherell kicked off the awards ceremony portion. During his speech, Witherell touched upon Berkeley’s scientists at both Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, which have provided opportunities for local businesses to be innovative.

“I think (it’s) really interesting to see what businesses won and the criteria for judging,” said Jane Kearney, an Oakland resident and small business owner present at the event, adding that she wanted to understand what “visionary” meant in business.

Isaacs, whose company focuses on developing cancer immunotherapies, said during his award ceremony speech that research conducted at UC Berkeley benefits the company as they develop translational medicine, and is big factor for why his company has remained in the city.

Mazzacurati’s company is currently working to understand how climate change can impact financial markets, and Applestone’s company aims to increase the accessibility of manufacturing tools.

“Vision is nothing if it isn’t turned into projects to create impact,” Mazzacurati said at the event.

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce co-CEO Polly Armstrong said it is important to acknowledge the significant role of businesses in utilizing the city’s resources and stimulating a healthy economy.

“This (event) is especially great because we get to celebrate what our community accomplished,” said Lauren Hanley, an event attendee and employee of Nerd Crossing Inc. “It’s kind of a nice way to say thanks for your hard work.”

The Visionary Awards began four years ago, according to Armstrong, but was officially recognized by the city this year, with attendance growing each year. She added that full partnerships with Berkeley Lab and San Francisco Business Times have recently been established.

“The unique confluence of brilliant people and terrific education centers and innovation excitement — that’s all available here at Berkeley and we want to capitalize on it and make Berkeley one of the very vital places of the twenty first century,” Armstrong said.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.