It was the first in-person session in two years and people were delighted to be touching and conversing without masks while enjoying wines provided by Darcie Kent Vineyards and Wente Vineyards.
Jay Vijayon set the tone for the evening with the first award when he updated presenter Les Schmidt’s introduction. He and another former Tesla colleague founded Tekion six years ago and it has grown into a $3.5 billion company, a cool $2 ½ billion more than Schmidt cited. The company’s software is designed to improve all aspects of dealing with your automobile and dealerships. As Jijayon said, the experience is a far cry from buying something on Amazon.
He said investors urged him to leave the Tri-Valley area for Silicon Valley or San Francisco, concerned they could not get the right workforce here locally. That hasn’t been a problem as they’ve grown rapidly and he made it clear they are committed to this area. The largest automotive dealership company in the United States now is using their software as is General Motors for its electric vehicles. He said it wasn’t easy to disrupt an industry that hadn’t been disrupted in 50 years, but they’d worked for a company, Tesla, that had done just that.
Tekion was one of 10 companies honored, two from each city. The honorees reflected the diversity of the Tri-Valley economy—they ranged from automotive and farming (Monarch Tractor) to human resources software and training, software to manage beauty and grooming companies and autonomous guidance systems.
The Tri-Valley economy was pegged at $42 billion three years ago, about the same as the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina. Given the success of these 10 companies, you must wonder what that estimate would be today.
Schmidt also introduced Glen Schofield of Striking Distance Studios who will release his first video game later this year. He’s been involved in two of the most successful games ever released, Call of Duty and Dead Space. He’s built a state-of the-art studio at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon and expressed, as I heard Schmidt say a few years ago, he’s done with crossing bridges. He lives in San Ramon and his company is there.
Schofield also said that videogames are a $247 billion annual business, bigger than movies and music combined. As one who never has done video games, that stat blew me away.
Michael Fitzsimmons, CEO of Crosschq of Danville, and his team have developed an artificial intelligence driven platform to improve the hiring process. He pointed out that 46% of new hires are “mis-hires,” a failure rate that is unacceptable. He founded the company in 2018 in Prospector Square in Danville. When tenants started moving out after the Covid lockdowns, he kept taking more space and quadrupled it during the pandemic. They’ve received $36 million in funding from investors including Salesforce’s investment arm as well as Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson who pulled in other NBA players.
Like Schofield, he’s committed to continuing to grow his firm where he founded it in Danville.
I will write about some of the other honorees in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.