The inaugural Tees Tech Awards were described as a “fantastic endorsement of the local digital sector” as Mabo won the big company gong, Salesfire won two categories while Dominic Lusardi and Lee Hutchinson received the big individual accolades in Thursday night’s long-awaited virtual event.

The Tees Tech Awards were streamed as live during a 90-minute show on YouTube – with ecstatic winners celebrating across 11 categories.

Organised by Tees Business magazine, in association with DigitalCity and Middlesbrough Digital, the awards were originally scheduled to be held in April in Wynyard Hall’s Grand Marquee but were postponed and rearranged due to the Covid pandemic.

Instead they were held virtually, with winners hearing the good news from award sponsors via a series of Zoom calls, hosted by former BBC Tees presenter John Foster.

More than 90 entries were received with five sponsors giving their scores across five categories each to ensure there were no kingmakers in the most democratic of “judging” systems.

Taking the coveted Company of the Year trophy – sponsored by headline sponsors DigitalCity and Middlesbrough Digital – was Middlesbrough-based pay-per-click specialists Mabo who impressed judges with their unique methods, flourishing worldwide reputation and increased workforce.

Mabo beat off stiff competition from fellow Middlesbrough firm, game development specialists SockMonkey Studios and Stockton-based Tascomp, experts in control and monitoring systems.

Mabo marketing director James Lees said: “As a very proud Teesside company, we’re humbled to be named the best company across the local digital industry.

“Our competitive edge maybe sealed the deal but we wouldn’t be where we are now without our loyal staff. They all care deeply about Mabo and we fight as a team for everything that we achieve. We’re all local and the directors are Boro-born and bred.”

He added: “It’s time for a collaborative voice. The Tech Awards have showcased the incredible talent our region has and it’s time to shout about our achievements. If Mabo, as Company of the Year, can be the figureheads for that voice, that would be amazing.”

The Business Leader accolade, sponsored by Punch Robson Solicitors, went to Lee Hutchinson who has led the growth of Middlesbrough’s Double Eleven into one of the region’s biggest game development studios, employing 85 people. Lee triumphed over fellow finalists Chloe Clover of Wander Films and Tom Howsam of Paid.

Dom Lusardi, of animators Animmersion, secured the Tech Ambassador title, sponsored by Cornerstone Business Solutions, thanks to his devotion to the region’s tech sector, constantly striving to support and raise its profile and support others within the industry. Worthy finalists were James Lees of Mabo and Darren Falcus of SockMonkey Studios.

Another Middlesbrough firm, Salesfire, triumphed in two categories – Innovation and Best Newcomer.

For the Innovation Award, sponsored by Tracerco, they held off fellow finalists Intasite and Everflow Group, while the Best Newcomer category – sponsored by Recognition PR – saw them win for a second time despite strong competition from Wander Films and Aero Commerce.

Calm Digital and Intasite were joint winners of the Tech Partnership trophy, sponsored by Communicate Technology PLC, ahead of bids from Sapere and Absolute Antibody and a second entry from Intasite, this time in partnership with PD Ports.

Other worthy winners included Code 4000 who won the Tech For Good category, sponsored by Domino’s Teesside, beating off competition from Stockton’s Adeo Group and Guisborough-based ItchyRobot. Working at Stockton’s HMP Holme House, Code 4000 teaches offenders coding skills to increase their chances of finding employment on release, reducing their risk of reoffending.

Appamondo claimed the Davies Tracey-sponsored Tech Exporter Award, triumphing over Nicander and Carbon.  

Wander Film’s Chloe Clover was “stoked” to be named Rising Star in the Middlesbrough College-sponsored category, pipping Ben Doherty of Tascomp and Ryan Jessop of Carbon to the post.

Everflow Water – based in Middlesbrough and Wynyard – took the top spot from Psyche and CPD Bodies in the Digital Transformation category, sponsored by Baldwin’s Group.

Kraken IM won the Small Business category, sponsored by Jacksons Law Firm, despite stiff competition from Wander Films and Calm Digital. Kraken have won contracts with global giants Boeing and Exxon-Mobil.

Martin Walker, of organisers Tees Business, described the awards as “a fantastic endorsement of the local digital sector”.

He said: “It was clear to see what the awards meant to the winners and finalists but this was really about celebrating all that’s good in a sector that’s blooming but too often under the radar. These awards have helped to change all that – and we aim to keep it going year after year.”

Fellow organiser Dave Allan said the awards represented “a victory for determination and creativity in the face of adversity”, with the awards having been rearranged several times to adapt to the changing challenges of Covid.

“It wasn’t the occasion we originally envisaged but we’re confident the awards will stay long in the memory and have absolutely delivered on all that we wanted to achieve.”