Meet the Latest Stars in Brooklyn’s Tech World

The makers of chatbots, podcasts, automated gardens and more were honored at the Brooklyn Awards

Emilie Baltz, who won the award for Artist/Creative Group of the Year, with co-host Zack Seward (Photos by Steve Koepp)

In case you missed it, Brooklyn has become a tech hub, with growing engineering schools, big companies arriving, scores of local startups–and emerging stars. To honor the latter group’s accomplishments, the digital journal Brooklyn gave out its 2017 innovation awards last night in eleven categories at a festive, charmingly nerdy event in Dumbo Heights.

The winners were chosen by readers, who cast more than 1,000 votes, and the trophies were made locally via 3-D printing by Voodoo Manufacturing. A look at the winners of the BK Awards 2017, announced by editor Zack Seward and lead reporter Tyler Woods:

Design/Dev Firm of the Year: Small Planet, a Dumbo-based company (not to be confused with their neighbor Big Spaceship) that designs and develops apps for mobile and smart devices. The company recently opened a machine-learning lab.

Incubator of the Year: Urban-X, the new Greenpoint-based accelerator for startups in the smart-city space, developing technology to re-imagine urban life. Every six months, Urban-X invests up to $100,000 per company in up to ten companies.

Indie Video Game of the Year: Paperclips, an addictive clicker game about making a humble office-supply item that leads to major consequences. Designed by Frank Lantz of the NYU Game Center in Downtown Brooklyn, Paperclips was launched in October and quickly went viral.

The winners, who spanned eleven categories, took home trophies made locally by Voodoo Manufacturing

Entrepreneur of 2017: Ali Kriegsman, co-founder of Bulletin, which calls itself “the WeWork of retail,” offering makers of products a shared space in a bricks-and-mortar store. Bulletin launched with a store in Williamsburg and in May raised $2.2 million in seed funding to expand the brand.

Tech Mission Org of the Year: NYC Planning Labs, a new division of the city’s Department of City Planning that leverages technology and the massive amount of data collected by NYC to make programs that could help run the city better. The division was inspired by 18F, a federal-government tech-development office.

Artist/Creative Group of the Year: Emilie Baltz, whose website says it best: “I am a sensory storyteller who uses food, drink & technology to create playful and unconventional work that moves people to discover new worlds one lick, suck, bite, sniff and gulp at a time.” Check out her Cotton Candy Universe. Baltz works out of New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Makerspace of the Year: the aforementioned New Lab, a vast, redeveloped manufacturing space that supports entrepreneurs working in advanced tech fields ranging from robotics to nanotechnology. With about 84,000 sq. ft. of space, the cavernous building houses dozens of companies. It opened in June 2016.

Melanie Lavelle of Benefit Kitchen, which makes an app to help low-income people find the benefits they’re entitled to

Growth Tech Company of the Year: Gimlet Media, the podcasting juggernaut launched in Brooklyn in 2014. With ambitions to become “the HBO of audio,” the company is a magnet for venture capital, raising $27.5 million to date. The growing company is moving from its Gowanus launch pad to a redeveloped space downtown on Flatbush Avenue.

Tech Startup of the Year: Farmshelf, which builds automated hydroponic growing systems, enabling people to grow food where they live and work. Based in the Navy Yard, the company has raised $150,000 and has started selling its systems to restaurants, including the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal.

Best Web/Mobile Product of the Year: Benefit Kitchen, a Park Slope-based startup that has created a financial-literacy app to tell low-income families about their eligibility for as many as 18 federal, state and local benefits. The company says that American families living in poverty leave about $80 billion in benefits on the table every year because they don’t know about them or how to get them.

Technologist of the Year: Kelsey Hunter of Paloma, which has created a chatbot to help big companies engage with their customers. The company says that more than 2 billion messages are sent between businesses and users monthly on Facebook Messenger alone.