Larry Ellison Has One, and Now 11 More Entrepreneurs Do, Too

One of Silicon Valley’s most exclusive clubs inducted 11 new members on Saturday night.

For 25 years, Ernst & Young has been picking from among the cream of the entrepreneurial crop, designating the “Entrepreneur of the Year” in various categories.

The program is national, but the Northern California regional awards have developed a reputation for recognizing top technology business minds before they become household names.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar are among the pantheon of inductees who took the award before they were big.

“Ernst & Young actually doesn’t do any of the selecting,” explained Ernie Cortes, who directs the Northern California regional award program.

A committee of eight judges, each representing different segments of the tech industry, chooses the categories each year and then selects the finalists and winners within each category.

There is no cash, just recognition, and each award recipient gets access to the network of previous winners.

“It’s a pretty good group to know,” said Cortes.

Here’s a quick list of this year’s winners by category, and in the interest of full disclosure, the list of judges as well:

2011 Entrepreneurs of the Year, Northern California Region

2011 Entrepreneurs of the Year Judges

After the ceremony, we caught up with Zohar Levkovitz, the winner in the mobile category. He’s CEO of Amobee, a mobile advertising provider best known for its work abroad with carriers such as Telefonica.

He shared a few thoughts for entrepreneurs looking to get into the mobile technology space, and what the award means to him (and his mom):


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik