Torc Robotics CEO Michael Fleming appreciates Southwest Virginia modesty as much as the next guy, but he says that can have drawbacks for a technology scene making a name for itself.

He listed some of the local technology industry wins over the past year ahead of his keynote address at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s 20th annual TechNite awards ceremony Friday night. 1901 Group is adding 580 workers. Block.one has planted its flag in Blacksburg. Auto giant Daimler Trucks acquired a majority stake in his own company.

“I don’t think we do as good of a job as we should do in celebrating and promoting these wins,” Fleming said. “The downside of being humble is sometimes it’s a little challenging to promote yourself. Humility is not being passive.”

Fleming spent his time on stage at the Hotel Roanoke highlighting his company’s story, from the time a group of Virginia Tech students decided to start an autonomous vehicle company in 2005.

Torc Robotics grew over the next decade to around 100 employees as it built an international reputation. And then in April a subsidiary of Daimler, the German company behind brands like Mercedes-Benz, acquired a majority stake in Torc.

The news marked one of the biggest acquisitions for a local technology company in years, and also the entrance of a billion-dollar industry giant to the burgeoning technology hub in Southwest Virginia.

But Fleming said it’s not a coincidence that this happened in Blacksburg. Torc’s story couldn’t have happened anywhere, as he said the company’s hometown has been a key ingredient all along.

“Employees in this region stick with the companies for the long term,” he said before the event began. “They don’t job hop. Great things are just not accomplished in short order.”

Fleming’s remarks kicked off the RBTC’s annual award ceremony, an event designed to serve as the kind of celebration he said he would like to see happen more often.

The 2019 TechNite Award Recipients:

  • The Rising Star award was presented to Block.one, a blockchain software company that launched one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies in 2018 and raised over $1 billion. The company’s growing Blacksburg office is led by Dan Larimer, a Virginia Tech alum considered a cryptocurrency thought leader.
  • The Entrepreneur of the Year is Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc Robotics.
  • The Innovator of the Year is Luna Innovations, a publicly traded company with offices both in Blacksburg and Roanoke. Luna struggled for years, but the company’s stock price climbed through 2018 as it returned to consistent profitability and completed several acquisitions.
  • Two Regional Leadership awards were presented to Carilion Clinic CEO Nany Agee and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. The pair have been instrumental in the growth of a medical school and research institute in Roanoke.
  • The Company of the Year is 1901 Group, a Reston-based IT services company that is building a new operations center in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. That office will employ 580 new workers, the company has said.
  • The Ruby Award went to Heywood Fralin, who gave a record $50 million gift to Virginia Tech to expand research at the recently named Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke.

In addition to the awards, the RBTC inducted into the Technology Hall of Fame Kenneth Ferris, President of Brookewood Management Advisors and member of the RBTC advisory board, and Marty Muscatello, President and CEO of FoxGuard Solutions and previous member of the RBTC board of directors.

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