Awards Ceremonies look easy enough from the outside, but are a lot harder to do right than just getting attractive and talented people in a room, putting them in their evening wear finest and honoring them for their myriad achievements.
Sure, when it goes right, things look that easy — but when things go wrong … well, we all saw the Oscars this this year. PricewaterhouseCoopers — after 83 consecutive years of tabulating the Academy Awards without incident — managed to accidentally put the wrong card in Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway’s hands for the Best Picture award and … well the rest is YouTube history.
And, as America found out what actually happens when the wrong name gets read on stage, PwC found out what happens when Twitter decides to rename your firm — as our CEO (and former PwC employee) Karen Webster told those assembled at the Innovation Project’s annual awards dinner last night.
“PwC is now called Probably Wrong Card!”
Webster went on to promise no such snafus at the IP Awards, noting that her career at PwC was on the consulting side of the house — not the auditing side.
And on the whole, the Innovation Awards Gala at Boston’s famous Fenway Park didn’t quite have the “wrong card” drama that came included with the Oscars this year — but we are inclined to view that as a feature, not a bug.
Besides, what was on display at Fenway was much, much better than a chance to live on in infamy on social media for a few days — because for a few hours last night, the best minds in payments and commerce innovation, the stars of our show, had a chance to take the stage and show off for just a minute or two for the idea and experiments that are changing the world right now — or are going to be changing the world really soon.
Plus, we had Jason Alexander — AKA George from Seinfeld, AKA the man behind the fictional character who brought us such life-changing concepts as the Big Salad, the Fat Wallet and (PYMNTS' ongoing personal favorite) Festivus.
And it was in the spirit of Festivus that Alexander met the crowd at Fenway last night — ready, willing and more than able to begin a good-natured airing of the grievances about payments, commerce and the Innovation Project as a whole.
Alexander questioned, for example, how Adm. James Stavridis managed to build an entire fireside chat around “What a Cyber Pearl Harbor Means For Commerce,” since “we all have a pretty good idea of what Pearl Harbor meant to Pearl Harbor. I can’t imagine “commerce” having a terribly different outcome. So I’m assuming the Admiral comes in, sits by the fire and says, “It’s bad,” and that pretty much wraps it up. Not much of a chat.”
Alexander also had the reaction that most payments and commerce outsiders have when you explain the concept of bitcoin to them — and then invite them to a really in-depth conversation about digital currency.
“Did anyone seriously attend this? If so, I hope they confiscated everyone’s belts and shoelaces. Otherwise there would have been a rash of spontaneous hangings because swift, sweet death would be a far more welcome alternative to a blockchain conversation.”
On the one hand, it’s harsh. On the other hand — having attended many in-depth blockchain conversations — well, it’s not the worst idea in the world, either.
And he also noted, before warmly congratulating the winners and ceding the stage to them, that everyone in attendance deserved a trophy — both for their dedication to their craft, and because they’d gone to so many strange sounding fireside chats.
Okay, so maybe payments and commerce can look a little strange from the outside in — but last night's awards were decided by the votes of all the participants’ peers, our panel of judges and more than 20,000 PYMNTS.com readers. From hundreds of submissions, the winners for 14 Innovation Award prize categories were drawn, including the “Most Innovative Payments Player” (tabulated correctly) as well as 5 special awards for innovators who’ve made unique contributions to PYMNTS and commerce.
So, sick of waiting to find out who took home Gold, Silver and Bronze? Well good news, the wait is over.
And the winners are...
Best POS Innovation
Gold: First Data
Best B2B Innovation
Best Cash Innovation
Gold: Payment Source
Best Small Business Innovation
Silver: First Data
Best Prepaid Innovation
Best Credit Innovation
Most Invisible Innovation
Gold: Android Pay
Best Comeback Story
The NACHA Best Innovation in ACH
Silver: Campus Scientific
Gold: Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Best Merchant Solution
Gold: Amazon Dash
Best Debit Innovation
Most Disruptive Company
Bronze: Samsung Rewards
Most Innovative Player
Bronze: G2 Zelis Payments
Silver: Amazon Alexa
Gold: Loop Commerce
Special Awards And Honors
Mike Duffy Award
Women Driving Innovation in Payments Award
Allison Guidette, G2 Web Services
Lifetime Achievement Award
Kenneth Chenault, American Express
The winners themselves, unsurprisingly, all expressed gratitude for their wins — and excitement for being part of what’s next in payments and commerce.
Some winners, however, had particularly notable remarks. The winner of the highly coveted Most Innovative award, Loop Commerce, saw its CEO and co-founder Roy Erez admit that while he is happy to have won, he is not quite sure how he will explain his victory to his ten year old son, since Loop managed to beat out Alexa.
We also had some genuinely thought-provoking and touching moments. Blake Hall, founder and CEO of ID.me — the firm that gook home gold for most disruptive company — told the assembled that “the whole market is bigger when you take the friction out of it.”
Allison Guidette, winner of the Women Driving Innovation in Payments award, dedicated her win to all the woman who will develop the technologies of the future.
And now, with all the awards given out and the innovators departing Boston with their hardware in hand, the real work begins.
Developing those technologies of the future.
And when they do, we’ll be back next year — to reward their efforts again.
If you were with us this year, thanks for coming.
If not, we hope you’ll join us in 2018.