EY names eight Virginians mid-Atlantic entrepreneurs of year
Six out of 13 companies recognized are based in Va.
Eight leaders from six Virginia businesses have been named winners of Ernst & Young LLP’s Mid-Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2022.
The winners, named in early July by the Big Four multinational professional services company, include:
- 10Pearls | Imran Aftab, co-founder and CEO, Vienna
- Aireon LLC | Don Thoma, founder and CEO, McLean
- ID.me | Blake Hall, co-founder and CEO, McLean
- Iron Bow Technologies | Rene LaVigne, president and CEO, Herndon
- KIHOMAC | Ki Ho Kang, founder and CEO, Reston
- RHOBACK | Kevin Hubbard, Kristina Loftus and Matt Loftus, co-founders, Charlottesville
Altogether, EY presented Mid-Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year Awards to 15 entrepreneurs from 13 companies based in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Awards were based on demonstration of long-term value through entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, growth and impact, as well as other values.
Since its launch in 1986, the EY entrepreneurs award program has expanded to recognize business leaders in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries throughout the world. Regional award winners will be considered by judges for the national award, which will be presented in November. That winner will compete for EY’s world entrepreneur award in June 2023.
Aftab, of 10Pearls, launched the digital development company with $2,000 in Pakistan in 2004 and now employs more than 1,200 people with offices around the globe. He was a finalist for the mid-Atlantic award in 2020.
“I am so honored and grateful to win this prestigious award and be recognized amongst such great entrepreneurs,” Aftab said in a statement. “It seems like yesterday when I was discussing with Zeeshan Aftab, my brother and co-founder, the idea of creating a better world through opportunity creation and giving back. The evolution and maturation of 10Pearls as a global enterprise while preserving our ‘double bottom-line’ culture and values is one of our proudest accomplishments. This recognition is a true reflection of the entire team’s hard work and passion. The team is unstoppable, and we cannot be more excited about the future.”
Aireon, a global air traffic surveillance company, was founded by Thoma in 2011.
“Although I was the face of the award, this is a tremendous recognition for Aireon,” Thoma said. “Nothing as innovative, global, and impactful as Aireon happens without a team of dedicated, innovative, and passionate professionals. That is what we have at Aireon and it is great to hear the judges’ comments recognizing our team for this big achievement.”
Tech company ID.me is known for its facial recognition software. In June, the company laid off 54 employees months after the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies said they would drop plans to require taxpayers to use their software. The firm has also been the subject of a House Committee on Oversight and Reform investigation.
Iron Bow Technologies provides information technology solutions to the government, commercial and health care clients.
“It is such an honor to be recognized alongside a list of so many outstanding individuals and by such a highly reputable brand such as EY,” Lavigne said. “The growth and maturation of Iron Bow has been my proudest accomplishment as an entrepreneur and receiving this award is just as much a reflection on my team and their hard work as it is mine. My time at Iron Bow has truly been a great ride and one that I look forward to continuing!”
KIHOMAC was founded in 2003 by Kang, an Air Force veteran, and works to extend military aerospace weapons systems.
RHOBACK is an activewear company founded by a couple who attended the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business along with another friend. The company won the 2016 EDENS Retail Challenge.