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Our Honorees

 

PINNACLE AWARD RECIPIENT

Jim Bankoff, Chairman & CEO, Vox Media, Inc.

Jim Bankoff runs all aspects of Vox Media, one of the fastest growing online publishers, focused on the sports, personal technology and gaming categories. Vox has enjoyed remarkable growth by delivering the most valuable digital storytelling, online communities, advertising and audiences. SB Nation, its sports brand, boasts over 78mm users per month across 300 individually branded, fan-centric sports communities, each covering a specific professional or college team, league or sport.

In November 2011, Vox Media launched The Verge, which has quickly established itself as a category leader and the fastest growing site that covers technology. In October 2012, Vox launched Polygon, a site dedicated to news and community for fans of gaming, anchored by an all-star roster of writers. All Vox Media sites are built upon its world-class proprietary publishing platform, Chorus. The company enjoys support from leading investors including Accel Partners, Comcast Interactive Capital and Khosla Ventures.

A veteran of the online industry, Jim developed and led dozens of the most popular websites on the internet including AOL, Mapquest, Moviefone, AOL Music, TMZ and Engadget as an Executive Vice President at AOL. Mr. Bankoff also oversaw AOL's industry-leading instant messaging services, AIM and ICQ, and social networking and community applications including Blogsmith and Netscape. His accomplishments have earned him wide recognition, most notably the first Emmy ever awarded to a webcast, for his role as Executive Producer of the Live 8 concerts online.

 

LOCALLY GROWN HONOREE

Andre McCain, Founder, HalfSmoke, and NFTE DC Region Alumnus

Andre McCain is the founder and CEO of HalfSmoke, an upcoming fast casual restaurant showcasing an array of gourmet sausages (www.halfsmoke.com). With a $2.0 million build-out, this unique “fun casual” concept will serve guests customizable gourmet sausages and complementing toppings. The restaurant is scheduled to open Spring 2016, in the vibrant, new destination neighborhood of Shaw in Washington, DC.

A native Washingtonian, Andre worked in the retail clothing store Up Against The Wall in the Shaw neighborhood while attending Wilson High School. With help from The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), at the age of 16, Andre founded his first company, Urbanfly.com, a fashion e-commerce website focused on linking consumers with brand-name clothing from suppliers around the world, which he ran from 2002-2006. In 2003, he was honored by NFTE as a National Entrepreneur of the Year.

In 2004, Andre enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree in 2008. In the summer and fall of 2006, he studied abroad in programs at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); at Peking University (PKU) in Beijing, China, and with the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) in Barcelona, Spain.

Following his graduation, Andre moved to New York to join UBS Investment Bank for two years as an analyst focusing on real estate, lodging and leisure. Then in 2010, after completing the analyst program during the height of the financial crisis, he returned to Washington, DC, to work in real estate private equity and development for The JBG Companies, where he remained until 2011. Next, he was tapped by SL Green Realty Corporation in New York to become an associate in real estate acquisitions and structured finance investments, a role he held until 2013, when he became vice president of real estate acquisitions and development for Princeton Holdings, LLC, in Manhattan.

After working for three of the nation’s top real estate and investment firms, Andre was fueled by his belief that the restaurant business gives one the opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of thousands of people every single day. So in 2013, he began to explore the world of successful, sustainably designed, fast casual restaurants, working at Sweetgreen and Pret A Manger. Andre chose the Shaw neighborhood in Washington where he started his first company to return to open his first location for his new restaurant venture.  Andre also currently resides in the Shaw neighborhood as well.