Last November I attended the Digital Entrepreneur Awards at the prestigious Palace Hotel in Manchester, which is now known as The Principal Manchester.

The DEAs are the longest-serving black-tie awards ceremony based on internet entrepreneurialism in the UK – and the level of quality on the night showed why.

What separates these awards from others in Manchester are their focus on the achievements of people in digital. We’ve been developing this new industrial age for the last 20 years yet it’s exciting to think what the digital scene will look like in the next 20. We need to encourage people in the industry to keep doing amazing things and to inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs.

The winners are chosen by expert judges with a track record of success – notably Lawrence Jones MBE, Claire Braithwaite, Richard Law and Lou Cordwell – so the standard to be on the shortlist, never mind to win, has to be extremely high.

The 17 categories from last year included eCommerce Business of the Year, Best Use of Mobile Technology, Most Innovative Use of Video or Animation, Social Media Campaign of the Year, Most Innovative Use of Technology, Digital Agency, Business & Startup of the Year and finally Digital Entrepreneur of the Year – won by Steve Bartlett of Social Chain.

Gnatta, winner of Startup Business of the Year, is led by Jack Barmby and provides comprehensive customer technology to add efficiency and minimise cost at the point of contact. Its unique workflow and automation software has helped it capture big-name clients, including online fashion retailer ASOS. Gnatta were recently featured in the 101 Best Start-up Disrupters list in the sixth edition of BusinessCloud.

Chris Marsh

Chris Marsh, who is also working with the Tech Manchester initiative

Founded in November 2014, Social Chain started out as the brainchild of Bartlett and co-founder Dom McGregor and they now control hundreds of social media accounts from their cool offices in Manchester city centre (as well as having offices in London, Berlin and New York).

Winners from previous years have told us personally about their surprise and delight at doing so and a number of them use the DEAs logo on their email signature. Winning awards is always wonderful as recognition of achievement – but can also be great PR…

Following the awards we were treated to a performance by a dance studio as part of the Gatsby theme which rounded off nicely a wonderful atmosphere of celebration and optimism for the future.

I’m looking forward to this year’s ceremony at The Principal Manchester already and seeing some familiar faces. You can nominate yourselves here – the deadline has been extended until 11th August.

And follow @UKDEA on Twitter with the hashtag #DEA2017 leading up to the 22nd November 2017.