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Each year as part of the NC TECH Awards, the Association has conducted a public poll to select the “Tech Exec of the Year.” We have re-vamped that award to now be the “Tech CEO of the Year,” and only fellow tech CEOs can vote.  NC TECH has reached out to member and non-member CEOs to vote on their peer to be recognized at the NC TECH Awards.

 2021 Tech CEO of the Year Finalists

Cor Hoekstra

Co-Founder + CEO,

Cor Hoekstra, co-founder and CEO of, envisions a more generous world. He has an ambitious goal: to introduce technology that would truly revolutionize and mobilize charitable capital and bridge the gap between donors and non-profit organizations. 

He leads with a sense of optimism rooted firmly in the integrity of his values, which inspires the team to imagine the possibilities of a world where everyone can make an impact. While pragmatic and decisive, he maintains imagination in fostering creative solutions that push boundaries. 

Cor is a 30-year veteran in the ERP technology sector. He worked closely with co-founder Walt Ruloff at InterTrans Logistics Solutions (ITLS), where Cor served in a number of roles during the company’s growth. Prior to leading Amicus as its co-founder and CEO, he was a Partner at IBM, Account Executive at Oracle, and VP Retail at One Network Enterprises.

Within the past year, Cor led to another successful fundraising round, grown its headcount with a strategic focus on its Charlotte headquarters, and launched its philanthropic platform for DAF 2.0. 

Following on the heels of a Series B raise in 2020 which brought total funding to $17.5M, announced the launch of its DAF 2.0 philanthropic platform. Cor’s leadership brought the platform to launch with a Tier 1 bank and with innovative fintech platform, The TIFIN Group; the company is in conversation with 5 of the top 10 banks and 3 of the top 5 asset and wealth advisories. These accomplishments were made possible by his determined and motivating leadership. 

Firmly committed to the Charlotte community, both as a business leader and philanthropist, Cor seeks to grow’s presence in Charlotte with plans to double the headcount of the company over the next 18 months.

Michael Jones

CEO, Spoonflower

Michael is an entrepreneurial executive with experience in e-commerce, SaaS and technology. His management experience covers sales, account management, product management, product marketing, business development and online marketing. He specializes in sales, business development, e-commerce, commerce, online marketing, online marketplaces (eBay, Amazon, etc.), brand development, mergers and acquisitions, competitive analysis, public speaking and, in his words, “ Getting things done.”

Current position and responsibilities 

Since Shutterfly’s August 10, 2021 acquisition of Spoonflower, Michael reports directly to its Chief Executive Officer, Hilary Schneider.  In his role as Spoonflower’s General Manager, he will continue to determine the best way forward with respect to optimizing growth and profitability. This will include rigorously and efficiently executing, customer-centric strategies that fully exploit the business and brand potential and expanding on the elements of Spoonflower that have been most successful, while prioritizing strategies and steps for improved performance and additional growth. Michael guides the company through its next chapter of growth, while leading the management team through clear, concise and compelling communication. 

Michael works closely with the executive team and employees to develop and deliver on vision and growth strategy for Spoonflower, establish a clear, focused, and consistent plan to operationalize the vision and strategy for the business. Lead the team to come together to drive unified execution of this strategy with a focus on long-term value creation.

Richard McLain


Richard McLain is the Chief Executive Officer at INE. He has been with the company for more than a decade, rising through the ranks to become the CTO/COO, and ultimately the CEO in 2018. Since becoming CEO, Richard has led the company through a private equity sale with Providence Strategic Growth (PSG), as well as a series of aggressive acquisitions, including Novodyne (2019), eLearnSecurity (2019), RMOTR (2019) and Wuvavi (2020).

Most recently, Richard has led a restructuring of internal departments, bringing in multiple new C-level executives, instructors and creating new positions within the Cary-based company to allow for experimentation and expansion. During this time, INE has seen a 21% growth in employee headcount YoY, 83% growth in Recurring Cash Bookings YoY, 62% growth in paid subscribers TTM, and 52% growth in Annual Recurring Revenue TTM. 

In early June, Richard gave his (and the company’s) first Keynote Speech during an event called RedefINE 2021. In the keynote, Richard unveiled a slew of changes and improvements to the company, including the release of 5 new industry certifications, the creation of INE Community, an online forum designed exclusively for students to connect with others during the training process, and the creation of INE Live!, an online platform that will host free content including instruction videos, industry thought leadership, and community mentorship opportunities. 

Throughout a time of exciting company growth, change, challenges and opportunities, Richard has continually served as a well-respected leader within the company. Within the last 12 months, Richard established monthly “All Hands Town Hall” style meetings, open to all company employees. Employees are encouraged to ask members of INE’s Executive Leadership Team any and all questions directly, fostering internal trust, communication and a sense of community. Additionally, he schedules monthly “All Hands” meetings, open to all employees, where the company at large is briefed by INE’s Executive Leadership Team on new initiatives, developments, communications and challenges.

While growing the company both internally and externally, Richard has maintained a commitment to serving the broader Information Technology community. He often mentors younger students, including Michael Hilton, who at just 17 years old is striving to become the youngest CCIE in the world. Richard stumbled upon Michael’s GoFundMe website where he was trying to raise money for training, and offered to sponsor Michael.

He has served as a mentor, financial sponsor, and personal friend to Michael, inspiring local news coverage in both the Raleigh, NC and Mission, TX markets. Michael is one in a sea of students who look to Richard for guidance and mentorship in their careers and find a gracious and enthusiastic supporter. Richard discovered a passion for technology at a young age, learning to change settings so he could conquer his favorite video games. He attended Auburn University, where he earned his MSWE in Software Engineering, MBA in Marketing, and BS in Software Engineering. Richard lives in Cary with his family. 

Erkang Zheng

CEO + Founder, Jupiter One

Erkang Zheng is the founder and CEO of JupiterOne, a fast-growing cybersecurity startup building cloud-native asset management and security governance platform. Within the past twelve months, JupiterOne has tripled its active customer base, raised nearly $50M in funding from top investment firms increasing its valuation, and quadrupled in team size.

Erkang is a strong supporter of making security a basic right that all companies should have, at a cost they can afford, and in a way that allows them to build a security program the right way over time. He is an engineer by training, an entrepreneur at heart, passionate about combining innovation and execution to deliver practical solutions that address challenges at their root cause. Under his leadership, JupiterOne helps customers proactively manage the security and compliance of their cyber assets.

Prior to JupiterOne, Erkang served as the CISO of LifeOmic, a cloud precision health software company. In 2015, he was the Head of Software Security at Fidelity Investments’ largest business unit – Personal Investing. While at Fidelity, Erkang built and managed the software security practice – a critical part of Fidelity’s enterprise digital transformation and cloud adoption journey.

Erkang’s experience prior to joining Fidelity includes seven years with IBM serving as a security practitioner and global practices leader in penetration testing, emergency response, PCI and ISO security assessment, and enterprise security operations centers. He also led the
go-to-market strategy and product management for IBM Security Services.

Erkang earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from North Carolina State University and a Master of Science degree in computer science from North Carolina State University. He holds five patents, and more than a dozen industry certifications. He is a regular speaker at major security conferences including RSA, BSides, DevSecCon, IBM Insight, and many podcasts.

Erkang lives with his family in North Carolina, where he enjoys deep-sea fishing, skiing, and fast cars.