This year, Red Hat President and CEO Jim Whitehurst gets the honor.
"First, I'm a little shocked," said Whitehurst. "I'm certainly honored and certainly surprised."
Red Hat creates the operating systems used by every major stock exchange system in the world as well as web sites like Amazon and EBay. Major airlines use it and utilities do too.
"It'll finish 2011with more than $1 billion in revenue and, more importantly, it has more than $1 million in cash in its kitty," said Triangle Business Journal Editor Sougata Mukherjee.
Part of the reason Whitehurst is the Triangle Business Journal's choice is the company's plans to establish Red Hat's global headquarters in downtown Raleigh. It's a move that's expected to create more than 500 jobs.
"I would expect us to create significantly more than that," said Whitehurst. "We continue to grow 25-30 percent-ish per year. The business looks great. I would assume that's going to continue forward. So in a few years, I'd like to see us create many times that 500 number."
Red Hat plans to move into the Progress Energy building in fall 2012. If the Duke/Progress merger does not go through, Red Hat says it has a backup plan.