Optimism in the air—that was the first thing you would have noticed at an EY Entrepreneur of the Year® reception at the Rosewood Sand Hill last week.

As I walked through the hotel’s reception area, I couldn’t miss the well parked Lamborghinis highlighted by a metallic blue one that simply screamed “IPO success.” Just to the side of the reception area, the Rosewood bar was packed with wall-to-wall patrons relishing in the latest business deals.

The real show was going on in the Rosewood’s lower conference room, where a wonderful reception was held for the 24 finalists of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, who were honored for making the grade. Truthfully they were all winners at this event, which RoseRyan proudly sponsored again this year. However, the final 8 winners will not be announced until June 11 at the lavish event at The Fairmont in San Francisco. (Check out the 24 finalists for Northern California here: www.ey.com/us/eoy/norcal.)

Conversations in Menlo Park that night with the entrepreneurs and their teams ranged from valuations of funding rounds to the mentality of “take the money now” when it is available from growth-starved investors. These entrepreneurs’ most immediate worry? The talent war. They seem most concerned with the ability to hire top-notch employees with just a small pool of candidates in front of them.

Looking further out, they are optimistic about the future, but they also expressed a sense of trepidation of what is going to happen when interest rates rise and the cost of commercial and residential real estate continues to be expensive. There is a general feeling that the current influx of late-stage funding rounds may decline once any indication of a slowdown in the general economy occurs.

But any down talk was quashed by the overriding sense of optimism. It was wonderful to see a diverse group of companies among the finalists. Although cloud software and mobile technology seem to gather all of the headlines these days, these finalists represent a broad range of categories: finance, beverage, food, biotech, consumer brands, cleantech and healthcare. Of course, application developers, wireless and cloud companies are well represented too.

Overall, the EY finalists are a fine showing for Northern California as they demonstrate the versatility and entrepreneurial spirit that are alive and well here.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He can be reached at [email protected] or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.