Our conference MobileBeat, to be held next Thursday, comes at a time of huge innovation and change in the mobile industry.

There’s no better namesake for our MobileBeat award — to be given to the best mobile companies during our conference — than Nikola Tesla, the great Serb who was the first to demonstrate wireless communication. Many have called him the prototypical “mad scientist.” He was one of the most prolific innovators of the 19th century. Some have called him the greatest genius ever.

As we researched Tesla, we found a particularly intriguing image of him holding a shiny orb. The picture bespeaks the sense of wonder and mystery that must have enthused the scientific community of his time — one led and provoked by Tesla, who came to the U.S. and became an American. Another picture (at far bottom) shows him demonstrating wireless electricity and lights at the World’s Fair in 1893.

So too are today’s developers creating new wonders in mobile. Apple and Android are examples of platforms that have sparked all of our imaginations. Android cofounder Rich Miner will be speaking at the conference. And we’ve invited 30 of the very best private mobile companies to participate too, in what we hope to be a summit of the biggest questions and ideas surrounding mobile. Each of these companies is led by driven entrepreneurs, sometimes in tandem with a “mad” engineer or two. They’ll each be showcased prominently during the event.

So we’re crafting a weighty brass award depicting the image of Tesla’s hand holding his bulb (a draft image of the award is up top; it will be ready by event day), our figurative rendition of the link between today’s innovation and the breakthroughs made by the greatest minds of the past.

We’ll be giving out seven of these awards. All 30 companies will be eligible for two of them: “best CEO” and “boldest idea.” Additionally, over the next day or so, we’ll announce the lucky ten companies that will qualify for the pitch session directly to the full audience. Our team relied heavily on voting to select the top 30, but have found it difficult to winnow the top 10. Thus, we’re going to add a “wild card” to the process. The audience will vote for their favorite from among the remainding (20) companies, and the winner will be able to present to the full audience too. It will also be eligible for the “best overall” award.

Finally, the lucky 10 will also be eligible for four awards: Besides the “best overall” (for which we’ll have two categories, applications and infrastructure/service), there will also be “best mobile person under 35,” and “most outrageous move,” plus a final award we have yet to announce.

The most “outrageous move” and “boldest idea” awards are particularly relevant, given the Tesla tie. The man was full of such moves on the scientific front. And yet there’s an even richer significance of the man’s life for us today. Tesla, despite his amazing creativity, never focused on his finances; he died impoverished at the age of 86. Lesson: Many ideas today are outrageous, but it takes a business model to get a real company off the ground. That’s why, for the best “overall award,” we’ll take into consideration the business viability of the company, as well as the idea.

We’ll have an esteemed panel of experts to help us make the selection on the day of the event. Stay tuned. We’ll announce the panel shortly.

Sales of our tickets are moving quickly, so go here to get yours. It’s less than a week away.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors, Blackberry Partners Fund, Forum Nokia, Sun Microsoystems, Norwest Venture Partners, Amiando, Zanox, mTouch and Mippin for making this possible. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, please contact Jacob Mullins.

[Tesla image credits: Steve Kayser]