VentureBeat is happy to officially announce The Crunchies 2008 — the second year of this tech-startup awards ceremony.

With the economic downturn setting in, there may be fewer business successes to celebrate for the foreseeable future. So it’s more important than ever to recognize companies and leaders of excellence.

On January 9th at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, VentureBeat — along with co-hosts TechCrunch, GigaOm and Silicon Alley Insider — will award the pictured Crunchies statues to 15 technology companies selected by you, the readers, for outstanding accomplishments in 2008.

Here’s how it works: Starting today, we will be taking nominations in a range of 15 categories, including “Best Technology Achievement,” “Best Startup Founder” and “Best Bootstrapped Startup.” The Crunchies Committee will then select five finalists per category and, on December 15th open the field to your votes. Voting will continue until midnight Pacific Time on January 5th. Nominated companies will attend, and we’ll announce the winners live on stage.

Follow this link to nominate your favorite companies. You will have the power to make or break an entrepreneur’s second biggest dream after a blockbuster IPO.

The full rules are here.

Companies interested in sponsoring should contact Jeanna Logozzo or Heather Harde for more information.

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