Archive for the ‘Carolinas’ Category
Monday, August 26th, 2013
Get ready for action: best-selling author and e-commerce marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk returns to keynote the 2013 Internet Summit at the Raleigh Convention Center November 12-13.
Vaynerchuk, called “the king of social media,” rocks an event crowd with his powerhouse energy, sharp humor, and non-stop insights into how to market using today’s tools.
Vaynerchuk had the audience with him at IS 2012 as he explained his concept of the “Thank-You Economy,” the title of one of his best-selling books.
A massive cultural shift
Social media is part of a “massive cultural shift,” and marketers better pay attention, Vaynerchuk told the crowd that packed all three ballrooms at the Internet Summit that year.
He grabbed the audience with a funny but take-away laced talk that filled the Twittersphere with praise for his performance. He speaks primarily from actual experience with his highly successful winelibrary.com site and his own social media marketing, not from theory. His message regarding social media is that engagment, not sell, sell, sell, is the key.
“But no one wants you to pound their commercial down their throat on their Facebook page,” he said the 2011 IS.
“Most businesses are not good at social media and they make the same mistake a 19-year-old dude makes talking to a woman the first time. They try to close in their first conversation.”
Vaynerchuk has appeared on numerous national television programs as a wine and marketing expert, including Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show, The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Dr. Oz Show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNN’s Your $$$$, and CNBC’s Power Lunch.
More than 100 thought-leaders headed to Raleigh
He’ll join more than 100 other speakers at this year’s event, the premiere digital marketing conference in the Research Triangle.
Other speakers confirmed for this year’s Internet Summit include:
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit and author of “Without Their Permission.”
Brian Herd, Director of Southeast, Twitter. Herd, who began his career at Yahoo in 1990 won the firm’s “Super Star” award in 2001 and is currently responsible for all Southeastern revenue and business relationships for Twitter.
Simon Heseltine, director of Audience Development, TechCrunch/Huffington Post/AOL. Simon and his team are responsible for organic search, social and training across all AOL properties, including TechCrunch, HuffingtonPost and AOL.com. Heseltine spoke about “Search and SEO,” at the DallasSummit, another TechMedia event, last year.
Duane Forester, Senior Product Manager, Bing. Forester has 15 years experience in search and social and is the author of How To Make Money With Your Blog and Turn Clicks Into Customers, through McGraw-Hill.
Those are only a few of the speakers already confirmed. See the full list here.
Register early for the best event rate and reserve your seat. The event, which draws 2,000, generally sells out.
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
The NC Research Triangle entrepreneurial ecosystem has been growing by leaps and bounds lately. On the heels of opening a new startup hub in downtown Durham, The American Underground, a network of startup hubs, will open a new location this fall at 213 Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Startups help spark the innovation that creates new markets and new jobs; the American Underground helps startups connect with the resources they need to succeed.
@Raleigh will feature up to 25+ companies as well as Bandwidth Labs, the incubator arm of Bandwidth, the world-leading Raleigh-based innovator that recently shook up the smartphone market with the introduction of Republic Wireless.
@Raleigh will also feature a ‘regional coworking desk,’ allowing startups in the Underground to work in any Underground location. This means a startup based in Raleigh can easily take meetings in the two Durham-based Undergrounds, plop down in the Durham coworking space, and not miss a beat — and visa versa.
Nor will startups miss out on social time, a not-to-be-dismissed lubricant of success. @Raleigh is situated directly above popular watering hole, Foundation. Networking and learning events, as seen in Durham and other national hot spots, will be a staple of the new hub.
Density Key to Success
Density, experts say, is key to a successful entrepreneurial economy. A critical mass of startups, funders etc. allows for productive interaction and increases the odds of success.
The new @Raleigh site will strengthen a Triangle-wide ecosystem that the original Underground — located at Durham’s American Tobacco Campus — helped to kick-off in 2010. There are now 100+ startups in Durham, more than half of them working in the collaborative, inter-connected spaces at American Underground hubs at the campus and at its just-opened downtown Durham site.
“The Triangle as a whole is now alive to the idea that we can be an international hub of the kind of innovation that leads to new companies and jobs,” says Underground Chief Strategist Adam Klein. “We have the universities, we have the talented, dedicated visionaries. @Raleigh represents an opportunity for us to better link our regional assets and make it possible for startups to work across the Triangle easily and seamlessly. We look forward to collaborating with others who share this vision for regional success.”
Adds Bandwidth CEO David Morken: “Bandwidth’s incredible growth over the last several years is due to hard work and relentless innovation, items we expect will be hallmarks of the American Underground@Raleigh. Locating Bandwidth Labs in the Underground allows us both to help build our community and to continually expose some of our brightest minds to new and challenging ideas.”
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, said, “I am thrilled to welcome The American Underground@Raleigh to our bustling downtown and vibrant entrepreneurial eco-system. The Underground’s regional approach combined with the international scope of Bandwidth Labs makes the project a perfect fit for North Carolina’s capital city. The more connectivity we achieve between entrepreneurs, investors, universities and major corporations, the more our startup eco-system will grow and thrive.”
Jean Pauwels, owner of the building since 2006, has previously partnered with Foundation and a theater group. He carefully vetted his next project. “A big part of my decision to work with the American Underground is my desire to collaborate with people who think outside the box. The Underground team truly wants to put together something special. It will be a great addition to downtown Raleigh.
Paul Singh, venture partner in the international 500 Startups has observed, “I’ve rarely seen an entrepreneurial ecosystem as thoughtfully developed or successfully executed as the American Underground.”
Friday, July 19th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Underground@Main, the downtown Durham extension of the Bull City’s expanding tech hub opened officially last night with a party that reminded us of the heady Internet boom days at the start of the century
201 West Main, a former bank building, is home to 40 startups in downtown Durham, NC. Photo by Renee Wright.
The party showed off the site’s colorful and playful corners as well as its office and meeting room amentiies – such as a recreation room in a former bank vault.
The Vault rec room includes several flatscreen TVs, a virtual fireplace, comfortable arm chairs and sofas, and safety from nuclear attack.
The facility also includes Mayor McCheese, who has a loudspeaker in his generously-sized mouth, for issuing announcements, a 50-foot slide, a treehouse lounge, and old video arcade games, such as Pacman (but the controller isn’t very responsive and leads to being eaten by Pac creatures every time.)
One of the reasons startups love downtown hubs is that so many amenities are available within walking distance. Many restaurants located within a couple of blocks of 201 W. Main provided tasty treats for the evening, including the fine French restaurant Rue Cler, Toast, Beyu Caffe, Mateo Tapas, Taberna Tapas, The Parlour, and The Cupcake Bar. Local breweries such as Railhouse Brewery supplied craft beers, while pro pourers from Bartending Unlimited mixed signature cocktails designed for the event.
The crowd circled the offices of the 40 startups already at home there, the downstairs area called the co-working Bull Pen, and other areas.
We’ll show another set of photos of the office amenities at the site in another post.
Here are some of our photos of the event (all by Renee Wright).
Mayor McCheese, who issues announcements through a loudspeaker in his mouth.
How’s this for a startup amenity? A 50-foot slide.
Called The Pipeline, it provides a quick trip between floors.
The vault rec room. First to crack the vault’s code receives 6 months free rent.
The cupcake bar.
Inside the vault rec room, where you’ll be safe from nuclear attack and just about anything else.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Durham adds another spoke to its growing reputation as a startup and technology hub today, officially opening a new American Underground location off Main Street called Underground Main.
Located at 201 West Main Street in Durham, the new space is an extension of the award-winning American Tobacco Historic District, home to the original Underground hub. The 22,000-square foot new space opens with 40 startups and has room for 50.
It offers a meeting rooms – one in a former bank vault – something a little different from the usual ping pong table, a 50-foot-slide.
For years we heard tech employees of major firms based in Research Triangle Park – only 10 or 15 minutes from either American Underground – lacked places to grab lunch, drop off your dry cleaning, or meet and chat with colleagues. While IBM and other large tech firms retain their somewhat less populated but still large campuses in the RTP, the startup ecosystem is blossoming in downtown Durham.
Original site designed by Disney
The original American Underground site on the American Tobacco Campus, designed by Disney, complete with a waterfall, running water canal, restaurants, shops and office space, offers much the opposite, a place where entrepreneurs, organizations such as the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and even venture capital firms can easily interact with others. Downtown Durham offers similar, if less fancy amenities.
The Underground model has earned national attention.
Recent visitors include John Biggs (TechCrunch), Joe Klein (TIME), Alexis Madrigal (Atlantic Monthly) and the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness, including G.E’s Jeff Immelt and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.
Paul Singh, a venture partner with the national 500 Startups, visited recently, noting, “I’ve rarely seen an entrepreneurial ecosystem as thoughtfully developed or successfully executed as Durham’s American Underground.”
“At the Underground, we want to help launch businesses with truly innovative ways to serve real world needs and see them grow into full-fledged successes that produce good jobs,” says American Underground Chief Strategist Adam Klein.
“It’s no secret that the startup world is sometimes charged with being an ‘echo chamber’ that relies too heavily on hype. There’s not a lot of ‘hype’ here in Durham. Instead, we’re focusing on the pieces that make for real world success: good ideas, access to capital and mentors, and, ultimately, positive deal flow.”
Keen to capitalize on a regional entrepreneurial legacy that includes SAS and Red Hat, Underground leaders have recruited regional partners, including the Research Triangle Park Foundation.
NC IDEA — a catalyst for young, high-growth, North Carolina tech companies — will sponsor relevant content for entrepreneurs via events, networking and other programming. Both RTP Foundation and NC IDEA are ‘founder’ partners as are Duke University, The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Self Help Credit Union.
In addition to Duke, university partners include NC Central (which has an office @Main) and NC State (which has one @American Tobacco) as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Opening party (Thursday, July 18) To highlight the region’s many attractions, including Durham’s burgeoning reputation as a foodie mecca, @Main’s opening party features eats and drinks from a variety of local producers. Railhouse Brewery, for example, is providing pours of its acclaimed craft beers. Republic Wireless is raffling one of its groundbreaking $19 per month mobile phone packages.
@Main’s roster includes: Archive Social, Duke University, Cloudfactory, NCCU,PopUp, Durham Cares, Sovereign’s Capital, Virtue Event Planning/ Tivi Jones Media/ Art of Cool, Zone Five Software, eyeNET Security, Knurture, PRSONAS, InfoHounds, ShiftZen,
Hazard Studios, Text2Give, 519 Games, Robotfactorial, Changemaker Capital, StoreHouse, Trust, LifeKit, Side, Z Shift and Third Track, Open’s Horse, Splitmo, CrowdSearch, Latitude, Growth Partners, Mighty Thumbs, Haiti Hub, Investors Mosaic, CleanHatch.
For more information, please visit www.americanunderground.com.
Monday, July 15th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Excelerate Health Ventures says it will put together the pieces of healthcare tech investments in an innovative new way.
Angel investors are often successful entrepreneurs looking for ways to put the capital they earned from building their own business into other startups with high growth potential. A new angel fund in the Research Triangle Park, NC, Excelerate Health Ventures, not only includes experienced entrepreneurs, but also a network of doctors, dentists, and healthcare executives.
In a press release, the fund, which has secured commitments of $5.1 million for its first closting of the Physician Fund, says it plans to invest in “capital efficient start-ups that can scale rapidly in the healthcare industry,” particularly in software and medical technology.
EHV says it will leverage the domain experience and contacts of their network of providers, payers, and strategic partners to select, validate, mentor and grow their portfolio companies.
A unique opportunity
“EHV has created a unique opportunity for physicians like myself, who are committed to this marketplace, enabling us to collectively bring new technologies to market and to improve the care of our patients,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, M.D. MBA, Associate Dean of UNC Healthcare Entrepreneurship and Chief of Cardiology at UNC Chapel Hill and advisor to the fund.
“The goal is to use the interdisciplinary knowledge and experience of the extended team to identify and create highly valued relevant healthcare companies in a shortened timeframe, while maximizing return for everyone involved.”
Excelerate Health Ventures’ founders, Gary Abrahams and Bobby Bahram, bring unique experience – both have been operational entrepreneurs and angel investors that have led and exited companies in the healthcare industry.
EHV says it will typically invest in early stage companies raising a seed or second round financing. It will focus on the Southeast and NC.
Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Historically, angel investors and angel groups have invested close to where they live, where they have contacts and knowledge of a business. So they looked for businesses they could reach with no more than a two-hour drive. That’s changing.
As we’ve noted in several recent stories on the TechJournal, angel investor groups are moving out of their comfort zone to invest in bigger deals more widely dispersed geographically. “I tell my group and others that I managed, we’re not economic developers,” says Michael Cain, head of the Wilmington Investor Network in the beach city, Wilmington, NC.
While we quoted Cain in earlier stories, we thought what he had to say deserves fuller reporting.
“The two-hour drive doesn’t work for a place like Wilmington or in many others,” he says. “You have to network your deals.” The Wilmington group has done deals in Boston, DC and Raleigh over the last three years.
Beyond backyard deals
“If you only do deals in your backyard, you don’t get good deal flow,” agrees William Podd, founder, president and CEO of Landmark Capital, and the Landmark Angels.“If you don’t see the best deals and don’t invest in the best deals,” you shouldn’t expect much success, he adds.
These larger syndicate deals can help fill the much-discussed early-stage funding gap that grew worse as venture capital firms moved toward later deals with less risk and the venture field itself contracted. “You have half as many VCs now as you did five years ago,” Cain says.
“And they realized that what we used to call the California deal – throw a lot of money at it – didn’t work. What we wound up with is the late-stage VCs and no middle market.”
“There are fewer than 100 active venture capital funds making investments today,” notes Podd, down from 1,100 years ago.
Advantages to investors
Cain says the more widely networked and syndicated angel deals have several advantages for the investors. “The more minds you have around the table, the better to put your money to work and hopefully, get to an exit after a couple of angel and early venture capital rounds.”
Angel investors can do fine if a company exits for $25 to $50 million if the pre-money valuations were right, Cain says. Exits at that level seldom interest the larger venture capital funds.
“Everyone is kind of getting religion in looking for quicker exits,” Cain says. One way of doing that, he suggests, is to focus on ideas that can make it on two rounds of angel investment. You look for the “rifle shot,” he says. “You support something that needs a moderate amount of capital, maybe $3 million or $4 million.”
The deal might involve a medical device that investors know a large company needs so a buyer can be “fluffed up,” and “You work on that as soon as you close,” Cain says.
Podd agrees. “How do you evaluate the likelihood of an exit? A pre-existing relationship with a potential acquirer is significant.”
Cain, who chairs the Angel Capital Foundation, a research and education organization that spun out of the Kauffman Foundation, says it will start tracking angel group syndication deals. It currently produces the quarterly Halo report with Silicon Valley Bank.
Even though a number of regional angel groups are coming around to the idea of investing with other groups outside their normal geographic range, “They’re relatively few,” says Cain. “The active angel groups that will participate outside their area are relatively few.”
That includes, he says, the Atlanta Technology Angels, who recently made their first out-of-Georgia investment in a Texas startup along with a syndicate of other angel groups.
There are other reasons the trend toward larger, more widely dispersed angel syndicates can be a good thing, Cain says. “We’re the engine of growth for early stage businesses and employment. A VC on five to seven boards doesn’t have the bandwidth of an angel on two who knows the vertical.”
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Investors in early stage companies in South Carolina don’t need to be South Carolina tax payers to receive the substantial 35 percent tax credit available via the High Growth Small Business Access to Capital Act passed the first week in June.
Matt Dunbar, managing director of the Greenville, SC-based Upstate Carolina Network , an angel investor group, tells the TechJournal that investors who don’t pay SC taxes can sell their credit to a business that does. “It’s transferable,” he says. “Folks from out of state can sell the credits and benefit even if they don’t have an SC tax liability.”
Dunbar says the state is in the process of setting up a marketplace for that and it will be available within weeks.
The SC bill is meant to encourage individual angel investors to put money in early-stage, high growth businesses and increase the number of quality, high-paying jobs in the state.
Annual cap per investor
It’s also intended to support businesses commercializing technology developed in the states colleges and universities.
There is an annual cap of $100,000 per investor and $5 million in aggregate. Investors must meet the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s definition of an accredited investor, and no brokerage fees or commissions are allowed.
For businesses to qualify for investments under the bill, they must be headquartered in the state; started within the last five years; employ fewer than 25 people and accrue annual revenues of less than $2 millio
Similar legislation works in other states
The legislation, which the SC House passed 94-10, is similar to bills in about 25 other states, including Georgia and North Carolina. Data from the similar legislation in other states shows the programs are effective in attracting capital, creating jobs, and producing revenue for the state.
The reason such legislation is needed is a persistent early-stage funding gap that leaves many startups struggling to nab seed or Series A financing. Venture Capital firms increasing want the potential for $100 million plus exits and firms with substantial revenue or profitability before they invest, while many angel investors were subdued by the recession.
Dunbar says the total amount available via the bill, $5 million, “Is a great place to start. We’re going to track the metrics so that we have data to go back and increase that amount if it does what we think it’s going to do.”
We recently interviewed Dunbar about the trend of angel investors to form syndicates and do larger deals with wider geographic spread than the typical backyard deals that angel investors have preferred.
Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Entrepreneurs, listen up: if you’re stuck in that early-stage funding gap and need more than seed money expand, you may want to save some room on your venture dance card for angel investor groups.
Matt Dunbar, managing director of the Greenville, SC-based Upstate Carolina Angel Network and a new board member on the national Angel Capital Association, (ACA) says the trend of geographically dispersed angel groups forming syndicates to do larger deals – often out of their backyards – is emerging and likely to “pick up steam.”
Dunbar is on the ACA’s Collaboration Committee, sees “healthy syndication within regions in Texas and the Northeast and restarting in the Southeast, but also on broader terms.”
While we’ve heard about this trend at TechMedia events such as the Southeast Venture Conference and digital summits – always a good place to tap into the leading edge of technology and venture funding trends – we saw a specific example of it this week as the Atlanta Technology Angels joined a syndicate of other angel groups to fund Austin-based Wisegate.
We talked to ATA member Jamie Lewis about the larger scope that deal portends.
Another deal expected to close in July, for instance, has investors from the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, California and possibly Boston, among other regions, he says. “Groups all over the country are in the final stages of due diligence” on the deal, he notes.
Idea makes sense
“This idea of pulling capital together around a larger geography is an approach that makes sense and is needed,” Dunbar says. It is not without challenges, he adds. Processes for crafting the larger deals are “evolving and maturing,” he says, because every angel investor group has “its own culture and norms.” But, he adds, “The more we do this, the better the processes will be.”
Dunbar says that while many angel groups and angel investors are biased toward local deals and want to support those in their backyard, “They also want the best deals they can find.”
Michael Cain, who heads the Wilimington, North Carolina angel investor network, says, “I tell my people we are not economic developers. That idea of the two-hour drive doesn’t work in Wilmington and many other places, so you have to network your deals.”
Over the last three years, the Wilmington Investor Network has done deals in Boston, DC and Raleigh, he notes. Cain, who is chair of the Angel Resource Institute, a research and education organization, says the ARI is going to start tracking syndication deals. In cooperation with Silicon Valley Bank, it does the quarterly Halo report that tracks angel investing activity nationally and by region.
Dunbar points out that technology itself is playing a role, since it makes it easier for entrepreneurs anywhere to find angel lists and groups and for angels to find deals.
“The idea of pulling capital together around a dispersed geography is in the air and emerging in the marketplace, and will only continue,” he says, and even increased if crowdfunding legislation ever gets written.
Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
If Robert Half’s Technology and IT hiring forecast bears out, Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta should see significant hiring during the third quarter of 2013.
The just-released Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report for Raleigh, N.C., shows that fourteen percent of Raleigh-area chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed recently plan to expand their teams.
This is up 4 points from the previous quarter’s projections. Another 54 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles, 27 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 5 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.
The Charlotte report shows that 11 percent of Charlotte-area chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed recently plan to expand their teams in the coming quarter. This is up 1 point from the previous quarter’s projections. Another 51 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles, 31 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 6 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.
Ten percent of Atlanta-area technology executives surveyed recently expect to expand their IT teams in the third quarter of 2013, a figure unchanged from the previous quarter.
In addition, 55 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles in the upcoming quarter, 29 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 6 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.
These regional figures are consistent with CIO plans in other areas, with most of those planning IT hiring in the 10 to 13 percent range. Nationally, the average is 12 percent.
Here are some other area figures:
- 13 percent of Boston CIOs expect to hire in the quarter.
- 13 percent of New York CIOS say the same
- 13 percent in Denver say they will hire
- 10 percent of the CIOS in Seattle and Los Angeles plan hiring
- Salt Lake City is exceptional, where 17 percent of CIOS plan IT hiring
In terms of recruiting, 69 percent of CIOs said it’s somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today. It is most difficult to find skilled talent in the functional areas of networking (18 percent), data/database management (14 percent) and help desk/technical support (13 percent).
Confidence in Business Growth and IT Investments
The survey results suggest that CIOs are optimistic about their companies’ growth and IT investments: Eighty-five percent reported being somewhat or very confident in their companies’ prospects for growth in the third quarter of 2013.
Sixty-three percent of CIOs also said they were somewhat or very confident that their firms would invest in IT projects in the third quarter of 2013.
Skills in Demand
Among the technology executives surveyed, 55 percent said that network administration and database management were the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT department. Desktop support followed closely, with 54 percent of the response.
The IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm.
Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Justin Miller says there is more to the recent $1.1 million funding round for his Raleigh-based startup WedPics than money. “It’s a win for the area,” says Miller, who founded the company originally known as “Deja Mii” near the end of 2010.
The company, which created a free photo sharing app for wedding couples and guests, is not in the Research Triangle area’s sweet spot, Miller says.
“While North Carolina is a rather abundant place for startups,” Miller says, “they’re often overshadowed by the presence of Fortune 100 companies and the typical startup pre-funding here is for revenue producing B2Bs. The traditional investors in this region run from anything else such as social media and pre-revenue B2C.”
Miller and his 12-person crew refocused WedPics, changing more than the name. Originally started with an early revenue model, the firm dropped that to focus on user acquisition for a free service that is data and analytics backed.
Because of that, the company presented potential investors with data-backed forecasts. It convinced them – although it took nine months, Miller notes.
Lands oversubscribed round
In mid-April, it closed an oversubscribed $1.1 million round comprised of a diverse group of strategic local and nationwide investors. The round was ded by the Brenden Family Growth Fund and including Bob Young (Red Hat Co-founder, Lulu.com Founder); Jed Carlson (Reverbnation Co-founder); Henry Copeland (BlogAds CEO); Chandler Rose (ProVantage Corporate Solutions Founder); Alex Osadzinski (former Trinity VC); Culin Tate (Co-Founder ofMissNowMrs.com); and TAP (Triangle Angel Partners).
Miller explains, “From our initial launch as deja mi – the location based photo/video sharing platform which was often pitched as a theoretical idea of what it might be able to do – pivoted to a data and analytically backed platform, which has disrupted the traditional wedding space in a big way. We currently have over 130,000 users and acquire 1400+ daily, with over 1200 weddings per weekend, and sharing over 100,000 photos each week (1 every 6 seconds).”
While many other photo apps died off, WedPics “Applied its technology to a niche market and capitalized on it,” Miller says.
He expects the company will be back on the fund-raising trail again soon and eventually should be a “cool acquisition play for a larger company,” he says.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
For the ninth year in a row, CEOs rate Texas as the #1 state in which to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best & Worst States Survey, released today. Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana also made the top five.
The results may alleviate some fears in North Carolina, where other such evaluations have not placed the state as high as in previous years.
The states rated worst for business are California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
It’s interesting that states with powerhouse venture capital sources and nation-leading business sectors such as California, Massachusetts, and New York top the list of worst states for business in these polls time after time. Makes you wonder just what these business-friendly state rankings really mean.
|Best 5 States for Business
|Worst 5 States for Business
The Best & Worst States Survey measures the sentiments of CEOs on a range of issues, including regulations, tax policies, workforce quality, educational resources, quality of living and infrastructure. For the 2013 survey, 736 CEOs from across the country evaluated the states between Jan. 16 and Feb. 14, 2013.
Ohio was the biggest gainer in this year’s survey, rising 13 spots from #35 to #22. “Ohio is doing some amazing things to attract and support a pro-business environment,” said Don Taylor , CEO of Fairlawn, Ohio-based Welty Building Company. The biggest loser was Delaware, which dropped 13 spots to #27.
California hostile to business?
CEOs say California’s poor ranking is the result of a perceived hostility to business, high state taxes and onerous regulations, all of which drive investment, companies and jobs to other states. According to the California Manufacturers & Technology Association,California accounts for 12.6% of total U.S. GDP, but only has a 2.2% share of investments in new and expanding manufacturing sites.
“When you investigate acquiring businesses in some of the states rated poorly for business conditions, the anecdotes all wind up being true,” said Kevin Hawkesworth , President & CEO of Florida-based Shaw Development. “The horror stories about these states are real.”
“California, Illinois and New York are simply awful states to operate facilities or employ people,” according to another CEO. “We will do almost anything possible to minimize our exposure to these anti-business environments.”
Piles of regulations a problem
“Thank you, California!” responded one Texas-based CEO facetiously. “Keep applying pressure on your job creators and we will keep welcoming their moves to Texas.”
A common theme among CEOs is the burden of constantly changing regulations. “Business is too hard without dealing with piles of regulations that are constantly changing,” said Rick Waechter , CEO of Boston Magazine. “I believe there have to be controls, but keep them simple and straightforward—and most importantly, don’t make it a moving target.”
“CEOs continue to tell us that California seems to be doing everything possible to drive business from the state. Texas Governor Rick Perry , by contrast, personally makes it his mission to lead corporate recruitment and economic development efforts in his state,” saidJ.P. Donlon , Editor-in-Chief of Chief Executive magazine and ChiefExecutive.net.
Playbook for success
“The playbook for successful states boils down to three simple moves: engage in real dialogue with business leaders, adapt policies to create an attractive environment, and effectively communicate your story to real job creators,” said Marshall Cooper , CEO of Chief Executive magazine and ChiefExecutive.net. “This year’s rankings prove that smart policies result in increased investments, jobs and greater overall economic activity.”
|2013 Biggest Gainers
|2013 Biggest Losers
For complete results, including individual state rankings on multiple criteria, CEO comments, methodology and more, please visitChiefExecutive.net.
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
How do Enterprises make decisions about where to locate their data centers and what drives their growing need for them?
Facebook’s air-cooled data center in Forest City, NC.
A new study of the data center industry commissioned by Compass Datacenters has identified a number of emerging factors that are shaping the data center strategies of enterprise companies in the United States.
The study also projects a strong wave of new data center construction in 2013 and 2014. The research was conducted by the respected research firm Campos Research, which surveyed senior decision makers who steer the data center strategies at 150 U.S. companies with annual revenues of $250 million or more.
Key findings from the study include the following:
- 87% of companies will build a data center in next 12-24 months. This represents an acceleration of the trend, with 63% reporting that they completed data center projects in the last 12 months.
- 71% of companies ranked new applications as the primary reason for needing expanded data center infrastructure—making it the most often-cited driver for data center expansions in 2013 and 2014.
- Three-quarters of companies reported that they plan to support a combination of new applications, virtualization, Big Data, and Private Cloud with their new data centers—showing a variety of needs behind the expansions.
- 97% of companies are seeking to locate their new data centers less than 30 miles from their headquarters or major operations center—making geographic proximity a chief consideration in upcoming data center projects.
Here at the TechJournal, we’ve noted that data center construction barely stalled even during the deepest part of the recession. In North Carolina, where we are headquartered, both Google and Facebook have built data centers and regional data center firms such as Peak 10 have steadily expanded their footprint.
The Compass data center in Raleigh, NC. The company is also constructing a data center in Durham, NC. Other regional data center firms such as Peak 10, have also expanded their footprint substantially in the last few years.
Chris Crosby , CEO of Compass Datacenters, said, “Our team has worked with Campos for several years, and they have an uncanny ability to identify emerging trends before they reach critical mass and transform the data center industry.
“Their past research was prescient in identifying energy efficiency, wholesale data centers and modular design as important emerging issues well before they gathered steam and were broadly acknowledged as major trends. This new study identifies geographic proximity as a key consideration for the projects that companies are currently planning, and that has the potential to change the landscape of the data center industry, both figuratively and literally.”
He added, “In the past, companies based outside of major data center markets had to sacrifice proximity when it came to the location of their data centers. They had little choice but to put their data center in one of the handful of markets, often placing those IT assets far from the companies’ HQ or major operations center.
“Not only did that increase costs and risk, but it also was inherently inefficient from a long-term operations perspective. This new study makes it clear that enterprises don’t want to make that compromise any more, and that has huge ramifications for data center providers.”
Following are additional findings from the study:
- Companies who are planning to build in the next 12 months are planning to add an average of 2 facilities. That average increases to 3.5 when the timeframe is expanded to 24 months.
- The companies who participated in the study currently have an average of 3 data centers. 25% reported that they currently have 5 or more data centers.
- 96% of companies reported that the size of their data centers will be 20,000 square feet or less.
- CIOs were identified as the primary executive who determines need for data center expansion. CIOs were cited by 37% of companies as the person who approves the project, with 24% reporting that the final decision is made by the CEO. 44% of companies described CIOs as having the most influence on the purchasing decision with 19% saying that the CEO now has the greatest influence.
- The most common process for beginning a project is to set the requirements and then look for providers as a second step in the process (71% of respondents).
- The most important factors cited in the selection process for a provider is Service Level. Green strategy was the lowest-ranked selection factor.
- 75% of companies will evaluate 3 providers as part of their selection process.
- Only 44% of companies said that they would consider building the data center themselves, indicating that “do-it-yourself” is declining.
For more findings from this study and analysis from Compass Datacenters, visit http://www.compassdatacenters.com/compass-university/.
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
So, how does your firm handle March Madness at work? OfficeTeam recently asked more than 1,000 managers whether NCAA basketball tournament festivities in the office, such as watching game highlights or engaging in friendly competitions, affect morale and productivity.
One in five (20 percent) of those surveyed felt activities tied to the college basketball playoffs improve employee morale at least somewhat, compared to only 4 percent of respondents who viewed them negatively. The majority (75 percent) said March Madness events have no impact on morale or productivity.
Based in the Research Triangle, where teams from Duke, North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, NC State, and other regional schools compete at the highest levels year-after-year, we’ve seen how intense intereste is in the NCAA tournament.
But the Office Team survey shows that smart managers can use this to help office workers bond and significantly boost morale.
The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.
Managers were asked, “Do you feel March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) activities in the workplace, such as watching games or participating in pools that don’t involve money, have a positive or negative impact on employee morale?” Their responses:
|Don’t know/no answer
Managers also were asked, “Do you feel March Madness activities in the workplace have a positive or negative impact on employee productivity?” Their responses:
Executives who were asked the same questions in a 2010 survey were more divided, with 41 percent viewing college basketball playoff celebrations as a morale booster, and 22 percent saying these activities adversely affect employee output.
“It’s often better for managers to acknowledge the appeal of events like March Madness and provide opportunities for their staff to enjoy the festivities rather than ignore them,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking .
“Employees need a chance to bond with coworkers over shared interests. Group activities — whether based on the NCAA basketball tournament or other events — provide a channel for team building.”
OfficeTeam offers five tips to help companies celebrate March Madness while keeping employees’ heads in the game:
- Grant time-outs. Allowing employees to take quick breaks to check scores or chat with coworkers about the tournament can help them recharge. An informal lunch or dinner at a restaurant to watch a big game also can build camaraderie.
- Foster friendly competition. Let staff wear their favorite teams’ apparel or decorate their workspaces, within reason, to get in the spirit. Consider organizing an office competition where individuals can win bragging rights or small items such as company-awarded gift certificates without the exchange of money.
- Go over the rules. Clearly communicate policies regarding employee breaks and Internet use so professionals know what’s acceptable when it comes to March Madness and other non-work activities.
- Take the lead. Set a good example by showing how to participate in tournament festivities without getting sidelined from responsibilities. If you complete assignments before talking hoops, employees will likely follow suit.
- Evaluate your bench. If team members want to take time off to watch the playoffs, ask them to submit requests as far in advance as possible. This will help you manage workloads and determine if interim assistance is needed to keep projects on track.
Monday, March 4th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
David Jones, President & CEO, Peak 10.
Even though Peak 10, the Charlotte-based data center and managed services provider now has 350 employees, CEO David Jones says the company still tries to foster an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We don’t make all our decisions centrally,” says Jones.
Jones co-founded Peak 10 in March of 2000 and has led the company to a top market position as a leading independent data center, managed services, and cloud computing solutions provider in the United States, with facilities in Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Tampa, South Florida, Raleigh, and Richmond.
Participating in the Southeast Venture Conference
Jones, who speaks often to entrepreneurial groups and is a past chair and still a director of the North Carolina Technology Association, is one of dozens of thought-leaders, venture capitalists, angel investors and entrepreneurs participating in the Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 13-14.
“I think it’s going to be a great event for Charlotte,” Jones says. “It has an informative agenda, not the same old stuff you usually see at conferences. It’s going to bring a lot of faces into Charlotte who don’t normally spend time here.”
The Southeast Venture Conference is headed to Charlotte, NC, in March 2013. The event offers firms a chance to present to top national venture capitalists and angel investors.
Specifically, that includes speakers and panelists from national and regional venture capital firms and 50 innovative presenting companies from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Last we heard, there were only a handful of seats left for the event, so it’s a good idea to reserve yours now if you plan on attending.
Part of the Peak 10 entrepreneurial culture derives from its growing an average of about 25 percent a year and regularly opening new facilities to meet demand in the areas it serves.
Four pieces of advice for entrepreneurs
We asked Jones what advice he thinks is most important to starting a company.
First, he says, “Stay focused. We’ve all heard stories of companies that try to do too many things at once and don’t do any of them well.”
But even more important, he says, “Hire the best people you can. Don’t be complacent about that.” In the end, “That will make you successful or not.”
Get the right financial leadership
Next, he says, “Make sure you have the right financial leadership. A lot of startups fly by the seat of their pants. You need to know your operating costs. I’ve always tried to find the best financial officer I could. If nothing else, have a financial advisor who can help you strategize where you are and the things you’ll need.”
Doing that can prevent you from “Hitting a brick wall when you find you didn’t plan for what you need on the development side.”
Finally, he adds, “Make sure you have a plan that can get funded. Great ideas go nowhere unless you have a plan to get there. Keep it simple. The more complex you make it, the harder it will be to get to where you want to be.”
In general, Jones says, “We’re in challenging times, but there are still a lot of opportunities out there.”
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Washington, DC made this years list of the top ten cities for private tech M&A at number 7.
PrivCo has released rankings of the Top U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A, based on the number of private tech companies acquired in 2012.
PrivCo has provided its Exclusive Top 10 Ranking below, with Silicon Valley ranking as the #1 metro area with 226 private tech company acquisitions in 2012.
Ranked just behind it were New York (Ranked #2) & Boston (Ranked #3).
San Diego, Research Triangle miss top ten
Interestingly, up-and-coming tech hubs like New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta are challenging traditional leaders like Raleigh-Durham’s “research triangle” and biotech hub San Diego, who missed this year’s Top 10 U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A.
Top 10 U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A in 2012
(Ranked By Total Number of U.S. Private Tech Companies Acquired in Each Metro Area)
1. Silicon Valley
2. New York
4. Los Angeles
7. Washington, D.C. (Arlington)
To access PrivCo’s 350 page 2012 Private Tech M&A Industry Report:
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Even in the IT field, you have to dress for success – especially when applying for a job. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) want to hire IT professionals who are “well suited” for the job — both literally and figuratively.
According to a new Robert Half Technology survey, nearly half (46 percent) of CIOs said a business suit is the most appropriate attire for someone interviewing for an IT position.
Thirty-four percent of respondents favored khakis and a collared shirt.
Geography can influence interview attire expectations, the survey revealed: Respondents in Philadelphia and Denver were among the cities with the most traditional tastes, with58 percent and 51 percent, respectively, citing business suits as the outfit of choice for IT job candidates.
CIOs in Raleigh, N.C., and San Francisco were less formal in their expectations, with only 36 percent and 37 percent, respectively, preferring formal interview attire.
The national survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey is based on more than 2,300 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies in 23 major metro areas with 100 or more employees.
CIOs were asked, “Which of the following, in your opinion, is the most appropriate interview attire for someone interviewing for an IT job with your company?” Their responses:
|Formal business suit
|Khakis and a collared shirt
|Tailored separates (for example, a skirt and blouse)
|Jeans and a polo shirt
|Something else/don’t know
“Even in casual IT departments, hiring managers want to know that a job candidate has made an effort to look polished and professional,” said John Reed , senior executive director of Robert Half Technology. “When in doubt, it’s better to err on the conservative side than risk appearing overly casual.”
Reed added that networking before the interview can help job candidates get a sense of how to dress when meeting with a hiring manager. “Candidates should consult an insider at the firm, a recruiter or an HR representative for information about the corporate culture and how people tend to dress.”
Robert Half Technology offers these additional interview attire tips:
- Choose something comfortable. You want to look as relaxed as possible, so avoid uncomfortable clothing. If you purchase new interview attire, wear it a few times to break it in before your meeting.
- Pay attention to details. Don’t overlook the less obvious aspects of your appearance, like your shoes, socks and accessories. Make sure your outfit is free of wrinkles and stains, your hair and nails are well groomed, and your shoes are polished.
- Don’t overdo it. Ultimately, you want your experience and skills to be the focus of the interview — not your outfit. Avoid any distracting clothing or jewelry, as well as excessive perfume, cologne or makeup.
- Turn off electronic “accessories.” Make sure any mobile device you have with you is off before the meeting.
- Dress the part for a video interview. Even if your interview is via webcam, you want to look the part. Make sure you dress appropriately from head to toe and the background is free of distractions.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
What is the amount of accomplishment venture capitalists need to see these days to finance a true Series A r0und of a startup? The bar is higher than it used to be, says Mark Rostick, director of East Coast investments for Intel Capital.
Intel Capital must be doing something right. It is number one of a list of the top 20 venture capital firms of 2012 based on how many private tech company exits each had.
Rostick is among more than two dozen venture capitalists and investors participating in the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 13-14.
With the availability of online tools, the ability to inexpensively write code to get something started, and the proliferation of accelerators such as Y Combinator, there has been “An explosion of startups that create a light or beta version of a product and get a few customers to buy it quickly,” Rostick says.
The bar has moved
The problem is, he adds, “That water tends to be very shallow, so what they’ve accomplished doesn’t tell you much about what their chances are. It’s so much easier to do all of that earlier, the bar has moved for what an investor needs to see.”
That, he notes, means that “Now it’s much harder to separate the wheat from the chaff and judge how much the company has de-risked by what it has done. There is an explosion of new companies you need to sift through. So we have to be more savvy about what the level of accomplishment for a Series A financing needs to be.”
It also means startup teams need to think about how they’re going to separate themselves from the pack, he says. “Have they thought through their road map? Do they know their next step? Do they know what the management team needs? There are ways to prove your game.
Hot tech sectors
Intel, Rostick says, sees several tech sectors it thinks are going to do well.
“There is a ton of upside in the Enterprise that people haven’t thought about much,” he says. “A lot of startups in the social and mobile world use the cloud, but Enterprises are still in the process of making that move. It’s a gigantic shift and we’ve made a lot of bets on that infrastructure.”
Intel is also spending a good deal of time looking at big databases and analytics. “How do we talk about this data? How do we visualize it? All of that is creating opportunities. And it’s starting to mature to the point where people are thinking its time to get some bets down.”
Always looking for local opportunities
He suggests, “Look at the M&A history in these areas. IBM is buying analytics companies. SAS is doing that. They’re looking at how to use cloud infrastructure to help their customers.”
Another “big thing,” he says, “is the Internet of things.” If a company deploys a lot of equipment in factories or the field, trucks, a wireless network, meters, monitoring and managing them centrally makes a lot of sense,” Rostick explains.
It lets companies know what’s happening right now with the ability to fix or tune operations.
Online video and video analytics are two other areas Intel finds interesting.
Rostick asked us to note that Intel is “Always looking for local opportunities here in North Carolina.”
Monday, February 18th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Does price really matter in a venture financing deal? Can “small ideas” still get funded?
Don Rainey, a former entrepreneur, says his 12-years “on the dark side” as a venture capitalist, have taught him a handful of lessons that still serve him daily, among them, answers to those questions and others.
Rainey, a general partner with Grotech Ventures since 2007, was named to the Washingtonian’s “Tech Titans” list in 2011, and currently serves on the boards of Grotech portfolio companies Clarabridge, GramercyOne, HelloWallet, LivingSocial, Personal, SnappCloud, and Zenoss. He’s one of more than two-dozen venture capitalists and other investors participating in the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 13-14.
Price doesn’t matter
On his blog, VC in DC, Rainy outlined ten of the lessons about entrepreneurship that still guide him.
That business about price, for instance. “Price doesn’t really matter,” he says. “If you invest in something htat fails, it’s immaterial. If it wins, you might hope you had bought it a little cheaper, but you’ll always wish for that. The question is, is it something you believe in? If a deal works out, the price was right at some level. Get in good deals, and forget about getting the last dollar in a negotiation for that good deal.”
He adds, “We’re judged by whether the companies we invest in succeed, not the price.” Also, he notes, “Sometimes you do everything right and sill lose. Macro events can put real pressures on a company. Just think if you had gone into something aimed at financial services in 2007. Some things are beyond your control.”
Don’t pursue small ideas
Big ideas and small ideas are equally difficult, he says. But a venture capital firm has to have some multiple return on the capital it invests and can’t support small ideas, Rainey says. On his blog, he writes, “What’s the point in trying to change the neighborhood when you can change the world.”
You’re not a rock star
“I’m very suspect of the venture capitalist who wants to be in front of the parade,” Rainey says. “That’s the role of the entrepreneur. We’re enablers, not the primary actors.”
Add value outside of board meetings
Portfolio company board meetings are not the place where a VC adds real value to the firm’s investment. “Private conversations over coffee, lunch, or late at night is when you really can influence the CEO,” Rainey says.
Don’t Invest in People who don’t take advice
Some entrepreneurs have a world class talent for ignoring good advice, Rainey notes on his blog. “I’ve done this 12 years and only had one CEO who ignored my advice and failed. He made a point of it. It wasn’t personal, he ignored everyone’s good advice. A good CEO listens to everyone.”
Then, he’ll let you know he heard you, saying something like, “I concur on these four items from your suggestions. “That’s what the smart ones do,” Rainey says. “They assimilate all that advice and incorporate it into their own perspective.”
Starting and running a business is often fraught with extreme ups and downs, more than one entrepreneur has told us. One day you land a really big customer, the next everyone you talk to says “No.” An entrepreneur has to be able to ride that roller coaster. “One of the great assets of an entrepreneur is confidence,” Rainey says.
“It does ebb and flow. There are days when you’re driving to work thinking there is no way you could be more screwed than you are at that moment, but when you get to work, you find out you were wrong, there are ways it can be worse. It’s hard. People don’t always appreciate how challenging it can be to be able to swing above your weight in the face of weeks or months of bad news. But you have to keep on fighting, even with a strong headwind.”
Be nice to people, it pays well
“In a business like ours,” Rainey says, “You have to say ‘no’ to 99 of 100 people who come to you for money. If you’re not nice to people, even when you have to say ‘no,’ they remember. They also remember if you were nice about it. None of knows where we’ll be in five years or what we’ll be doing.”
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Even though this year’s flu virus is infecting people throughout the nation and New York and Boston even declared citywide health emergencies – you might not guess that Huntsville, Alabama is the city most concerned about it.
MaxPoint, a company that helps retailers and brands drive local in-store sales with its Digital Zip technology, announced its latest Interest Index, which reveals the cities most interested in flu-related remedies.
While that may or may not concern your company or your advertising clients specifically, MaxPoint notes that it is crucial for advertisers to dive deep into neighborhood and audience data when building campaigns.
For instance, New York and Boston did not even make the top ten list of cities most concerned about the flu this year.
By analyzing billions of in-store purchases and online data points, MaxPoint found that the 10 cities most interested in all things flu-related are the following:
1. Huntsville, AL
2. Knoxville, TN
3. Greensboro, NC
4. Greenville, SC
5. Des Moines, IA
6. Rochester, NY
7. Birmingham, AL
8. Boise, ID
9. Augusta, GA
10. Milwaukee, WI
nterest Data in Action
Using the data from this Interest Index, MaxPoint ran several digital advertising campaigns, including the following:
- A global pharmaceutical company with a diverse healthcare portfolio — including pharmaceuticals, eye care products and vaccines — wanted to drive adults over the age of 65 to select pharmacy locations to receive flu shots. Using MaxPoint’s hyperlocal advertising approach, the company achieved 164 percent lift in awareness of its flu vaccine at participating pharmacies.
- A manufacturer of analgesics wanted to increase brand awareness and drive sales of its products. By running digital ads with MaxPoint, the manufacturer achieved 3 percent sales lift in mass merchandise stores.