Brim Team

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Brim is one of six startups to win ~$50K in grant funding from the nonprofit Durham-based NC IDEA Foundation. Since 2006, the foundation has awarded nearly $4.2 million to 104 startups around the state. The six companies were narrowed from nine finalists, 22 semifinalists and 130 total applications for the Fall 2015 cycle. Links to additional stories are below.

Feedback from customers at his first startup OptimalResume seeded Mark McNasby (top left) with the idea for Brim.

Though plenty of collaboration software existed, from Slack to Hipchat to Yammer, none of those platforms integrated all the technologies you might need during a virtual conversation. 

When he sold Cary-based OptimalResume to his brother and other employees in 2013, he and former OptimalResume CTO Michal Oglodek (top right) set to work designing a software platform that allowed for video and chat along with document and spreadsheet sharing and editing. It doesn't matter what software platforms a person uses, all can be used during a chat or video conference on Brim.

And an option called Sync allows changes to be made to a document and automatically saved and synced to the conversation, similar to Dropbox. A patent is pending on that technology.

Though a private beta for its mobile apps is under way, McNasby already has customers for the web platform. Most are universities who formerly used OptimalResume to help students prepare for career fairs, interviews and job readiness—McNasby had 700 customers at the bootstrapped startup. 

Brim customers include Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee and his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McNasby expects businesses, nonprofit organizations and even individuals to sign up. It's built on a freemium model, offering up to two gigabytes of space free.

Though he originally bootstrapped the business, which now has four employees based out of leased space from his wife's medical practice in Durham, it's now self-funded by its own profits. 

But NC IDEA grant funds will be used to hire a sales person and begin to automate the marketing and onboarding process for customers. That's how McNasby envisions the company really scaling. He wants a Harvard University to be able sign up, create accounts for users and groups for them to be part of while also paying and finding support without the help of a sales or customer service associate. 

That's how he can compete with a HipChat, whose parent company filed an IPO last week, or Slack, which raised $160 million earlier this year at a $2.8 billion valuation.

"We want to invest in scalability," he says. "That's how this business model will really work."

Despite his past experience as an entrepreneur, McNasby participated in Groundwork Labs in the summer of 2015. Mentors Lauren Whitehurst and Taylor Mingos (Shoeboxed CEO) still meet with him once a month to talk strategy and make connections. And advice from its developer-in-residence Tom Rau prompted a complete redesign of the web platform.

"He is really good at usability and gave us critical feedback on the problems," McNasby says. "We did a major 180 in terms of user interface. Tom was really important for us."