Kurt Taylor Next Glass March 2014

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The start of 2016 is upon us and the entrepreneurial leaders in Wilmington hope to continue to build upon prior year progress and success. Things have already started out with a bang. 

Next Glass has moved in to its new downtown headquarters in a building owned by James Goodnight and announced a merger with the popular beer app Untappd. I expect to see continued progress by established local leaders, such as Next Glass (CEO Kurt Taylor pictured above) and venture-backed banking software company nCino. However, I'd like to highlight some other Wilmington companies to keep an eye on in 2016. 
 

Elite Innovations 

Andrew Williams and his team continue to make strides since the launch of Wilmington's first makerspace in the fall of 2014. In 2015, they added an additional showroom and meeting space in the historical part of downtown Wilmington. They continue to be heavily involved in working with entrepreneurs on bringing concepts and ideas to prototypes and even helping move along prototypes to production. We expect that a couple of things they work on this year will hit it big in a variety of ways. Some of their clients may very evolve into stories of their own in 2016. 
 
Elite Innovations Makerspace 3D Printer
Credit: Adam Shay

Koolbridge Solar 

Koolbridge keeps a relatively low profile in town, even with its 2015 Coastal Entrepreneur Award win. Founders Paul Dent and Stephen Burnett have assembled a strong team focused on bridging the gap between solar technology, homes and the grid, along with building a defensible patent portfolio. Their first product, the Smart Load Center, is a breaker box that helps choose energy sources appropriately given grid and energy conditions.  It will be interesting to watch their progress in bringing the Smart Load Center to market. 
 
Koolbridge Solar is prepping to launch its energy efficiency-ensuring breaker box for residential homes in 2016.

Kwipped 

Kwipped, an online marketplace that connects renters with equipment owners and their machines with unused utilization, ended 2015 with a successful market introduction and, what its leaders believe to be, proof of concept. They intend for 2016 to be the year that they scale and land a Series A round of investment to finance continued growth. According to President Robert Preville, financing "will enable us to aggressively build our existing base, enter into other vertical markets, enhance and expand our technology and attract top talent." 

Lapetus Life Event Solutions 

Lapetus was co-founded by PhDs and professors, Karl Ricanek Jr. and Jay Olshansky. Lapetus is utilizing facial recognition software to help insurance companies automate the underwriting of their policies. With the technology they have and are developing, facial characteristics can be used to predict longevity and life expectancy, mitigating risk and improving the underwriting process. If you want to play with their tools, you can check out their side project—Face My Age
 
Lapetus Solutions of Wilmington introduces a new software for more accurate life insurance underwriting. Credit: Lapetus Solutions

Likeli

George Taylor, III is the founder and CEO of Likeli. If you recognize the Taylor name, it is because he is the brother of Next Glass CEO and founder Kurt Taylor and son of serial entrepreneur George Taylor. Likeli is a data play within the dating space and Taylor has assembled a solid team that includes Galen Buckwalker, founding chief science officer of eHarmony. Likeli can aggregate and compare data over various social channels in order to come up with a true match. 

Likeli logo
 

Performance Culture 

Performance Culture is a web-based employee performance management system that replaces the annual review with regular coaching and collaboration around performance. My company uses the Performance Culture tool, and as you would expect from the name, it has helped us develop a culture of continuous communication that we believe is now driving our performance. Performance Culture launched nationally in 2015 and is focused on adding more users and subscribers in 2016. According to President Melissa Phillippi, major initiatives for the company in 2016 include hiring a new inside sales associate, attending major national conferences and adding 1-2 franchise networks to its client base. 

Performance Culture Team
Performance Culture is an up-and-coming human resources technology company based in the tekMountain startup campus in Wilmington. Credit: Performance Culture
Edward Hall was a key member of Elite Innovations before deciding to give Petrics a full-time go at the end of 2015. Petrics is a pet technology company that ensures the right pets are eating the right food at the right time. According to Hall, the company's main goal for 2016 is to complete development of its smart feeder system and to release it to the public. He received the first funds from the new Wilmington Angel for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) last year.

Petrics logo
 

ServiceWhale 

ServiceWhale is an online marketplace designed to help homeowners find reliable contractors for home improvement projects. ServiceWhale has received $2.5 million in funding in the past 15 months. It only offers the marketplace in New York City today, but according to Aaron Rovner, vice president of business development and marketing, services will expand to the Boston, Washington DC, and Baltimore markets in 2016. The company will also increase the number of services offered. 

ServiceWhale Aaron Rovner
Aaron Rovner is vice president of business development and marketing at ServiceWhale. Credit: ServiceWhale

Surgilum 

Surgilum was a semi-finalist for the 2015 NC IDEA grant and a winner in the 2015 Coastal Entrepreneur Awards. This company continues to increase sales of existing products and develop new ones in the eye surgery space. The devices and inventions have been the brainchild of Dr. Alan Brown, based on his experience as a practicing ophthalmologist. Look for continued innovations from Dr. Brown and the rest of the Surgilum team in 2016. 

RoboMarker by Surgilum
Wilmington medical device startup Surgilum manufactures eye surgery tools like the RoboMarker. Credit: Surgilum
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2016 is poised to be another exciting year within the Wilmington entrepreneur community. Many of the entrepreneurs told me how it is a team effort to build successes in Wilmington and to prove that it is more than a beach community. Many are hoping for a big 2016 exit to match Live Oak Bank's IPO in 2015. Such an event will increase resources within the community and lay the seeds for additional ventures by both new and existing entrepreneurs.