Seven emerging startups along with nine company founders, advisors and investors, join the list of finalists competing in the fifth annual WRAL TechWire tech awards, formerly the Full Steam Ahead awards.
The competition is getting a refresh this year, with a new name and location. The event goes down at Google Fiber’s new hub in downtown Raleigh (pictured above)—and there’s no railroad theme. Instead, WRAL TechWire hopes to name the best emerging, fastest-growing and most steady startups and enterprises, along with the top directors, leaders and founder/investors.
The finalists are broken up into two groups—established/growing enterprise companies and emerging startups and entrepreneurs. And the winners are determined by an online voting process that ends March 31.
The contest is tech-industry agnostic—startups range from advertising to travel to IoT to medtech. The enterprise finalists are diverse too, from privately-held Validic and Sageworks to public companies MetLife Global Technology Operations and Red Hat.
This is an opportunity for everyone in the technology community to support one another, and for finalists in the WRAL TechWire awards to showcase their hard work. So be sure to vote for the companies and people you’re proud to work alongside in the Triangle.
For a bit of help with the startup contenders, here’s a rundown:
The startup contenders
Categories: Best Emerging Startup, Fastest-Growing Startup
This Durham-based wireless tower solutions company just landed a $50 million investment from Guggenheim Partners earlier this month. The global investment firm is also acting as administrative agent and lead arranger with the fast-growing startup. Eco-Site builds, owns and operates wireless communications sites and systems for real estate properties, so carriers can offer better network coverage in desirable areas.
Category: Fastest-Growing Startup
Morrisville-based Textivia offers business owners strategic web design, content creation and development services, as well as assistance with social media and SEO marketing. Its clients include Prestige Pools, Yates Homes and Avendelle Assisted Living.
Category: Most Steady Startup
This is a Durham adtech startup with a suite of digital advertising tools for real estate, lending and insurance professionals. Customers can build their brands and client lists by showcasing their work, connecting with local prospects and potential clients in and outside of their networks. It spun out of ReverbNation in early 2015.
Categories: Most Steady Startup, Fastest-Growing Startup
Raleigh-headquartered WiFi calling carrier Republic Wireless is driven by a mission to make smartphone features affordable and accessible to everyone, through inexpensive mobile devices and flexible coverage plans. Last year, Republic raised $30 million in growth capital and celebrated the win in December by dropping prices on new phones and offering customers six months of contract-free, no-cost service. It’s a spin off company from Bandwidth, another 2017 WRAL TechWire Awards competitor in the enterprise sector.
Category: Most Steady Startup
With technology that captures and archives social media activity, Archive Social is digitizing the process of preserving online history while complying with laws such as FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and the Public Records Act. Its social media preservation tool landed The White House as a client, taking tweets, posts and photos shared by former President Obama (and over 100 accounts affiliated with his administration), and redirecting them to an easily searchable post archive site. The company continues to outgrow its office space, as it adds new clients and staff, all with just over $1 million in capital raised.
Category: Best Emerging Startup
This Cary travel tech startup educates users on how to best manage and take advantage of credit card rewards and loyalty points programs at hotels and airline miles while they’re traveling. The platform launched last year after raising $350K in seed funding, and participated in the Google Exchange program for black founders in Durham last fall.
Category: Best Emerging Startup
Roundtable aims to help emergency departments improve their performance by eliminating trial and error. This means offering customers on-demand simulation strategies that turn data into action, mapping out patient flow solutions, reducing walkout rates, strengthening emergency assistance teams and ultimately increasing profitability by meeting demands of patients. The company recently raised $1 million in private equity funding and won Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Science Foundation.
Startup director finalists
Scott Moody, Co-Founder and CEO, K4Connect
As an architect behind the now universally known iPhone unlocking system called Touch ID, Moody has a unique resume. He sold Touch ID creator AuthenTec to Apple in 2012 and then moved to Raleigh to figure out his next moves. Now, he’s head of K4Connect, a fast-growing Internet of Things company giving older adults and individuals living with disabilities control over devices, lights and technology in their homes from an iPad. Under Moody’s leadership K4Connect has generated numerous capital raises and product successes. (Flip through the company’s startup story in a timeline here.)
Todd Olson, CEO, Pendo*
Olson is a three-time startup team-builder who created Pendo to solve a recurring problem he faced in his previous VP of product role at Rally Software. The software platform gives product managers behind-the-scenes insight on what customers are doing within their apps. In addition to supplying customers with compiled and analyzed data to improve their products, the Pendo software includes a communication tool they can use to get users trying and acclimating to new/additional features. Olson’s company raised a $20 million Series B in December, which landed it in the top five North Carolina tech deals of 2016.
*Pendo is also a Best Emerging Enterprise finalist
Chris Chuang, Co-Founder and CEO, Republic Wireless
After serving in multiple executive roles at Raleigh’s Bandwidth since 2008, including helping to launch the wi-fi mobile phone service, Chuang led the spin off of Republic Wireless in December 2016.
The startup executive leaders
Kevin Barry, Founder and COO, FilterEasy
Barry came up with the idea for an automated air filter delivery service when he was a student and entrepreneurship club member at North Carolina State University. The service is for everyday home residents who might otherwise forget to change their filters; plus the delivery system saves customers a trip to a home improvement supply store. After fast and furious growth over the last couple years, Barry and co-founder Thaddeus Tarkington made the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Tatiana Birgisson, Founder and CEO, MATI Energy
She’s well-known in the startup community as a resourceful startup leader, creating her healthy, tea-infused energy drink brand out of a dorm room at Duke University and finding innovative ways to compete in the beverage industry. Birgisson made Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list this year.
Nate Frechette, Co-Founder and CTO, Dropsource
Dropsource, formerly Queue Software, created a mobile development platform that helps software and design teams build and deliver their own native iOS and Android apps. On Scot Wingo’s 2017 Triangle “Tweener” list, the company is noted to have raised $5.6 million in three investment rounds. Frechette previously worked as a freelance web developer before founding the company with Aidan Cunniffe, who recently stepped down to make way for an experienced CEO to help Frechette grow the company.
Noteworthy startup founders/investors
Chris Heivly, The Startup Factory
A common theme in Heivly’s entrepreneurial journey is seizing opportunity in all of its forms. This is most recently evident in his decision to shut down his early-stage accelerator The Startup Factory last year. The program played a considerable role in helping build the Triangle’s startup ecosystem—investing in 35 companies before closing its doors. Heivly has embraced the opportunity for change, with a new spot as entrepreneur-in-residence at Boulder-based Techstars, where he’s drawing on his startup experience to further grow and support budding startup communities.
David Gardner, Cofounders Capital
Gardner is a seven-time serial entrepreneur and angel investor who started and runs Cary-based Cofounders Capital. Gardner’s loyalty to the Triangle startup community is demonstrated through his continued financial support over the years, investing in nearly 20 Triangle startups including Stealz, ArchiveSocial, FilterEasy, Validic and EmployUs.
Mark Easley, Goldhat Advisors
Easley has more than 20 years of experience in multiple tech industries, including engineering, marketing, sales and executive management in semiconductor companies PLX Technology, Adaptec, Intel and HP, according to his LinkedIn profile. Now, he’s an advisor and angel investor to startups like Malartu, Groundfloor, Rocketbolt and Freedom. He’s also an advocate of crowdfunding, working to get North Carolina’s intrastate crowdfunding bill passed last year.
David Jones, Bull City Venture Partners
Jones, included in the category Most Noteworthy Enterprise Founders or Investors, has years of experience in technology as cofounder and former CTO of medtech startup Orthocopia.com. A cofounder and general partner of BCVP, Jones invests in early and later-stage companies—many of which have gone on to achieve major milestones post-funding. Notable investments include Adwerx, Medfusion, Spoonflower and, most recently, the on-demand mobile car wash brand Spiffy.