4.15.14 JIVAN ACHREJA@achreja

Girl Develop It RDU is a huge (and growing) success

An update on the 2-year-old organization teaching women (and some men) to code

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Girl Develop It is an organization started in the U.S. to help women learn software development. With 90 percent of programmers male, there is a serious need for women in the field.

In four years since its launch in 2010, 25 chapters have sprung up around the United States and Canada. It's clear Girl Develop It has begun to solve a real world problem that has existed in development since the inception of the field itself. We need more female developers, and Girl Develop It is building them up and churning them out.

Enter Girl Develop It Raleigh/ Durham. The local chapter is helmed by three active members of the Triangle developer community: Julia Elman, Sarah Kahn and Sylvia Richardson. I first interviewed Julia and Sarah last year for an ExitEvent story about Teen Tech Camp, an annual event held for underprivileged teens at the Durham County Library. That, however, is just one of their pursuits to spread learning and knowledge of software development. I sat down with Kahn recently to learn a bit more about our local GDI chapter and what is in store for the near future.

First, some quick stats about the Raleigh/Durham Chapter: --Read On

4.11.14 SARAH BILL

Catching up with Mati Energy and NeuroSpire at PARADOXOS

Grassroots festival celebrates Durham-born ideas and businesses

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The second-annual PARADOXOS festival brings together disparate start-ups that would not connect under normal circumstances, and last night's Build-A-Party was no exception. Its theme was "What are you building?" and answers came through show-and-tell by real estate developers, artists, musicians, hoteliers and entrepreneurs.

The event is being held at locations throughout downtown Durham, and is built on the exchange of community-inspired ideas.

Tatiana Birgisson, founder of Mati Energy and a speaker at Paradoxos, has a lot to say about the power of grassroots influence.

“The community is so supportive,” she says of her rise from dorm-room tea brewer to Whole Foods distributor. Two years ago, Birgisson was a Duke student living with the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder, and was simply looking for a way to be productive.

“I slept all the time,” says Birgisson. “I needed energy, but I was putting tons of sugar in my coffee. It wasn't healthy.”
 --Read On

4.11.14 JAY BIGELOW@JayBigelow

On the Go with Jay Bigelow

CED's entrepreneurship director shares his weekly adventures and insights on Triangle startups

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

ExitEvent launches a new series today tracking the weekly activities of Council for Entrepreneurial Development Director of Entrepreneurship Jay Bigelow. Why Jay? Because he's charged with meeting and learning the needs of entrepreneurs all over this region and connecting them with the resources and people to help achieve their goals.

Here's Jay's first Friday post detailing the connections he's making and help he's providing throughout the Triangle startup community. To get on Jay's calendar, email jbigelow@cednc.org.

As I re-engaged with the local entrepreneurial community in the past year or so, one of the things I came to realize is the breadth and diversity of innovation in this region (That's a plus).

However, I also observed our “spread-out-ness” is a hindrance not a help. Each “micro-entrepreneurial ecosystem” knows something (and some people) in its little corner of the RTP world, but often does not know what‘s happening just a few miles down I-40. CED supports the entire region and makes connections locally, and more and more, nationally. I thought it might be helpful to share some of our activities on a weekly basis so you can gain a little bigger picture of what's going on region-wide. Please let me know what you think.

 --Read On

4.10.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Update: Yeti Ties World Record But Loses PARADOXOS Talent Show

Fundraising CEO Needs Cash to Fix his Car, Enters Talent Show

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

SnapYeti failed to take home $2,500 in today's PARADOXOS talent show. The grand prize went to Josh Mills, studio director of Relevant Games. Here's his first-prize winning dance ensemble.

Some entrepreneurs couch surf and eat ramen noodles to make ends meet. Others enter talent competitions, and with talents acquired quite literally overnight.

Those who know Justin Beard of SnapYeti won't be too surprised to see him compete in the startup talent show kicking off the PARADOXOS Festival today. He's the guy who makes videos of himself wearing a Yeti costume to promote his photo contest tool for brands.

But this time, Beard's antics will pay off in more than public relations. If he wins the $2,500 at stake in the competition, he'll finally have the money to put a new engine in his broken-down truck.

Beard has spent the last month and a half hitching rides with his fiance and friends. He didn't want to spend the money to fix the truck when he's trying to raise $300,000 from investors to grow his business. Here's the video he created to promote today's performance.

Though Beard hasn't yet secured the funds, his quirky marketing tactics seem to be working. He launched 23 new photo contests in the month of March alone, including one with Target. He acquired more than 7,000 new users during the month to grow the SnapYeti userbase to more than 26,500 people. The site launched in September 2013.

So what's Beard's mysterious talent?

A Guiness World Record for number of balloons popped with his butt in 30 seconds or less. If he pops more than 34 balloons, he'll take the reins from an adolescent British kid who earned the recognition last December. Beard is allowed two helpers to accomplish the feat. He's got work to do...after several practices, he's popped 27.

But Beard is pretty confident he'll win the Record and the $2,500 prize, and perhaps he'll get some good PR too.

After all, "It's not every day the Yeti breaks a world record," he says. --Read On

4.10.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Can these UNC Students Transform the Media Business?

With one launched startup and dozens of students vetting ideas, Reese News Lab is rethinking media

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

If you've ever wanted to bet on the weather, you just might get a chance.

Tomorrow, a team of four University of North Carolina students will stand before a room of meteorologists and news crews to share their idea for Weather Wager. Best compared to the sports betting site CentSports, says sophomore Matt Plaus, the app lets you bet on the weather for free, but earn money from successful bets over time.

Weather Wager is one of six ideas born out of a trio of semester-long challenges posed by John Clark and his team at the Reese News Lab. Funded with a large donation and tucked in the basement of the journalism school at Carroll Hall, the lab opened three years ago to innovate in media.

But a year ago, Clark, formerly general manager at WRAL.com, repositioned the lab to teach students to think like entrepreneurs. He believes that students can play a role in evolving the quickly changing news business into the future.

His students have already come up with one viable product. Beginning with the North Carolina General Assembly's May legislative session, an audio transcription subscription service called Capitol Hound will be available for $500 to lawyers, lobbyists and journalists who want to listen to and track the discussions on the House and Senate floor. The Lab has applied for a grant from Knight Foundation's Prototype Fund to grow the business beyond North Carolina in coming months.
 --Read On

4.10.14 JOE PROCOPIO@jproco

Tech Jobs Under the Big Top Draws Huge Crowd, Makes Solid Connections

Clowns, Jugglers, Jobs

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

I've never had so much fun at a job fair.

As I was walking back from the beer table at Tech Jobs Under the Big Top last night with my second (and final) Top of the Hill Old Well White, replacing the one a Durham police officer had inadvertently knocked off the small table it had been haphazardly placed on (and we had a good laugh, he couldn't have been nicer about it), I decided to hang out at the entry to the event tent and hawk name tags of candidates as they walked in.

Within seconds, a guy walked up with "Data Scientist" on his name tag. I stopped him, introduced myself, and said I'd love to talk to him for a second. He looked at my Automated Insights T-shirt and said, "Cool. I'm here to talk to you anyway."

After about a minute of conversation, I said, "Look, I'll bring you in for an interview tomorrow if you can make it."

And with that, our money was more than well spent.

By 5:15 p.m. (for a 5:30 event), the line to get into Tech Jobs snaked down one block of downtown Durham's Corcoran street and spilled over into a second block. Other folks from Automated took to strolling down the sidewalk, starting conversations with job-seekers as they waited for the event to begin.

What's more is we weren't the only company doing that.

Tech Jobs, as promised, was an aggressive hunt and strong pitch to get about 450 of the Triangle's talent to be interested in working for the 11 startups who paid to present ourselves and our collective hundreds of open positions to them. --Read On

4.9.14 BILL BING@BillNBing

Full Stack Startups and the Resurgence of Venture Capital

New VC trend: investing in big-thinking, revolutionary startups.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Over the last couple of weeks a new meme courtesy of Andreessen Horowitz venture capitalist Chris Dixon has emerged: the full stack startup.

Some may view it is a new name for a slight variant on the idea of vertical integration, but there is a significant difference between the two concepts. Full stack startups (“FSS”) are a new breed of company that don't attempt to correct a particular problem within a larger process or industry. Instead, they reimagine and redesign a process altogether.

To be sure, there is an element of vertical integration within many of these ideas, as developing a new way to accomplish something can require building infrastructure and support services that don't yet exist. A simple example of a FSS is Tesla—rather than design and sell a battery to car makers, the company actually built a complete electric car. It owns the full product cycle, from designing to building and selling their product, rather than addressing one part of the process. Another example is AltSchool—rather than developing tools for teachers, it is building a new type of school altogether.

Taking a full stack approach to problem solving opens up new ways to address challenges, and therefore creates new opportunities for innovators. Starting this type of business can be fairly capital intensive and difficult to get going, but competitors will have significant barriers to entry if you are successful. While this is a somewhat novel and potentially useful approach to problem solving, that's not the primary reason I wanted to write about the FSS meme. I think the meme is an indication that the venture market is shifting out of capital-efficient startup mode to a more aggressive position. --Read On

4.8.14 • MARK EASLEY

Intrastate Investment Crowdfunding is Moving Fast

NC Crowdfunding lobbying group ramps up for May legislative session

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Mark Easley is a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor and a crowdfunding enthusiast leading the charge in North Carolina for the legislature to approve in-state crowdfunding.

Easley spent more than 20 years in Silicon Valley's semiconductor industry, working in software engineering or sales and marketing roles for HP, Intel, Adaptec and PLX Technology.

Since moving to the Triangle in the early 2000s, he's racked up a local investment portfolio that includes ChannelAdvisor, Adzerk, MyStoreRewards, RocketBolt, Trinket, Offline Media, GROUNDFLOOR and Motricity. He's also an avid guitarist, and you can see his talents on stage at Paradoxos this week.

Read the NC JOBS Act blog for more on the pending NC crowdfunding legislation.

Over the last year here in the U.S., there have been a number of important developments in the investment crowdfunding exemption story.

Many states are following in the footsteps of Kansas and Georgia, who were the first to implement in-state investment crowdfunding exemptions by regulation (allowing residents of the state to invest in funds-raising businesses in the state), and North Carolina, the first to introduce an exemption by legislation.

As of today, six states—Kansas, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington and Indiana—have intrastate crowdfunding exemptions in place. Four states—North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Texas—have legislation pending. And five more—Idaho, Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Jersey—are in various stages of considering the idea.
 --Read On

4.7.14 JOE PROCOPIO@jproco

Tech Jobs Under the Big Top Kicks Off Paradoxos 2014

The Popular Reverse Job Fair Goes Festival

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The most difficult thing about hosting a great event is that you have to up the ante and keep it fresh every time out. I've made no bones about Tech Jobs Under the Big Top being my favorite local startup event, and it continues to raise the bar in both value and straight-up fun.

And you have to have fun. Otherwise you might just as well go work at IBM.

I've attended every single Big Top since the first, when people still thought it was somewhat crazy to have companies pitch themselves to prospective job seekers in a circus-type atmosphere. And when I say "circus," I mean jugglers-clowns-acrobats-hotdog-peanuts-everything-but-elephants circus, not stand-in-line-for-an-hour-to-have-some-HR-rep-shuffle-me-into-the-ERP-system circus.

An important distinction.

I'll be there April 9th for the spring 2014 version of Big Top, repping Automated Insights as we pitch our open positions. We'll be one of about a dozen startups who will take the stage to promote ourselves to the talent of the Triangle, hoping one or more of you will join our team.

And for the record, I'm not and never have been an HR rep. If you talk to me about joining my team, you'll be talking to me about joining my team, as in we'll work together.

I could reiterate the unique and clever ways Big Top turns a soul-sucking job search into a spirit-lifting celebration of the unsung talent here in the Triangle. I could tell you that it's outdoors this year in downtown Durham, under a real tent which will hold over 450 participants, and it's the kick-off event of the three-day-long Paradoxos, itself a celebration of Triangle startup and culture. I could tell you that every Big Top has sold out.

But when I talk about how Tech Jobs Under the Big Top continually improves upon itself, the tack I'm going to go take is a little out of left field.

Or rather, right field.

You're looking at the view from the Automated Insights offices -- we'll be moving in at the end of April. Not only is this a shameless plug to get you to work for us (Ruby developers and data scientists, seriously, hit me up at jproco.com), but it makes two important points about the improving quality of Big Top.

1) Working at a Triangle startup is no longer a garage-shop proposition

The Triangle startup community has come a long way since that first Big Top. We've got incredible career offerings with solid, financially stable companies with bright prospects for big futures. Sure, we still talk about long hours and hard work, but now we're able to throw in fully-paid health plans, free lunches, and awesome views.

And it isn't just Automated Insights (seriously though, jproco.com, let's talk), Bronto, for one example, has a careers page that's busting at the seams as they grow past 150 people. --Read On

4.4.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

A Rube Goldberg Machine and 10 More Reasons to Attend PARADOXOS

Second annual technology and culture conference happens April 9-12 in downtown Durham

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Famous German scientist Georg Lichtenberg once said that each person is a genius at least once a year, but the best geniuses have their brightest ideas closest together.

If that's truly the case, then the Durham enthusiasts planning the second annual PARADOXOS Festival are onto something. They believe they can force that collision of genius into existence by bringing together Durham's arts, technology, music, maker, entrepreneurial and food communities and proving the city's sum is greater than its parts.

Not exactly sure what that looks like in practice? Then check out 10 reasons you just might want to witness next week's festival of events.

1. You don't have to watch this creative girl-power video anymore to marvel at modern-day Rube Goldberg machines. The folks at Shoeboxed, the Paragraph Project and the Scrap Exchange are partnering up to build a life-size machine that spans PARADOXOS Village in downtown Durham. Come shock audiences with your tinkering abilities.
 --Read On