What We Do

The Digital Corridor is a creative effort to attract, nurture and promote Charleston's tech economy through a combination of technology-enabled initiatives and business incentives, private business support and member-driven programming.

Talent

Opportunities Abound
"Attending courses at CODEcamp allowed me to hone my web development skills while giving me the opportunity to interact with professionals that are driving Charleston technology community."
  • Ryan Barrineau
  • Developer
  • Blue Acorn

Spaces

Get Working
"As an early stage software company, it was not only important to have a location to grow in but also the means to mature as an organization. The Flagships afforded this flexibility and infrastructure."
  • Earl Bridges
  • Co-founder
  • Good Done Great

Community

Peer Networking
"The Charleston Digital Corridor serves as the central hub for technology companies in the area and what that has done is create a sense of community around the companies that are a part of it."
  • Grier Allen
  • Founder & CEO
  • Boomtown

Capital

Accelerating Growth
"While there are many opportunities for investment, our fund is happy to make growth capital available for Charleston’s tech companies. Michael Knox, Managing Partner, Silicon Harbor Ventures."
  • Michael Knox
  • Managing Partner
  • Silicon Harbor Ventures

Attraction

Charleston Wins
"Charleston has emerged as a true tech hub in the United States and we are proud to be a part of the movement that is underway here and are committed to seeing talent and companies grow and prosper here."
  • Nate DaPore
  • President & CEO
  • Peoplematter
STATS

Latest News

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2016 Best Cities for Tech (outside California & New York)

Silicon Valley may get the lion's share of tech buzz, but entrepreneurs, job seekers and investors take note: Some of the best places for tech are outside of California and New York. We've found the sneaky-great cities for tech that offer fast-growing businesses, strong fundamentals and affordability – without the cutthroat competition of the big-name startup hubs.

From the Eastern Seaboard to the Pacific Northwest, tech hubs abound. Helped by strong public-private partnerships, centralized hubs that foster connections and innovation, and capital provided by established businesses, each of these cities is an excellent choice for tech workers. They aren't trying to be Silicon Valley; instead, they've found what makes them unique, and built upon it. We've crunched the numbers on nearly 20,000 private companies founded in the past five years to bring you 2016's best cities for tech.

The Big Takeaways

  • Specialize in established industries. Cities with deep expertise in a given area – whether that's biotechnology, energy or finance – succeed when they spur innovation in those same areas. Not only do they carve a niche for themselves, but they can help established companies provide capital and mentorship to entrepreneurs.
  • Quality of life can't be overlooked. Nearly everywhere is less expensive than San Francisco or New York City. Rather than overbidding for tech talent, the best cities make affordability, community and culture integral parts of their pitch, and captured the imagination of those looking for more than an anonymous studio apartment.
  • Planning ahead pays off. Many of these cities work off deliberate plans to create centralized hubs for entrepreneurship. Whether it's creating large coworking spaces, building a downtown that's attractive to young professionals, or installing high-speed internet, cities' investment in infrastructure and housing strongly boost their profiles.

1. Waltham, MA

  • Finance Score: 68
  • Growth Score: 100
  • Overall Score: 100

Anchored by big-name companies like Constant Contact, Care.com and Raytheon, Waltham punches above its weight class in the tech world. With Boston just a half hour's drive away, Waltham has easy access to the area's considerable intellectual capital, and with a disproportionate number of venture firms (13 in our company database), the city provides entrepreneurs with financial capital as well.

But Waltham doesn't top our list because it's a suburb of a well-known tech city. No, it stands out because Waltham-based companies are poised to succeed. Of the cities in our survey, Waltham's startups ranked in the 99th percentile for financial stability, and ranked first in companies' growth prospects. Led by high-growth startups like Fractyl Laboratories, which raised over $138 million in its five years of existence, and other promising biotech companies, Waltham is the place for tech.

2. Jacksonville, FL

  • Finance Score: 99
  • Growth Score: 42
  • Overall Score: 99

Jacksonville goes well out of its way to support its budding entrepreneurs. The city helps startups find investors, and One Spark, an annual innovation festival that offers funding and capital advice, has helped strengthen the tech community as well as the startups themselves. And lest you think that Florida is only for retirees, Jacksonville's median age is 35, three years younger than the Bay Area's.

In our survey, Jacksonville excels in both aspects of our Finance Score: its resident companies rank in the 88th percentile of financial stability, and with an incredibly low cost of living, it's much more affordable than San Francisco, New York or even Boston. If you want to trade a cutthroat tech world for a city that actively supports its startups, Jacksonville is the place to be.

3. Provo, UT

  • Finance Score: 96
  • Growth Score: 85
  • Overall Score: 97

Over the years, Utah has established itself as a startup hub in its own right, and Provo is no exception. With low taxes, a ready source of intellectual capital from BYU and a focus on strong business fundamentals (not to mention Google Fiber), Provo offers a unique blend of innovation and work-life balance. According to our index, Provo's businesses rank in the 96th percentile in terms of financial stability, and its cost of living is below the national average. And with Utah consistently ranked as one of the happiest states in the country, Provo is a haven for job seekers and their families.

4. Overland Park, KS

  • Finance Score: 100
  • Growth Score: 22
  • Overall Score: 96

Just outside Kansas City, Overland Park boasts its own thriving technology scene. Anchored by established companies like Sprint, and boosted by strong civic and governmental support, the greater Kansas City startup scene has finally arrived. According to our survey, Overland Park ranked first among all cities for its companies' financial stability, a factor which includes investor quality and liquidity; its low cost of living is nothing to scoff at, either. Overland Park provides a space for up-and-coming startups to gain capital and knowledge, without breaking the bank.

5. Irving, TX

  • Finance Score: 86
  • Growth Score: 91
  • Overall Score: 95

Sitting just outside of Dallas, Irving shares in the Dallas-Fort Worth area's growing prominence in the tech world. But it's a hub in its own right, playing host to big companies like ExxonMobil and Michael's Stores, as well as up-and-comers like Appterra and Miraca Life Sciences. The city's companies rank in the 95th percentile in financial stability and the 91st in growth – surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and good sources of capital, Irving is home to a strong tech community.

6. Redmond, WA

  • Finance Score: 91
  • Growth Score: 84
  • Overall Score: 92

Think Redmond, and you'll probably think Microsoft. But the tech behemoth is hardly the only solid company to set up shop there: Home to over a hundred private companies, the small city of Redmond is a force to be reckoned with. Its private companies are financially stable and well-run; the city ranks in the 91st and 84th percentile in DataFox's Finance and Growth scores respectively. Even better – Redmond offers access to brilliant tech talent, natural beauty and craft everything, without Seattle's high cost of living.

7. Durham, NC

  • Finance Score: 77
  • Growth Score: 93
  • Overall Score: 89

We named Durham one of our best cities to found a startup in 2015, but it's a hub for established tech talent as well. Durham-based companies ranked in the 93rd percentile for growth, an indicator that its tech sector is comprised of strong companies.Those companies also rank above average in financial stability, and the city is much more affordable than the Bay Area, New York, or Boston.

Durham is a natural standout in the tech world. Not only can the city draw on Duke and other local universities for talent, but it can take advantage of the Research Triangle's expertise in biotechnology, medicine and more. And with support from organizations like American Underground, a campus that brings together entrepreneurs and investors alike, Durham demonstrates a commitment to innovation as well as today's tech giants.

8. Charleston, SC

  • Finance Score: 97
  • Growth Score: 54
  • Overall Score: 88

Though often overlooked in favor of Durham and the other Research Triangle cities, Charleston has a great deal to offer tech workers. A 2014 survey found that Charleston's tech sector ranked fourth in the country, and grew at the same pace as Silicon Valley's. Not only is the city affordable and enjoyable – its cost of living is below the national average, and it ranks among the happiest – but its startups rank in the 89th percentile for financial stability.

The startup ecosystem is thriving: DIG SOUTH, an annual conference for digital economy startups, draws big-name presenters like Google, Twitter and the New York Times; graduates from nearby University of South Carolina provide a ready supply of talent; and organizations like the Charleston Digital Corridor provide the mentorship, connections to investors and community that help entrepreneurs to succeed.

9.Milwaukee, WI

  • Finance Score: 95
  • Growth Score: 35
  • Overall Score: 86

Milwaukee's tech scene is based on community – a welcome change from the often-abrasive, talent-poaching norms of Silicon Valley and New York. Startup Milwaukee, for example, is a resource for mentoring and learning (and it's a nonprofit). With Marquette University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee providing access to intellectual capital, and talent drawn from all around Wisconsin, Milwaukee anchors the Midwest tech scene.

In addition, the state provides generous grants for small business owners and entrepreneurs. And it's affordable: the cost of living is well below the national average, while local tech companies have well above average financials. Milwaukee provides a community of support and mentorship to help tech workers succeed.

10.Oklahoma City, OK

  • Finance Score: 85
  • Growth Score: 62
  • Overall Score: 85

Oklahoma City combines the stability of established institutions with the vitality of innovative new startups. Anchored by publicly traded heavyweights Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and Hobby Lobby, the city is also home to up-and-comers like Tailwind, a Pinterest marketing platform, and GoldFire Studios, which creates browser-based social games.

What's more, the private sector is deeply invested in helping local entrepreneurs succeed. For example, Cowboy Technology Angels is an investment group comprised of alumni from nearby Oklahoma State University; while i2E, a private, not-for-profit corporation, focuses on growing local businesses with help from state funding. With Oklahoma University providing a ready supply of talent and innovation, Google Fiber, and depth in the medical and energy sectors, Oklahoma City's fast-growing tech scene is one to watch.

11. Chattanooga, TN

  • Finance Score: 92
  • Growth Score: 43
  • Overall Score: 84

Chattanooga's received a great deal of attention for the crazy-fast Internet speeds offered by its smart grid, but the city has much more to offer than quick movie downloads. With a very low cost of living and a strong sense of community, Chattanooga is an excellent place to live as well as work. As The Atlantic's CityLab wrote in 2015, the city embarked on an ambitious housing development plan to encourage entrepreneurs to collaborate, innovate and of course relocate to the new downtown area.

Home to accelerators like the nonprofit Company Lab, and GIGTANK, which provides free housing to participants, Chattanooga puts a premium on fostering innovation. And with standout tech companies like Ambition and Zipflip, it's hard to argue with the results.

12. Alpharetta, GA

  • Finance Score: 80
  • Growth Score: 77
  • Overall Score: 82

Less than an hour's drive away from Atlanta, Alpharetta is a growing tech hub in its own right. Not only is the city home to a number of established companies, including the regional headquarters of UPS, LexisNexis and ADP, but it's a breeding ground for new tech talent as well. In 2014, Alpharetta boasted over 600 tech companies – as many as the much-larger Austin, TX. With a high density of innovation and close access to Atlanta's top-tier universities, Alpharetta gives tech companies the benefits of a big city without the high cost.

In our survey, Alpharetta ranks in the 80th percentile in financial quality, as well as 77th in business quality. Its startup culture is much more collaborative than Silicon Valley's, offering strong municipal support including programs like the Alpharetta Innovation Center, an accelerator that also provides office space and networking opportunities. Density, nurturing and community are paying off in Alpharetta.

13. Charlotte, NC

  • Finance Score: 93
  • Growth Score: 31
  • Overall Score: 81

Traditionally known for banking and energy, Charlotte has also become a hub for venture capital and innovation. The city stands out in our survey not just for its low cost of living, but for the financial stability of its companies – an important trait as fears of a nationwide tech bubble increase. It provides the perfect blend of old capital and new ideas. For example, the city plays host to Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the U.S. by asset size, as well as to QCFinTech, an accelerator focused on innovation in the fintech space.

Charlotte has a long-term plan for growth, too. In the past few years, Packard Place has been transformed into a hub for entrepreneurs and their mentors. It houses coworking spaces and accelerators (including QCFinTech), offers networking and investing opportunities, and serves as the beating heart of Charlotte's growing tech scene. For a sense of community, the capital and expertise of established companies, and the energy of new ideas, Charlotte is the place to go.


Our Metrics

  • Financial stability. In today's uncertain funding climate, companies' financials are more important than ever. We ranked each city by the average company Finance Score, a proprietary metric that factors in investor quality, liquidity, revenue growth and more to gauge how financially secure a company is.
  • Affordability. Since a city's cost of living affects not only the people who work there, but local companies themselves, we used the 2014 real purchasing power metric to rank how affordable each metro area was. This data is published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Activity, which measures how much a dollar spent goes in each area. We sourced it from the Tax Foundation.
  • Business success. In order to see whether tech companies were actually succeeding, we looked at companies' Growth Score, a proprietary metric that predicts revenue and headcount growth based on team quality, prior growth, investor quality and other factors.

We considered private companies founded after 2010 that were not based in California or New York, and cities with at least 30 such companies meeting those criteria.

Software Engineer Launches Produce Delivery Service

Deliberately modernizing the milkman model, Charleston's Tori Schallot has begun delivering fruit and vegetables to local doorsteps.

"Where possible, we are buying from local farms when items are in season," Schallot says of the produce offered through The Berry Dispatch. Customers can see the sources of their cucumbers, garlic and other items when compiling orders online.

Schallot, who quit her job as a software engineer to last week launch the new service, says she designed The Berry Dispatch with potential customers' grocery budgets in mind. Rather than impose a monthly subscription fee, she charges $5-$7 per delivery, and requires a minimum order of $15.

Additionally, in order to appeal to small households and visitors staying in hotel rooms, Schallot is selling single-serve portions of vegetables prepped for cooking, such as chopped green peppers and diced onions. She envisions ultimately fitting those ingredients into meal kits.

"It allows customers to reduce food waste," she says.

According to a press release, customers who place their orders by 10 p.m. will receive produce the following day.

With her parents' help, Schallot has been promoting The Berry Dispatch at area farmers' markets; she's also using those venues to forge business relationships with growers.

Ceterus Bookkeeping Service Closes On $4.2M Series A Investment Round

Charleston-based Ceterus, which streamlines bookkeeping services for franchise owners, has closed on a $4.2 million Series A investment, according to a news release.

The round was led by Atlanta-based TechOperators –- its first investment in South Carolina –- with participation from Idea Fund Partners of Raleigh and Alerion Ventures of Charleston.

"This is our first financing round, as we've bootstrapped the business the past eight years," Ceterus CEO and founder Levi Morehouse said in an email. "We've grown tremendously since, and to continue our growth while ensuring quality, it was important for us to find the right fit for our first round of funding. We've found that with the combination of experience and industry expertise TechOperators, Alerion Ventures and the Idea Fund Partners bring to the table."

The cloud-based, software-as-a-service platform provides financial reporting and operational metrics to business owners on a dashboard by using data from point-of-sale, human resources and accounting systems, the release said.

Founded in 2008, Ceterus relocated its headquarters from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Charleston nearly three years ago with a staff of one. The company now has nearly 20 workers in Charleston and will add sales and technology employees with the money raised in the funding round.

"We have grown rapidly this past year and our customers love how we help them manage and grow their businesses. ... Not only do we do the actual bookkeeping for our customers, we help our customers learn how to run their businesses better," Morehouse said.

Ceterus is currently sharing space in the SIB Development building within the Half Mile North development on Upper Meeting Street. The firm is currently scouting office space in downtown Charleston.

Blackbaud Announces Expansion in South Carolina

Blackbaud, Inc. (NASDAQ:BLKB), the leading provider of software and services for the global philanthropic community, today announced plans for a new world headquarters on Daniel Island in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Blackbaud's state-of-the-art workplace and innovation center will expand its community outreach and is expected to create 300 additional high-tech jobs over the next five years.

Today's announcement expands upon Blackbaud's already rich contribution to developing the high-tech corridor in South Carolina. Blackbaud, which has operated in Berkeley County since 2000, is the largest publicly traded software company in the state and was recently recognized on Forbes' 25 Fastest-Growing Public Tech Companies list. More than half of Blackbaud's rapidly growing workforce resides in the Charleston area, proving the great potential that exists at the intersection point of high-tech and philanthropy in the East Coast's burgeoning "Silicon Harbor."

"For nearly 30 years we've called South Carolina home, and we're proud to deepen our roots in this great state with this generational investment," said Mike Gianoni, Blackbaud's president and CEO. "This community is very important to us, and this project improves our ability to give back in even more meaningful ways while boosting the local economy. I'd like to thank the State of South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Berkeley County, and the City of Charleston for their continued support of Blackbaud, and for their commitment to making South Carolina a place where technology companies and those they employ can thrive."

Once complete, the new, approximately 360,000-square foot, eco-friendly campus will ultimately accommodate thousands of the company's global workforce, and will serve as a hub for the advancement of philanthropic interests in the Lowcountry and around the world. The new headquarters will offer unique community space to incubate emerging nonprofits and connect people with common interests. The site will also include facilities to host the company's ongoing community development and corporate citizenship activities, like Camp Blackbaud, an employee-led STEM program that teaches elementary school children how to design and code.

"Today we're proud to celebrate the continued success of one of our most innovative companies – Blackbaud," said South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. "Since 1989, Blackbaud has been a terrific member of the South Carolina family, and this new expansion speaks to the company's commitment to our state and its people. The 300 new jobs created by this initiative are a milestone, not only for our Lowcountry community, but also for our state as a whole."

Blackbaud, which was ranked among South Carolina's best places to work for six consecutive years and recognized on Forbes' America's Best Midsize Employers list, plans to use the expansion to delight existing staff and attract top talent by adding innovative ideation and collaboration spaces, game rooms, ergonomic work stations, a coffee and tea bar, a modern cafeteria sourcing local food, a fitness center, hiking trails, and creative outdoor sporting, meeting and event space. "We are a purpose-driven company with employees who are deeply committed to advancing the social good movement," said John Mistretta, Blackbaud's executive vice president of Human Resources. "Our new headquarters project allows us to build a workplace that cultivates collaboration, promotes disruptive innovation and inspires employees to reach their full potential."

To mark the announcement, Blackbaud made a $20,000 donation to Daniel Island Community Fund (DICF) to support its Cainhoy Elementary and Middle School initiatives. The company chose to partner with DICF as a way to make a meaningful investment in its own backyard, focusing on the education of disadvantaged youth in communities that neighbor its new facility.

Blackbaud was joined by both state and Charleston-area leaders to announce the news, including Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler, City Council Member Gary White, and South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. "Thanks to dynamic companies like Blackbaud, South Carolina's high-tech, knowledge economy continues to thrive. Today, we congratulateBlackbaud on all of the success it has achieved both within our borders and around the world," said Hitt.

Holder Properties will build and lease the space to Blackbaud. Construction will begin in the fall of 2016 and expected to be completed in phases. Phase one of the new campus (planned for completion by 2018) will be located at the intersection of Fairchild Street and Central Island Street, while phase two will be located at the intersection of River Landing Drive and Fairchild Street. The company will remain at its current headquarters location at 2000 Daniel Island Driveuntil each new building is ready for occupancy.

STEM Premier raises $2.6M in equity sale, according to SEC filing

Mount Pleasant-based STEM Premier, an online platform that connects students studying math and science with employers and schools, raised $2.6 million in a recent equity sale, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company sold equity to 11 investors, the filing shows.

The platform helps students in science, technology, engineering and math design a career path and connect with prospective higher education institutions and employers, according to a news release.

Students ages 13 and older can build personal profiles showcasing their skills and talents. STEM Premier's subscription-based model then enables colleges, universities, companies and government agencies to directly connect with the students and recruit them for scholarships, internships and job openings.

Lewis Gossett, S.C. Manufacturers Alliance president and CEO, recently described STEM Premier as "LinkedIn on steroids on steroids."

The company and the alliance have partnered to form S.C. Future Makers, a public-private partnership that aims to match students who have an aptitude for technology with advanced manufacturing industries such as BMW and Boeing, where those skills can be put to lucrative use. The website includes research into the manufacturing industry, as well as videos of five manufacturers with heavy S.C. presences.

Students can also create profiles on the website that detail traditionally available information, such as grade-point average, but allow would-be employers to delve deeper into special skills that make them a potentially good fit.

"This is where kids get to create their own brand," Gossett said last month during the S.C. Manufacturing Conference and Expo in Greenville. "They get to, for free, create their own platform where they can tell everything there is about them, and my members and colleges and technical colleges can search and find them and start to communicate directly with them."

STEM Premier, which is headquartered at 474 Wando Park Blvd. in Mount Pleasant, was launched in 2012 and participated in SCRA's SC Launch program. It has since expanded to all 50 states and plans to partner with more technical colleges in similar programs to the recent partnership it formed with Midlands Technical College.

CofC’s van Delden Working To Connect Students, Local Tech Firms

The Charleston Digital Corridor's Leadership Profile series is focused on the individuals who are driving Charleston tech scene forward. This series is brought to you with support from Charleston Southern University.

Sebastian van Delden joined the College of Charleston last summer as professor and chairman of the Computer Science Department, which is seeing significant growth in enrollment and graduates. Van Delden aims to increase partnerships between the department and Charleston's technology industry. 

Where did you grow up? What was life like?

I grew up on a small island in the Caribbean called Saba. It's a small Dutch island. When I was growing up there, only 1,200 people or so lived on the island. It's a volcanic island, so it's world renowned for deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, things like that. My brother had a little Boston Whaler fishing boat, and we'd always be out doing something on the water.

I had an opportunity to come to Florida to go to school. I went to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. At UCF, I had classes with 1,200 students in them. So to come from an island with 1,200 inhabitants, it was quite a culture shock.

How did you come to be in Charleston?

Out of school, I got a job first at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, and I was there for about eight or 10 years. I was a professor of computer science and I wanted to go more into administration, so I got a job as department chair at Southeastern Louisiana University, and moved out there for three years. Then, for several different reasons, I wanted to move back to Charleston, closer to family in Florida, too, and saw the position open here and applied.

What was your first job or most memorable early job? What did you learn from it?

When I was in college, I would go down to the Caribbean every summer, and my brother and I would take summer jobs just to save up some money to come back up to college. Every summer I worked construction. One summer, almost the whole summer, my primary task was busting rocks with a sledge hammer in the hundred-degree weather in the Caribbean. It's hard work, hard physical work. That was one of the best motivations to do well in school.

What lessons have you learned from good bosses? Bad bosses?

There's two kinds of managers. Some bosses use more of the intimidation, "it's better to be feared than loved" approach. I've seen some bosses be intimidating, sarcastic to get you to do what they want. Then I've had other bosses that are more supportive and nurturing. With both approaches, I think you get more or less the same result in the end. But in the latter approach, where you don't sweat the small stuff and you're more nurturing and build some humor into your mission, everybody just stays healthier for longer. You get the same results in the end, but everybody is just happier.

What role does the College of Charleston's Computer Science Department play in the local technology industry?

I think we're definitely becoming a very good feeder school to support the region. Our enrollment is approaching 500 students. We will graduate about 70 or 80 students this year. We graduated 49 last year, and the running average before that was about 30 students. Within two years from now, we are going to graduate over 100 students moving forward.

When you look at those numbers and compare them to other universities in town and other universities looking to move to town, it's pretty clear that the university in the Lowcountry that can be the true feeder school to support the high-tech corridor down here is our department.

How many of your graduates work locally?

Of the 60 or so graduates who are graduating this May – we already graduated almost 20 in December – about half of those already have jobs. About 70 percent are staying in town, and about 30 percent are moving out of state.

Of the 70 percent who are staying in town, the average starting salary is about $61,000. Out of state, the average starting salary is about $82,000.

What has driven the recent growth in the program?

Nationwide, there is a growth in computer science programs because of an uptick in need for computer scientists. But there are two other factors also driving our growth here because our growth has been healthy, probably exceeding national averages.

One, we get very good state support. The state of South Carolina has been giving the Computer Science Department extra money, which we have primarily been using to provide scholarships to students. We award different kinds of scholarships to in-state students and some out-of-state students as well. That helps us be competitive with most other universities. Also, we've been able to hire extra faculty using the state money. Because to get all these students is wonderful, but if you have a big old pile of bricks and if you don't have a brick layer, you can't build a house. So we need to have faculty to teach the students.

Another factor is the really good diversity of programs in our department. We have computer science; everybody has computer science. We have computer information systems, that's the business and computing degree. A lot of schools also have that one. Then we have a computing in the arts degree, which is a combination of computing and then something on the creative side of the spectrum – art, music, theater. That one's a very unique program. We have 90 students in it, 51 percent girls, so it's very diverse, which is very unusual for a computing degree. It draws different kinds of students to the college. And then the final degree we offer is data science. It's one of the first data science programs in the country on an undergraduate level. We have students coming here from California, Georgia, all over America, specifically for the data science degree program.

We have very nice facilities, and we really do have world-class faculty here. Recently, we have also done a good job of marketing.

What's the idea behind the industry projects course you started this semester?

It's very exciting times in Charleston because we have all these high-tech companies in the region. One of the challenges I had was to figure out more ways to partner with these companies in a very sustainable way. They got invited to participate in this industry projects course, where the companies come in on the first days of class, they pitch these project ideas – typically a pet project that a company just doesn't have the time and resources to work on.

We form student groups of three or four students, and then we spend the semester trying to develop a project for the company. The big learning objective of the course is how the students work together to develop software in what's called an Agile development process, and in particular we use Scrum to develop the software.

The main benefit from the company's point of view is to interact with our students, to vet them at no cost. The companies just have to invest a total of four hours for the entire semester. One person from the company comes in to pitch the project idea, comes to the midterm presentation, and then comes to the final presentation. There is some communications in between, but that's it. In the process, the companies get to vet the students, figure out who's going to be a good fit at their company. We've had now a couple people already get jobs from these companies. They've been able to secure jobs and internships directly because of this interaction.

How else is the department partnering with the local tech industry?

We had the Industry Advisory Board before I arrived. It was a small board that had I think half a dozen CEO-type folks on it. Which is great, you always like to have CEOs and presidents. But I wanted more of a working advisory board. My ideal advisory board member is somebody who is about five to 10 years into the industry, project leads or project managers, somebody who is more in the weeds, and somebody who can actually get to show up to a meeting now and then because CEOs are hard to nail down. We expanded the advisory board to about 30 or 40 people, and these are more of your middle-management, project-lead folks.

The industry projects course, the advisory board, internships and we do a lot of one-off kinds of things – all these things help create a well-balanced department. There are always two ways a department can lean. Heavy on the theory side, where you're learning formal principles of computer science. On the opposite side of that, you could teach more software engineering principles. So, how to use the latest hammers and nails and saws that the current people are using to build software. If you only teach those tools, that's fine and all, but if you only know how to use the tool and the tool doesn't do what you want it to do, that's it, you're done. If you understand the theory, then you understand how to build your own tool if that tool fails. Our goal is to have theory and bleeding edge, and the industry brings the bleeding edge to it.

Clemson University is building a local graduate center for engineering with advanced degrees in computer science. What will this mean for Charleston?

Their engineering programs are good to support the high-tech manufacturing coming to town, like Boeing. And when Volvo moves to town, they're going to have to hire a bunch of computer science people, too, so we all benefit from that.

They're going to also offer their digital production arts program, the DPA, which is a masters degree program. That's the part we're most excited about, because Clemson has a very good DPA program. We're very interested in that being an opportunity for our computing in the arts majors to matriculate to when they graduate. Our professors here are already working with their professors to figure out how that is going to happen.

How do you measure or define success for your program?

I look at whether our students get jobs, what kind of quality jobs they get, the amount of money they make. If our students don't get jobs or aren't able to get into graduate school afterward, then we're not serving our students and we're not serving the area.

Do you have a routine that's important to your day? A morning ritual, meditation, etc.?

On a perfect day, I walk the kids to school, I come into work, and then I love taking a little walk through Charleston first. I go to the Faculty House, which is on campus. I get a cup of coffee, and I take my walk. It clears my head. I think about all I have to do for the day.

What is your biggest pet peeve in business or amongst colleagues?

When the people you are working with are doing something to undercut one of their colleagues. They're doing something malicious to bring harm, professional harm. I've seen that happen before, and it's pretty sad.

What advice would you give new graduates seeking to work in the tech industry?

The advice I always give my fresh graduates: I tell them that you've invested a lot of money, time, sweat and tears into your college education so far, and now you've graduated. Like any investment, the value of that investment can go up or down. When you go to apply for your next job or promotion, when somebody looks at your resume, they're going to see the College of Charleston. They're going to determine the quality of your education based upon how much that degree is worth at that time. Not how much it's worth now.

So I tell them, try to protect your investment. You can help protect your investment by giving back to the university by participating on our advisory board, coming back to talk to our students, leading an industry projects course. Not financially – some of our students who make a lot of money can invest financially, too, and we will be happy to help them with that. But it's more investing their real-world expertise by coming back to talk to the future generation of students, and hiring College of Charleston graduates when you can.

Are you a Mac or a PC? iPhone or Android?

PC and Android. I guess I'm cheap. I don't like paying for name brands. I also buy Sam's Choice cola at Wal-Mart. And also for computer science, historically anyway, when you're doing software programs, Windows and Android typically are a little bit more of an open platform.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

My favorite all-time Starbucks order is a S'mores Frappuccino. It's a slice of heaven. It's the best thing I've ever tasted. But then I have two regular orders: a venti nonfat mocha or a Java Chip Frappuccino.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I used to play a lot of golf, enjoyed that very much. Can't find time anymore. I like to do yardwork. We like to go with the family to the beach, just walk around and pick up shells. I like to fish and do anything that doesn't involve a computer. 

Tech Sector Exploding in Charleston

The title of this column is not a wish or an aspiration. It's a statement of fact.

For years now, economic development people and politicians have talked about building the technology sector like it was the Holy Grail, and the Holy Land was Silicon Valley. There is now a Silicon Something sprouting up almost everywhere you look: Silicon Alley (New York City), Silicon Shore (Santa Barbara), Silicon Hills (Austin), Silicon Mountain (Denver), Silicon Forrest (Portland).

It's not just a U.S. phenomenon. There is a Silicon Glenn (Scotland), Silicon Fjord (Finland), Silicon Oasis (Dubai), Silicon Beach (Australia), Silicon Dock (Northern Ireland), Silicon Cape (South Africa), etc.

Wikipedia lists a Silicon Something in 28 U.S. cities and regions and 61 globally. There are probably twice as many that haven't yet gotten onto the list. My favorite is Silicon Bayou in Louisiana. I'm not sure how they deal with the alligators, but I guess that's a different story.

All of which brings us to our own Silicon Harbor: Charleston.

As in many communities, back in the late 1990s some smart folks figured out that this internet thing was going to be a big deal. Some city officials and business leaders began to coalesce around the idea of the need to do something to encourage tech growth.

Following a familiar pattern (see the 100 or so initiatives above), the Charleston Silicon Harbor and its related Silicon Corridor (there's that name again) were born.

The initiative grew to house two incubators (a third is in the works) as places for small companies to share space, costs and ideas. Since 2009, 76 startup companies have graduated from the incubators.

Today, more than 200 tech companies call Charleston home.

The statistics are dazzling: There are 243 tech companies in Charleston. Charleston now has a higher percent of its workforce in tech businesses than Austin and Raleigh. Our tech economy is growing 26 percent faster than the national average, on par with Silicon Valley (the original one). More than 11,000 people work in the tech sector. We are in the top 10 fastest-growing software development regions in U.S. ... and on and on it goes.

One could write a book (and someone should) about the innovative tech companies that have flourished in the region. Here are just a few:

Blackbaud, developer of software and services for nonprofits, moved to Charleston from New York 26 years ago. In 2004, it raised $64.7 million at its IPO and now has more than 3,000 employees.

Benefitfocus was founded in 2000 to simplify enrollment for benefits at large companies. It raised $70.6 million from its IPO in 2013 and now has a 40-acre campus in Charleston housing 750 employees.

Automated Trading Desk started in 1988 as a pioneer in high frequency stock trading. In 2007, ATD was sold to Citigroup for $680 million and at the time was handling 6 percent of all the trades on the NASDAQ stock exchange and had 115 employees.

BoomTown is a real estate software company. Since opening in 2006, it has surpassed $8 million in revenue and now employs nearly 100 people.

PeopleMatter is a human resources software developer for the service industry. Incubated in the Digital Corridor, it has raised more than $47 million and its products are in more than 33,000 restaurants.

Blue Acorn designs, builds, markets and optimizes e-commerce sites for brands and other online retailers. Started in 2008, it now has more than 80 employees and $8 million in revenues.

PhishLabs, a cyber-security firm also incubated in the Digital Corridor, has completed a $1.2 million Series A round of venture financing and now has nearly 50 employees.

BiblioBoard started with only four people and is now the world's first digital global publishing platform. Today, several hundred publishers use their technology, as do thousands of libraries. The company was started by Mitchell Davis, who previously cofounded BookSurge, which was sold to Amazon.

There are lots of reasons why this is happening. Two of the biggest reasons are that Charleston is a great place to live and attracts young, smart people who want to live here. The South Carolina Research Authority's S.C. Launch program has provided millions in startup and expansion capital to entrepreneurs with an idea.

The bottom line on all this is that Charleston's tech community really is truly exploding. It is creating great jobs for smart people who are building great companies that are having national and even global impact.

Pay attention, folks. Something big and real and important is happening in Charleston - right now.

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