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
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Levi Morehouse, Ceterus Founder & CEO

Ceterus CEO: I Look For People Who Are Passionate

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.

Levi Morehouse is founder and CEO of Ceterus, a firm that provides accounting software and services for small-business owners. Ceterus is located in downtown Charleston.

Where did you grow up? What was life like there?

Kalamazoo, Michigan. It's a small town about two hours from Chicago, two hours from Detroit, kind of between the two. I was home schooled. It was a good place. I spent a long time there and actually started the business there in 2008. We moved our headquarters down here in 2013. It was a good place to grow up, just a little too cold for me.

How did you come to be in Charleston?

The business has customers nationwide; it's all cloud based, it can be done from anywhere. We really did that knowing that we wanted to be able to locate to a bigger city or a different type of area at some point. So back around 2012 or 2013, we started realizing we needed to be somewhere with a little more access to talent, somewhere where people wanted to relocate.

If it wasn't going to be a huge metropolitan area, which I wasn't really interested in, it had to be a place that would be attractive for people to move to. As much as Michigan is a good place, it's not exactly a prime destination for people to relocate to. Along with that, just personally, I wanted somewhere slightly warmer. So we looked around at a handful of cities around the Southeast as well as Texas and ultimately settled on Charleston.

In your own words, what does your company do?

We empower small-business entrepreneurs with niche-specific accounting solutions. We focus on franchisees and a couple of specific franchise concepts.

I started the business in 2008 as just an outsourced accounting business, purely a service business. A little over a year and a half ago, we switched and started developing our own software and becoming a software-as-a-service business.

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

I had a lot of early jobs working with small-business owners. I worked at a bakery. I worked at a telecommunications company. I always really enjoyed watching the owners do their thing. I was always very entrepreneurial minded. I was always very interested in: Why does this business work? What's working there? Why do customers want to choose them? Do they make money or not?

Did you have an entrepreneurial drive early on, or did you acquire it through experiences?

Once I gave up my dreams of being a professional baseball player, which ended at 11 when everybody else was better than me, it just shifted gears to, "OK, this seems like a really fun way to make a living and to try to create something and build something." I'm not an engineer. I'm not a builder of physical things. So building a business, working with people, working with customers, working with employees – all of that started to become interesting to me at a very early age.

I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur; I didn't always know what I was going to do. I spent a lot of years trying to figure that out. I started businesses from the age of 19. I bought a house. I did some real estate – I sold and rented and flipped. My wife and I went through seven houses in our first five years of marriage. God bless her, she's put up with a lot. So I tried that. I started several businesses throughout college as well as after I got my first jobs.

What drew you to your current business, or inspired you to start it?

When I went to college, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. I took an accounting class just because I was on the business track. I said, "Wow, this kind of clicks. I actually enjoy this stuff." So I went down that route. I ended up getting a job at a pretty good-sized regional accounting firm and getting my CPA, all the while knowing that this isn't what I wanted to be doing. It was a great job, and I had a great time there, but I always had that urge, the itch, that I do need to do my own thing.

Ultimately, I put the pieces together and said this small-business thing that I've always been attracted to, these small-business owners – they have a big need in accounting. They do it poorly, and I enjoy it. Is there a way that I can provide something like that to all these small-business owners? And the pieces kind of just clicked.

It was the same time cloud software was really becoming useable and trustworthy and accessible. So I said, let's try a business that provides a turnkey way to do the accounting. We don't just give you tools and consult you on how to use them, but we actually do it. None of these small-business owners have the time to do it.

You recently began offering software in addition to accounting services. Why the shift?

When customers sign up, they say, "I want you to do my accounting," and it's off their plate. It's on our plate. We're running through their transactions, telling them how they're doing, giving them reports on how they're doing. They don't have to manage it. What changed was instead of sending them reports or having them get into QuickBooks and look at a report, they now log into our Ceterus insight system, which is reporting that's tailored to their niche specifically.

So they don't just see information about their business. They see their business and it's benchmarked against their peers. So they can see, "How did I do last month, and how does that compare to everybody else in my state or everybody else in the nation that's in this same kind of business?" It's highly valuable information. It lets them zero in on where they're spending too much money or should be spending more. It pulls in non-financial information as well – other key performance indicators they may want to monitor.

How would you describe your organization's culture?

It's very results-focused and fun. Everyone has a lot of autonomy, a lot of flexibility. Every position has a really clear set of objectives. Within that, everyone has the ability to do the job how they want, when they want, where they want.

What is your management style? Has it changed over time?

I really enjoy delegating things and not thinking about them again. I've got a really good team that's hungry for that. On the flip side, if something starts going wrong, I zero in and ask a lot of questions. But I try to stay pretty hands-off as long as things are going well.

I used to really want everyone to feel great and like me a ton. I learned in doing that, you end up making people sometimes hate you more by not addressing something that's a problem. So by the time you finally do address it, you're a jerk because you didn't give proper expectations. They didn't know they were falling short.

I think I've become a lot better at being very honest, very up front very early on about anything, and not always trying to make everyone happy every minute.

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

I think, again, learning that you don't have to be everybody's friend. Be honest. Be nice to people, but ultimately they'll like you a lot better if they know you're out to shoot straight with them.

What's the hardest or most important lesson you've learned in business?

To have a really clear objective of what you're doing and then to focus exclusively on that objective. And never to settle for anything short of it. If you put those three things together, it really works well.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

That it's really exciting and glamorous. It's mostly a whole lot of hard work, a lot of stress. Your mind doesn't turn off.

Do you have a routine that's important to your day?

Really the only thing that I've always consistently done as long as I can remember is try to get up earlier than pretty much any sane person would get up. I try to get up at 4:47 a.m. Sometimes I work out right then. Sometimes I just go straight to work. Sometimes I make a cup of coffee. But I always get up very early and try to get a lot done before the rest of the world is up and about.

What do you look for in the people you hire?

I look for people who are passionate in general, just passionate toward life and toward what they do, and who like being responsible for the duties they are supposed to accomplish. Once they understand something, they don't want to ask a million questions, they don't want to have to have somebody looking over their shoulder. They really want to be a little bit autonomous and just do an amazing job. And I look for people who want to get rewarded for the value they create, not for the time they sit at their desk.

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

Everything takes too long. I'm very impatient.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Really get a clear objective of what you want to do and focus on it exclusively, and don't settle.

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

There's not nearly enough talent in technology right now. So I would say get into it and find a business that's doing something real. Find one that you really believe is serving a need and will be there for the long haul.

What do you see as the future of your company?

We love working with and empowering small-business entrepreneurs. We get to have a part in helping hundreds of them today. We want that to be thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. So we built the software, the automation, giving us a scalable platform. We really think this is going to be a substantial business that really does a lot of good for the entrepreneurs in this country.

What one person have been the biggest influence on your business life? And why?

My wife. She's really taught me over the years the value in having some routines and more organization. I've always been about ideas and chasing crazy things and working really hard, but to be able to put some more structure to that is super valuable.

She has helped me with management techniques and leadership styles. I can't tell you how many times she has said, "Well, if what you just said and the way you just acted makes me feel like this, I can't imagine what your employees feel like every day." I've tried to take a lot of those lessons. I owe her a lot of gratitude for helping me be a better business person, a better leader. My employees probably appreciate her, too.

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

About 99 percent of my work I do on my iPhone. When I do have to sit down at my desk, I use a Surface Pro.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

Whatever the darkest roast is, black.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I have five boys, ages 4 to 14. It's a lot of fun, but it's crazy.

Ceterus also has a basketball team. What we lack in size we make up for in intensity.

What has it been like building your technical team in Charleston?

It's been tough. We're just getting into it. The available talent here seems low. Getting people here has been OK. People are attracted to the city. There's just not a whole lot of available talent looking around here, that's here currently.

We just raised a venture capital round. I talked to a lot of VCs, and a big issue was, "You're in Charleston, is that even going to work?" I went around town and interviewed various tech CEOs, and to a person, I heard that it's harder to recruit people here. They do want to move to Charleston. But it's tough. It's not like, obviously, Silicon Valley or New York or Boston, or not even like Atlanta or Denver. There's fewer people, fewer applicants. But once you get them, they said the loyalty and the turnover is great. They don't leave.

In talking to people who would be interested and who would like to relocate here, I think the fear is that either you decide you want to move out, or the company doesn't make it, or the company does make it and gets acquired and moved to somewhere else. In tech, I think a good person is worried that if that happens, they'll have to relocate again and they won't want to. They'd like to be in Charleston, but I think there's a fear that there's not enough opportunities.

I think as it becomes known that it's not just one or two companies – that it's five or 10 or 20 – then I think people will realize there are other alternatives in the area. That strikes me as a part of it.

I know a big part of it is not having a school here that's kicking out technical talent, so everyone has to relocate here. And, honestly, I think it's a nationwide issue. I don't think it's a Charleston-only kind of thing that it's hard to get good technology people.

What are your thoughts on how Charleston's technical landscape has grown?

I've been here about three years. Even in that time, though, it's impressed me. Just this area we're in here, businesses are popping up. Better offices, bigger places, more people. It seems to be that the non-Blackbaud and Benefitfocus firms are starting to grow and really get some traction as well, which I think is exciting. It continues to build out the rest of that ecosystem. Again, I haven't been here long enough to really weigh in, but it feels more like a tech place than it did three years ago. 

Ten Charleston Tech Companies Make The Inc. 5000 List of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies

The 2016 Inc. 5000 are the superheroes of the U.S. economy and several of these tech companies are our heroes. America's fastest-growing private companies wield powers like strategy, service, and innovation. On this list you'll find businesses that exercise the body and the mind, push the boundaries of virtual reality and 3-D printing, and delight fans with rock concerts and (in the case of the No. 1 company, LootCrate) superheroes. Thrill to these companies' amazing exploits–and learn a thing or two about the hard, real work.

The 10 Charleston area tech and companies making the list include:

  • No. 1,265 Blue Acorn 307% $10.1 million E-commerce
  • No. 1,510 PhishLabs 252% $6.5 million Cybersecurity
  • No. 1,937 ISHPI 192% $50.1 million IT services
  • No. 2,375 Good Done Great 153% $3 million Software
  • No. 2,621 Ceterus 135% $2.1 million Software
  • No. 3,115 Advantage Media Group 109% $6 million Media
  • No. 3,839 Call Experts 79% $5.8 million Telecommunications
  • No. 3,904 CodeLynx 76% $5.3 million IT services
  • No. 4,094 Cantey Technology 70% $3.4 million IT services
  • No. 4,848 Omatic Software 46% $7.2 million Software

See the list of full list HERE.

CodeLynx LLC Chosen in the 2016 Inc.500|5000 List

Inc. Magazine's tenth annual list of America's Fastest Growing Private Companies was released this week. The Inc. 500|5000 List is one of the most prestigious awards in the business industry for private companies and independent entrepreneurs in America. CodeLynx is pleased to be recognized for the fourth year in a row to the Inc. 500|5000 list placing 3094 for 2016. Less than 10% of companies that make the Inc. 5000 are able to consistently grow to continue making the list for four years in a row, CodeLynx is proud to be part of this select group.

CodeLynx has been awarded several contracts of note within the past year that has contributed to the continued growth of the business. The State of South Carolina awarded CodeLynx a Statewide Contract for Audio Visual Products and Services which has directly contributed to the most recent advances in Audio Video projects in South Carolina. Several new contracts with Federal agencies have allowed CodeLynx to deliver service and installation projects from coast to coast.

CodeLynx continues to excel regionally and nationally as a security company for commercial enterprises, Federal, State and Local entities. CodeLynx has been working with industry leading entities such as AMAG, Avigilon, Bosch, Panasonic to name a few to extend their offerings through custom integration projects leveraging the development capabilities of the software team and technical knowledge of the security system installation team for unique projects. Jeff Heatley, CodeLynx's CEO noted that "Our team has some of best skills in the business and I'm proud of the quality we exhibit as one of the best security companies in the area."

In addition to the presence domestically CodeLynx has expanded service delivery internationally. CodeLynx has now served clients in countries throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. "Our Global reach has helped tremendously as we continue to expand our relationships with large Fortune 500 companies as they like to know we can service them wherever they may need," said Drew Weston, Director of Sales and Marketing for CodeLynx. "It is really a game changer to have a company as agile as ours that can go anywhere in the world to help our clients."

As CodeLynx continues to grow maintaining the quality of our products and services is paramount. This year CodeLynx has been recognized by Microsoft as a Gold Partner, which requires a high level of demonstrated customer satisfaction and independent verification of skills. Being recognized as a Gold Partner is the most prestigious honor a Microsoft Partner can receive. Beth Heatley, the President and Founder of CodeLynx noted, "We are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish with our software team, the services they deliver and the products they are creating. I'm personally very excited to show off some of our new offerings that are coming up later this fall."

About CodeLynx

CodeLynx LLC is a software engineering and electronic security services provider based in Charleston, South Carolina. A Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), CodeLynx has been providing custom software solutions, web development, and a wide range of electronic security and audio visual services for both government and commercial customers since 2003. CodeLynx has been recognized as one of the 20 Best-Performing small companies in South Carolina by SC Biz News in both 2014 and 2015, and has also been named to the Inc. 500|5000 List of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies for the past four consecutive years. To learn more, visit www.codelynx.com

Jack Russell Software To Open Code School In Mount Pleasant As Concept Grows In Lowcountry

The Lowcountry will soon be home to yet another code school, adding another player to the relatively young business of training local technology workers.

Tom Wilson, who founded the software development firm Jack Russell Software, said he plans to take on a small, inaugural group of students next month at a new office in Mount Pleasant. Enrollment in the 12-week course is expected to ramp up next year. Read More:

Bluetowne Attains Microsoft’s Silver Midmarket Solution Provider and Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions Competencies

Bluetowne, a leading provider of innovative information technology solutions, recently achieved the Microsoft Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solution competency, and renewed its Microsoft Silver Midmarket Solution Provider competency, demonstrating its ability to meet the ever-evolving needs of today's dynamic business environment and its continued strong commitment to Microsoft products and solutions.

The Silver Midmarket Solution Provider competency differentiates Bluetowne by demonstrating expertise in building critical infrastructure solutions based on Microsoft desktop, business-management, and server technologies that can expand on midmarket customers' current system foundations. It establishes the company as a leader by offering customers the most current technology and solutions, and by focusing on what midmarket business need most.

The Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solution competency demonstrates Bluetowne's expertise and commitment to delivering cloud solutions tailored to small and midmarket customer requirements. Given the focus on adoption of cloud computing by SMBs to drive their business operations, partners that invest in this competency are poised to address the rising customer demand for Microsoft Office 365 cloud and hybrid solutions.

"By achieving a silver competency, organizations have proven their expertise in specific technology areas, placing them among the top 5 percent of Microsoft partners worldwide," said Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group at Microsoft Corp. "When customers look for an IT partner to meet their business challenges, choosing a company that has attained Microsoft competencies is a smart move. These are highly qualified professionals with access to Microsoft technical support and product teams."

To earn a Microsoft competency, partners must successfully demonstrate expertise through rigorous exams, culminating in Microsoft certifications. To ensure the highest quality of services, Microsoft requires customer references for successful implementation and customer satisfaction. Bluetowne's latest additions to its existing Microsoft competencies showcase the company's expertise in today's technology market and demonstrates a deep knowledge of Microsoft and its products.

About Bluetowne:

Bluetowne's mission is to provide expert, customized end-to-end IT solutions through remarkable customer service. From the mouse to the datacenter, we serve as trusted advisors to advance customer achievement through efficient and cost effective execution. Visit www.bluetowne.com or call 843.352.0130 for more information.

Coding Bootcamp

Coding Bootcamps Focus of College of Charleston Research

The meteoric rise of software coding boot camps over the past few years caught many people by surprise, including two College of Charleston researchers who recently won a federal grant to study why these programs are thriving and how their success might inform other computer science programs.

"A lot of people were naysayers and said these boot camps were all going to shut down within a year, but they have not," says Quinn Burke, assistant professor of teacher education and principal investigator for the research project.

Funded by an award of $179,000 from the National Science Foundation, the two-year project – Boot Camp or University Classroom? Preparing Women and Underrepresented Minorities for the Software Development Workforce – is a collaboration between the College and ETR Associates, a think tank based in Santa Cruz, California. Burke's research collaborator at the College is Jim Bowring, associate professor of computer science.

Among the questions they seek to answer are: What do boot camps offer that traditional two- and four-year degree programs do not? What type of person is attracted to these coding boot camps? And how does the tech industry, from startups to established companies, view the skills and preparedness of graduates from various types of programs?

Promoting a fast-track curriculum that churns out programmers in a matter of weeks, these highly intensive, for-profit boot camps are rapidly expanding across the country and overseas. One report identified more than 200 in the United States alone. The largest concentrations of boot camps are located in New York City and Silicon Valley, but they are also popping up in smaller markets like Charleston that are trying to establish high tech hubs and have a demand for more programmers. One of the country's largest coding boot camp companies is Iron Yard, which was formed in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2012 and now has more than 20 locations, including one in Charleston. Last year, Iron Yard opened its first international location in London.

While boot camps boast impressive job placement rates – over 90 percent in some cases – and high starting salaries for graduates, they also come with a steep price tag. "These graduates after 12 weeks are going out and making $65,000 to over $100,000 to start," says Burke. "The big catch is that most of these programs cost about $15,000 to $20,000 money up front to get in. A major research question is to what extent these graduates' skill sets are resilient. Knowing how to code in a language such as JavaScript is a boon to one's career opportunities, but to advance in the software development industry, graduates also need 'soft' skills such as teamwork . One of our research questions is to determine to what extent these skills are formally offered in coding boot camps."

Burke points out that an often-cited criticism of boot camps is their focus on teaching students only one specific computer language, such as Java, C# or Ruby on Rails. That narrow emphasis on what researchers refer to as routine expertise could put boot camp graduates at a disadvantage in the workforce if the companies they work for change direction and adopt a different computer language. Such arguments tend to support the traditional model of undergraduate education, which provides students with a broad-based education that imparts other less-tangible skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to work in teams. Researchers refer to this model of learning as adaptive expertise.

Chair of CofC's department of computer science, Sebastian van Delden, makes such a point. "In a traditional four-year computing degree program, students learn the scientific and theoretical underpinnings of computer science and software engineering. It's not about learning a programming language. Anybody can speak English, but not anybody can compose poetry." The role of the liberal arts curricula, continues van Delden, is key here. "The liberals arts education that a student receives at The College is particularly relevant to the long-term success of contemporary software engineers whose scientific and technical skills must be complemented by excellent communication skills in order to effectively function in Scrum and other software development environments."

Burke says it would be a mistake to make conclusions about which model is best without a systematic investigation. The fact is, boot camps are gaining a foothold and attracting students willing to pay a premium for a streamlined education. In addition, boot camps have had better success at attracting women to their programs, which has not historically been the case in the male-dominated STEM fields, particularly CS.

For these and other reasons, it may behoove traditional computer science programs to evaluate boot camps and identify potential opportunities for collaboration, says Burke. "We're trying to make sure it's not an either or scenario. The goal is to determine the relative contributions and values of boot camps as well as four-year degree programs."

Some universities have already partnered with boot camps in an effort to provide students with more options. "There may be," say Bowring, "an opportunity to recognize boot-camp training and job experience, for that matter, with academic credits."

Another important component of the research will involve an analysis of industry staffing trends and needs. The researchers will work closely with tech companies in Charleston's Silicon Harbor as well as in California's Silicon Valley. The involvement of researchers from ETR Associates in California is expected to help bring a national perspective to the project. The collaborators from ETR are Lou Ann Lyon and Jill Denner, both of whom work closely with the computer science department of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Armed with data from the companies who hire programmers, the research team hopes to learn which types and sizes of companies are more likely to hire boot camp-trained programmers versus computer science majors.

"My hypothesis is that some of the bigger companies would be more willing to take people out of the camps because they can provide the infrastructure and support once they get on the job," says Burke. "The smaller ones, the upstarts, may need someone who has a little more depth and can fill multiple roles–-these young companies may not have the resources to foster new hires for multiple months."

The Charleston Digital Corridor, a tech initiative that has fueled the growth of Charleston's tech economy, is also involved in the research project, and its executive director, Ernest Andrade '85, is serving as an advisor.

"Bootcamps aren't necessarily a replacement for a traditional four-year computer science degree – they are augmentative," says Andrade. "However, as Charleston's tech economy has soared, bootcamps have proven effective with providing students the skills that are currently in high demand and compensation levels well above per-capita wages."

Charleston Digital Corridor Announces Codecamp After School Pilot

The Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to announce it has selected two schools, Cario and Moultrie Middle Schools, as the initial locations for the CODEcamp After School pilot program. Students will receive their instruction from educators at their respective school who will be trained by software professionals from Charleston's tech industry who share the Digital Corridor's vision and passion for building the regions talent pipeline.

Recent data from national publications, including the Milken Institute, demonstrates that Charleston's economy, and specifically tech, is performing above the national average. With this rapid growth, Charleston has recognized the need to increase the talent pool at all levels including getting middle school students interested in the high-wage computer science profession.

"Charleston County School District is thrilled to be partnering with CDC to pilot a unique afterschool opportunity for middle school age students," said Anna Dassing, Interim Executive Director for College and Career Readiness. "The demand for skill in coding and computer science is exploding and we have to keep pace if we want our students to be able to compete."

CODEcamp After School is an iteration of the Kids program that was started in 2015. "While there is a lot of conversation nationally about the shortage of tech workers and the diversity of the tech workforce, the CODEcamp After School program is yet another example of focusing on durable, long-term talent solutions and effective partnerships," said Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade.

The CODEcamp After School pilot is scheduled to start September 12, 2016. Classes will take place from 3:45pm to 5:15pm, four days per week for eight weeks and will be held at the respective schools computer lab.

Upcoming Events

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Volvo - Indirect Purchasing Outreach Event

Volvo Car USA invites you to attend an Indirect Purchasing Outreach event on Wednesday, September 7, 2016.

  • Gain information about the Volvo project, including status and projected schedule.
  • Learn about the different Indirect purchasing opportunities, focused on: Machinery and Tooling, MRO, Facilities, General Services and Logistics.
  • Receive information on Volvo supplier requirements, qualifications, process and timelines.
  • Meet procurement team members; network with other indirect suppliers.

Pre-registration is required. Learn more and register HERE.