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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Valerie Sessions, CSU Computer Science Dept. Chair

Sessions: CSU Computer Science Growing With Local Tech Industry

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

Valerie Sessions is chair of the Computer Science Department at Charleston Southern University. Sessions is also a computer scientist at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).

Where did you grow up? What was life like?

I grew up in Aiken, S.C. My father was an electrical engineer at the Savannah River National Lab and my mom was an elementary school librarian/media specialist. Aiken was a great place to grow up. It's a beautiful little town. It's just very quaint, especially at that time.

I had an amazing upbringing. My parents were fantastic and I always felt that I had the support of my family and my church while I was growing up.

How did you come to be in Charleston?

I came to attend the College of Charleston, and my brother joined me in Charleston at the Citadel a few years later. The beaches, the food, the history – both of us are too smart to have left.

In college, I worked as an intern at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR), one of the larger places to work at the time, and fell in love with the work and the area. SPAWAR was very supportive of my desire to attend graduate school, and therefore I stayed at SPAWAR while working on my master's and Ph.D. They even allowed me to commute to the University of South Carolina a few days a week while still working on very interesting projects.

After my Ph.D. work was complete, I joined the faculty at Charleston Southern University and still work part time with SPAWAR.

You are chair of the Computer Science Department at CSU and a computer scientist at SPAWAR. Can you describe your roles in both places?

As chair of the computer science department, I help our faculty expand our offerings and develop and assess the curriculum. I meet with prospective and current students and serve on various committees. I also engage with the tech community to make sure that our graduates have the skills they need to succeed in the industry.

At SPAWAR, I serve the Navy as a computer scientist. I work with a team of engineers and scientists mainly on physical security and video management systems for federal partners.

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

My dad signed me up for an internship at the Savannah River Plant as a 16-year-old. I worked with a group of Ph.Ds. on a research project in a secure lab. I got to do most of the testing – run the experiments, set them up, take all the notes, get all that back to the researchers. They were very gracious and would allow me to sit in on all the meetings they had about the results, so I got to see the whole process of here's what we're trying to study, here's the actual experimentation process and here are the results. I learned a great deal about the research process, about making mistakes but trying anyway, and about always looking for more great questions to answer.

It was a secure lab, so basically my dad would drive me in every day. I would be dropped off at this little secure location. I couldn't leave for anything until he came and picked me up. He loved it, but I didn't like it at all. I definitely found my own jobs after that.

What role does CSU's Computer Science Department play in the local technology industry?

The CS Department at CSU has been in existence since 1982, and we have been preparing students for the workforce since that time. We have grown tremendously over the last five years – by about 20% – and now have around 150 majors in our three undergraduate degree programs.

We have a master's program as well that we started last fall, so it's in its first year. It's done very well. We have been able to recruit from the local state schools into our program, and then we also are looking now to recruit more international students. There are about 10 students in that program now. We have been very pleased with the quality of the students coming in, and we also have been very pleased with the number of students coming in.

Due to demand and with advice from our Industry Advisory Board, we have also developed a new bachelor of science in cybersecurity and will admit students in the fall of 2017.

I have found that sometimes people count CSU out because we are a small private school. I have only found that to be an advantage. Our new cybersecurity degree program, for example, was a program that our IAB and the tech community as a whole were encouraging us to start. Because we have less bureaucracy and red tape to cut through, it was a much easier process to meet this need and develop the program than it would have been for a public university. CSU has excellent degree programs and our students go on to become great leaders in the community.

Can you tell me more about the demand for cybersecurity expertise? What type of companies are hiring?

Every type of company is hiring. It doesn't have to be one that is focused on cybersecurity because private and public industries need cybersecurity professionals. You see things in the paper every day about a company that has had an attack or has had some data stolen. That's just the ones that are willing to report on it. We are seeing demand from everywhere for that program. Health care is going to need it. Private industry, public industry and, obviously, the government. We worked with our Industry Advisory Board to create a program that would work for all those stakeholders.

It's something that the students want to do, too. The students are really interested in the program. They think they are going to sit in the dark and be hackers all day long, so they like it.

We are one of the first programs in the Southeast with an actual complete undergraduate program in cybersecurity. There are a lot of certificates in cybersecurity, for which people normally just take a certain track of classes in their computer science program.

What changes have you seen in Charleston's tech sector over the last decade?

When I was graduating from CofC, there were about three places people went to work if they stayed in Charleston. Benefitfocus at that time was "the" start-up in town, and Automated Trading Desk was a little gem out in Mount Pleasant. Now our graduates can choose from established businesses like Boeing, Google and Blackbaud, or work in a variety of interesting startups or for the federal government.

There are more graduate offerings than ever in the Charleston area now, too. While I had to drive two hours to complete my graduate work at USC, one could now work here in Charleston and get a Ph.D. from Clemson. It's changed tremendously, and all for the better. I thank visionaries at the Charleston Digital Corridor, Charleston Regional Development Alliance and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce for this success.

Has CSU's Computer Science Department changed as tech and advanced manufacturing have become a larger part of the local economy?

As I already said, our enrollment has increased, and that's probably because of the variety of industries coming to town. Our Computer Science Department has been here for a while, since the 1980s, and we've continued to grow as Charleston has grown. As the bigger companies have come in, we have certainly incorporated them into our Industry Advisory Board and gotten some information from them about what they need from graduates. And we try to incorporate that where we can in our curriculum.

I think the great thing is that the fundamentals that students need have remained the same. They really need to be able to think critically about a problem. They need to be able to break that problem down into small parts, and then solve it with whatever the tool of the day is. So while the programming languages have changed over time, the basic process to write a program or to create an application, whether it is a mobile app or a more traditional standalone app, those have remained the same.

So we have kept our fundamentals very strong, especially in math and computer science. And then we have allowed the Industry Advisory Board, as they tell us the latest programming language or the latest networking idea that we need to incorporate, we have incorporated those into the curriculum as well.

How has the talent landscape in Charleston evolved, as it relates to technology jobs?

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce puts out a talent demand study yearly, and technology jobs have been in the largest growth sector for years now. We need a variety of talent in software engineering, IT/networking, cybersecurity and related fields. It is projected that hundreds of these jobs will go unfilled because there simply are not enough applicants for the jobs.

How many of your computer science graduates work locally?

I would say the majority of our students stay in state and a good many of them stay local to Charleston. That makes sense because so many of them are from here to begin with.

How do you measure or define success for your program?

The success of the student is where we measure everything. It's such a joy to watch our students graduate, to go off into the community, to be successful obviously in their jobs but also to have that component where they are really giving back, where they are really trying to expand and grow the community as well. We define success based on what our students are out in the community doing, and they have been very successful.

What kind of interaction or partnerships does your department have with the industry?

We partner with the industry in many ways. We have an Industry Advisory Board made up of companies from around the state. They advise us on curricular matters as well as help with mock interviews and Association for Computing Machinery club meetings for our students. The Palmetto Roost Chapter of the Association of Old Crows, an international cyber warfare group, has been a sponsor of our cybersecurity club for many years now, and we take part in competitions sponsored by local organizations like the Charleston Defense Contractors Association and Charleston Women in Tech mentorship programs. The Charleston Digital Corridor is also a great partner in helping students find internships and jobs through CharlestonWorksä.

Do you see additional changes on the horizon for the department and the local tech industry?

I see us continuing to grow and adapt. We are hiring new faculty members to help with our programs, and I see more partnerships on the horizon between our students and industry.

My hope for the tech industry is continued growth in Charleston and hiring more and more local talent instead of needing to import that talent from outside of the state. CSU and all the local colleges will be a big part of training those future employees.

What is your management style? Why is that your approach? Has it changed over time?

I have evolved over time into my own style; I would call it "motherly management." I care very deeply for all of our faculty, staff and students, and I hope they know I have their back at all times. But I can also get in your face and ask you to change what you are doing for your own good. I am the first to tell students to go get a tie on, to change their resumes, to work harder or become a better team player and give back to our community.

I think especially in leadership roles, it's also very important to listen. That sounds so easy, but is very hard to put into practice. But once you stop listening to what people need and instead think you have it all figured out – I think that's when you become prone to making mistakes.

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

I had one boss (not at CSU) we used to call "the anti-GPS" because you never knew where you stood with him. People need to hear from you that they are doing a good job or a bad job. They don't just know that instinctively.

From what I have seen, good bosses aren't scared of having great people around them. They don't want to be the smartest person on the team. They realize they are expendable and that the good of the organization is more important.

I also admire the bosses who lead by example. They are the first to pitch in and won't ask you to do something that they aren't willing to do.

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

As a Christian, my prayer and scripture time is essential for anything I will accomplish in my day. Also, the time at home before we take the kids to school means a lot to me. My children are younger, they are 10 and 12, and they are almost at the age where they don't want us anymore. But for now, you can still get your morning hugs before school, and "have a good day" – all that means a lot to me. I really enjoy being at home for those moments in the morning.

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

People who only look out for themselves and their own bottom line. I don't work with anyone like that at CSU, but I have in the past. It's so disheartening to see such a small worldview. There are so many challenges to overcome and people in need. I once heard that your life is defined by the problem you are trying to solve. If that problem is only, "How do I get rich?", you miss out on the chance to help your neighbors and grow your community.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be prepared to work very long hours and to have a great deal of rejection. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But the rewards can be great if you give it your all.

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

Volunteer while you are not working and always say yes to every new opportunity. You won't really know what you like until you try it, and even if you hate it, you have learned something and gained experience. And you never know what person you are going to meet at that job that you didn't think was perfect for you who might be the gateway to the next thing in your life.

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

My husband, Kip Hooker. He is a highly successful businessman and is always giving back to the Charleston community. He is a sincere advocate for women in the workplace, and he proves that not only in his business but also at home – picking up kids, picking up the slack and always motivating me to go make us some money!

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

Platform neutral. I run a Mac with two virtual machines – one Windows and one Debian Linux. But I do love my iPhone.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

Hot peach tea.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

My husband, our two kids and our church, First Baptist. They are our Charleston family.

A High-Tech Ride Into Innovation

If you don't have school-aged children, you may be tempted to ignore this piece – but don't. Innovation in education directs our future because it develops our future leaders.

Here in the tri-county area, there have been significant advances in how our students learn and innovate since technology and tech-related companies, like Google, have begun calling South Carolina home.

The Charleston Digital Corridor exists to enhance our local environment – business, education and social – and make it business-friendly for tech companies. So in 2007 when Google announced plans to locate in Berkeley County we knew that together, our community would only see technology investments grow. And they have. The technology companies - both global and local startups - are making substantial investments in our community and specifically in the education sector which will produce their future leaders.

Monday's event was a perfect example. Google's Rolling Study Hall program is a first in South Carolina. This pilot program takes advantage of the extended bus commutes for students in Berkeley County's St. Stephen, Alvin and Cross communities and develops an innovative learning space for students. Google's announcement will include the outfitting of 28 buses with WiFi and providing more than 1,700 students with Chromebooks. This is outstanding. The Rolling Study Hall program will transform a 40-60 minute bus commute, one way, into an innovative learning opportunity.

These types of "outside the classroom" learning programs are critical for our students and our region's future. Tomorrow's leaders must be able to leverage technology to succeed as it becomes increasingly pervasive in every aspect of our lives. Allowing students to see the importance of digital and technical opportunities in their environment at an early age will only increase their appreciation of this important industry sector. The added bonus with the bus program is that the technology drives through the rural areas of our community. Areas not always fully connected to technology – until now.

Google is not alone in leading in education. In 2016, we saw 27 new Digital Corridor companies in the tri-county area and these companies are already providing an optimistic approach for students who are interested in learning more about STEM and related activities. Innovative approaches to education, including the Charleston Digital Corridor's CODEcamp Kids After School pilot program, will allow our ever-changing society to adapt to our new surroundings. Providing students with the opportunity to learn how these changing environments can help them succeed in the future is crucial and the more than 130 member companies of the Charleston Digital Corridor, who push our students to realize their tech potential is a major piece to that puzzle.

I hope the emphasis on these types of innovative educational methods and opportunities will continue to see significant growth, especially due to the large number of tech companies in our backyard. I also hope that programs like the Rolling Study Halls will begin to offer a necessary conversation about the creative opportunities we can provide our students across the region – one innovative idea at a time. 

Local Startup Earns Global Attention

Dispute Resolution Data (DRD), a Mount Pleasant, SC based online subscription service providing the first ever access to closed international arbitration and mediation cases, has been nominated by Global Arbitration Review (GAR) for the "Best Innovation in the Field of International Arbitration."

Global Arbitration Review (GAR), launched in 2006, is the leading resource on international arbitration news and community intelligence. It is located in London and is published by Law Business Research Limited.

GAR annually presents awards in several categories associated with international commercial arbitration. The 2017 shortlist of nominees for "Best Innovation in the Field of International Arbitration" was just announced and includes Mount Pleasant based Dispute Resolution Data (DRD), co-founded by Debora and William Slate.

DRD collects data from over 136 nations via contributing institutions and then separates the data into twenty-eight different international commercial case types and aggregates the data among seven geographic regions. Access to closed case data has never before been available and is exclusive to DRD. This dynamic data informs attorneys and other researchers worldwide in areas such as costs, timelines, risk management, strategy and gender information regarding arbitrators and mediators. The software for DRD's application was developed locally by the Charleston Digital Hub of Booz Allen Hamilton.

The "Best Innovation Award" will be presented in Milan, Italy on March 29, 2017 in association with the International Bar Association's (IBA) International Arbitration Day.

Stasmayer Recognized for Excellence in Managed IT Services

Charleston, SC, March 3, 2017 – Stasmayer, Incorporated, IT support and services provider, announced today that CRN, a brand of The Channel Company, has named Stasmayer to its 2017 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Pioneer 250 category. This annual list recognizes North American solution providers with cutting-edge approaches to delivering managed services. Their offerings help companies navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of IT, improve operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on IT investments.

In today's fast-paced business environments, MSPs play an important role in helping companies leverage new technologies without straining their budgets or losing focus on their core business. CRN's MSP 500 list shines a light on the most forward-thinking and innovative of these key organizations.

The list is divided into three categories: the MSP Pioneer 250, recognizing companies with business models weighted toward managed services and largely focused on the SMB market; the MSP Elite 150, recognizing large, data center-focused MSPs with a strong mix of on-premise and off-premise services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSPs focused primarily on off-premise, cloud-based security services.

"Managed service providers play an increasingly important role in the day-to-day operations of businesses across North America," said Robert Faletra, CEO of The Channel Company. "MSPs help organizations streamline their spending, effectively allocate limited resources, and benefit from advanced expertise in the latest technologies. We congratulate the service providers on CRN's 2017 MSP500 list, who have continually succeeded in meeting their customers' changing needs and help them get the most out of their IT investments,'

"Once again, we are flattered to see that the hard work we put in for our customers has earned us another place at the top of the industry in the CRN 500 list as one of the top 250 pioneering MSPs in North America. There is no shortage of opportunities and challenges in this industry, but that's what makes it exciting and also makes it feel at home at the same time. At Stasmayer, we're constantly looking for the best ways to bring the most effective solutions to our customers and through the managed services model. With our ever-growing number of strategic relationships, we're able to keep things fresh year after year while evolving a great business team. This new feather in our cap is another reminder that we are doing something right for our clients and team, which is what we dreamed of doing when we started on this journey 14 years ago. Thank you for the recognition. Here's to a great 2017!" said Richard Krenmayer, CEO, Stasmayer, Incorporated.

The MSP500 list is featured in the February 2017 issue of CRN and online at www.CRN.com/msp500

Digital Corridor Adds Aerospace Companies to CharlestonWorks Portal

Charleston, SC, February 23, 2017 - The Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to announce today that Aerospace has been added as an industry sector to CharlestonWorks - a portal showcasing key sectors that are driving Charleston's high-wage economy. The addition of the Aerospace category has been made possible in partnership with Charleston County Economic Development. 

"Our community has a strong aerospace footprint. We are proud to partner with the Charleston Digital Corridor to highlight our existing industry and provide key connections through the CharlestonWorks platform," said Steve Dykes, Executive Director of Charleston County Economic Development.

CharlestonWorks, which currently has over 375 listed companies located in the Charleston metropolitan area, allows visitors to filter these companies by industry sector and those hiring.

"The CharlestonWorks portal is invaluable in that it gives visitors, within and outside the region, an up-to-date snapshot of Charleston's growing tech and advanced manufacturing economy in an extremely simple and effective format," said Ernest Andrade, Charleston Digital Corridor Director.

eGroup CEO, Mike Carter

Carter: eGroup Based In Charleston Because We Can Be

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.

Mike Carter is founder and CEO of eGroup, a 40-person technology consulting firm based in Mount Pleasant. Carter started eGroup in 1999.

Where did you grow up?

My dad was a career Air Force fighter pilot, so I grew up all over the country and some places abroad. But I was born on Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, so I am a South Carolina native.

How did you end up in Charleston?

My parents are both originally from Charleston. My grandfathers were both Navy guys, and so my parents grew up in North Charleston. My dad went to The Citadel. My parents got married on his graduation day, and then he joined the Air Force and traveled all over the country. I call Charleston home because that's where my extended family has always been.

I went to college at The Citadel, and I ended up staying.

I tell people all the time, Charleston just kind of gets in your bloodstream. There's something about it that resonates with me. Having spent time in Florida, it's got some of those attributes of the beach and sun and fun. But it's very classy. It has this charm that is just contagious.

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

I had lots of jobs, everything from mowing grass to working in department stores. But probably the first real job where I think I learned more than just how to pump item searches into computers was at a real estate company in Northern Virginia. I was 17. I was kind of like the assistant to the assistant to the president. That meant I got to do all of the awful jobs that the assistant didn't want to do. Things like taking the president's car to the shop to get serviced.

That job taught me a couple of things that were very important. The first was how to anticipate what people are looking for and maybe to read between the lines a little bit. Not only with people in leadership, but just people who are important. How to figure what it is they are looking for. And the second part of that was just organization and preparation.

Did you have an entrepreneurial drive early on?

Yeah, I did, but I'm not sure I would have called it that back then. My parents used to say I was just a complete pain in the ass. I did things like selling stuff out of the backs of magazines to get the prize. When I was very young, I took stuff out of our garage, like screws and bolts and stuff like that, and bagged them up and put price tags on them and tried to sell them as hardware parts. I set up a stand in the driveway. I had friends around the neighborhood who would come. It was basically like the boy's version of the lemonade stand.

In your own words, what does your company do?

eGroup delivers forward-looking IT solutions and services to what we would call the commercial midmarket sector – healthcare, financial services, state and local government. We have an interesting kind of play within transportation and logistics as well.

People either need what we call brainpower or manpower. They either need access to expertise that they don't have, or they need access to people who can help them execute and get things done quickly. That's what we do. We help people get to their objectives faster, better and a little less expensively than they could either do on their own or with another group.

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

I am a huge fan of the process of continuous improvement. That's probably another latent entrepreneurial attribute I've always had. That comes through in all kinds of things that I do. Whether it's exercising or emptying the dishwasher, I'm always trying to find a better way to do it each and every time.

What drew me to this business is that love for continuous improvement in an industry that is always changing. Technology is magical from that standpoint. The problems we solved yesterday with the tools that we had yesterday – we can re-solve those problems again today with technology that is significantly better and less expensive than it was maybe even 12 months ago.

How would you describe your organization's culture?

It's action oriented. We love to say, "Results, not effort." It's very much a culture of integrity. It's performance oriented.

We are not what I would describe as one of the more new-agey companies where it's all about happiness and things like that. Maybe I'm just cut from a different kind of cloth, but I think happiness comes from within, not from a place of employment. I think if you are in a rewarding and challenging work environment, and you derive a sense of great personal accomplishment by operating in a team and achieving objectives, then that's where happiness comes from.

We are far more interested in being great than being big or topping the decks of the financial side. We want to be known for being the best at what we do.

What is your management style? Why is that your approach?

Hands off. I ripped this off from the old George Patton quote: Tell people what needs to be done and let them surprise you with how they achieved it. I also like to lead from the front. I'm never afraid to get involved and pull the all-nighters and do the hard work where they need me. I come from a technical background, so I'm always willing to jump in, and I am definitely a problem solver at heart.

My management style is to very clearly set the tone, the cadence and the destination for what we are going after, and then to pull the team into those activities. I think when you are very transparent and very clear about your goals, it gives people an immediate ability to decide whether they want to opt in.

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

How to treat people and how not to treat people. Things like coaching at the point of occurrence. Don't wait for the performance evaluation to give somebody a piece of feedback that's going to be vital. Give it to them immediately.

One headlining, memorable experience that I got directly from a great boss is the concept of there's two ways to do things: the "fast-slow way" and the "slow-fast way." In doing things that take time and thought, you can't rush it. You just take the time to do it right the first time, and that is the fastest way to get there. The "slow-fast way" is the right way.

That is another way of saying: If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? It applies to just about everything in life.

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

Failure is an essential part of the process. Failure is not something to avoid.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

Probably the obvious–-that you make your own schedule and all of the other trappings associated with entrepreneurship. At least in my line of work, and in my own life, my schedule is the schedule of the people I serve. The members of my team, first and foremost, and then my clients.

My dad used to say, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown." There's a little bit of that associated with entrepreneurship. There's a lot of responsibility in terms of being an entrepreneur, if you're doing it right. We've all read about people who go out and borrow lots of dollars from different companies and they don't spend it wisely, and maybe they don't have a process-driven approach to going after their goals. And they kind of squander it and maybe act a little irresponsibly. But, I think for the great majority of entrepreneurs, responsibility and ambition are kind of symbiotic.

I think a lot of times people don't see the deeper side of entrepreneurship – which is the responsibility, the discipline, the long hours and all of those things that go into the mix. Because we often don't read about entrepreneurship until folks are successful at it, maybe. Success kind of steals the show, and not the hard work that goes into it.

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

I love to exercise. I like to get up at 5 a.m., and I usually spend at least an hour doing some form of cardio, and then usually another 45 minutes doing a group workout. If I didn't get it done first thing in the morning, I would never get it done in the day. I spend a lot of time in a chair behind a computer, so it's definitely an important part of my day.

I like to run when it's dark in the early morning. It's very quiet. You feel like you are getting a head start on everybody else. Something just awesome happens. Whatever you went to bed thinking about, when you're running in the morning, all the answers just seem to emerge from the fog, and you get to the office and you're ready to go and know exactly what needs to be done.

So that's my routine. And then I back it up with coffee.

What obstacles have you faced building your business? How have you overcome them?

In starting eGroup in July of '99, we had the dot-com bubble bust in early 2000. Then we had Sept. 11, 2001. Then we had the Great Recession. So there have been some economic blips that have happened along the way. I'd love to say that we had great planning in the early days, but the reality is that we were just incredibly lucky in that we were just financially disciplined, so we were able to weather those storms.

But having those storms occur, and then working through them and seeing the impact of the decisions that we had made and how those worked so well, really kind of galvanized our approach forever and always. Coming out of those early economic blips – that's where we came up with some of our company directives, like remain a debt-free organization.

What do you look for in the people you hire?

We like smart people who know how to get things done. We have an interview process and a survey that kind of draws that out. And that's all I'll say, because everything else is immaterial.

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

Lack of humility. It just drives me crazy.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Give it time. It's the "slow-fast way." I think even if you went and talked to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, all of those guys, they would say, "Listen, you saw the success. You didn't see the 10,000 hours of blood, sweat and tears behind it."

If you really believe in what you are after, just give it time. Be patient and enjoy the journey.

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

Not to undervalue or underestimate the role of preparation in the process. When I think back to the seven years that I spent with The Computer Group and later IKON, that was a wonderful time for me because that was my 10,000 hours of preparation. I remember spending my own time at my own initiative, up all night, just reading manuals and testing things and loading software and really figuring out how things worked.

What do you see as the future of your company?

Continued evolution of services. We are always looking for faster, better, less expensive alternatives to what we've done the year before. In technology, it's tough to have a five-year vision. But for us, a couple of years out, we are going to be doing generally the same things that we are doing in what we call the data center architecture space and also the software development space. The techniques may change; the tools won't fundamentally change.

I do expect that we will see our relationships with our clients change where we become more of the services arm for them from an IT perspective. We will be working more directly with non-IT department heads within the companies – people who are in sales, people who are in the executive branch, people in the marketing side of those business – and less with the IT staff.

Whereas for the last 10 years we have been really built to support corporate IT teams, I think what we will find in the evolution of our business, in this more software-based, more services-oriented businesses, is that we will take on more of the traditional IT roles for those businesses. Because businesses will see us as a less expensive option with a faster track to delivery than the teams that they have today.

What one person has been the biggest influence on your business life?

My wife, Catherine. She was probably the original catalyst to saying now is the time to start the business when we were at an inflection point in the late '90s, when we saw opportunities within the market.

That's maybe not the answer a lot of people would say, but I don't think anybody can be successful without a great support system. And sometimes support isn't just someone who is holding you up – there is someone who is kind of showing you the way.

I definitely credit her with a lot of great leadership. She is very convicted about what she believes in. She has a very strong moral compass. It's always helpful to have somebody like that, who can not only say timing is right, but who you have the opportunity to bounce very intimate, very thoughtful types of things off of, and to get solid advice.

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

I have been all of them. Right now, I am a Mac and an iPhone guy.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

In the mornings, I bring my eGroup Yeti in, and I get a Pike. I like cream and sugar in my coffee. But in the afternoons, I usually get a no-water soy chai. Sort of a sweet pick-me-up.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I have three sons. Two of them are in college. That keeps me busy. Very, very family focused. I like to exercise and spend a lot of time doing that. I like to geek out and play with technology, whether it's drums with my son or Xbox or whatever. We do a lot of traveling. I like to read a lot. The beach – we love the sun, we love the beach.

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

It's definitely a destination. It's become easier over the last decade to attract people to the area. And Charleston has great people. They've got a good mix of work ethic, but they also know how to relax.

If we're doing work in San Diego or Atlanta or Northern Virginia, and people say, "Hey, where are you headquartered?", we still get some funny looks when we say Charleston. We run into preconceived ideas of what Charleston is, outside of Charleston. It doesn't really relate to how we have built the team in Charleston tactically, but in terms of representing Charleston to a broader technical audience, especially in areas that think highly of their technical gravity, we've still got some work to do in putting Charleston on the map.

But I would never trade Charleston for another destination because I think Charleston has so much more to offer. People get so much outside of work.

When you encounter that kind of skepticism about Charleston, how do you respond?

Usually the skepticism comes in the form of, "Why are you headquartered in Charleston?" And the response is, "Because we can be." It's a great place to live and work. And if you have to work outside of Charleston, it's easy to get in and out of, whether it's north, south or into the interior. It's got all of the big city amenities without the big city headaches.

What do you see as some of the challenges recruiting tech talent to Charleston?

Is it difficult to get people to come here? It's not. It's Charleston – that's probably the key selling point. With all of the accolades that Charleston has gotten through Travel and Leisure and all of the different awards, Charleston is definitely on the map, not just nationally but globally. So it's not hard to have a conversation with anybody about Charleston these days.

And it's only becoming easier from a technical perspective, too, especially in a software-connected, cloud-based type of world where work is not where you go, it's what you do. When you can do that from anywhere, Charleston is about the most ideal place imaginable to be able to do it.

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

Charleston has become undeniably visible within that space. I think that's through the efforts not only of key individuals, like what Ernest Andrade has done at the Charleston Digital Corridor, but everybody else who has jumped on that bus through the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, the incubators and all of those offshoots. As well as the business leaders. I think the business leaders within the technical space have all done a great job in promoting Charleston to the broader audience, not only through their direct actions but through the fact that they are successful.

Clearly, it's big and getting bigger, and I think more people are coming here. Different folks, whether they're in government leadership or they're in business leadership, they see that our region's ability to emphasize or promote the technical maturity of our workforce is probably one of the most important things to do in terms of economic development and prosperity moving forward. I would say it's just as critical as tax incentive packages and everything else. The foundation for the digital economy is built on technical people who know how to support it.

Upcoming Events

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eGroup Open House and Oyster Roast

Register for eGroup's annual Open House and Oyster Roast on April 6th! All-you-can-eat oysters, local brews, live music – you won't want to miss it! Learn more and register HERE.

2017 iFiveK

The iFiveK race is a favorite evening run and networking event for Charleston's tech professionals. Learn more and register HERE

DIG SOUTH

DIG SOUTH Innovation Conference is the first and foremost event elevating the South's digital economy. Learn more HERE.

Harbor Walk After Five

You are invited to join the Department of Computer Science at the College of Charleston faculty, staff, and students for Harbor Walk After Five. The event concludes the spring semester senior capstone projects with a poster session, demos, and 'industry projects' presentations.

Light hors d'oeuvres provided.

Schedule:

5:30-5:45PM - Welcome & Introductory Remarks

5:45-6:45PM - Student Presentations

6:45-8PM - Networking Social, Poster Session & Demos

Learn more and RSVP here.

Syntaxcon

The Syntax Code & Craft Convention – more commonly referred to as 'SyntaxCon' – aspires to become the SouthEast's premier programmer's code gathering. Learn more HERE.