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Senator Tim Scott, Speaker Paul Ryan & US Representatives Joe Wilson and Ralph Norman
FEATURED NEWS

Sen. Scott Meets With Small Businesses At Charleston Tech Center

Lawmakers met with small businesses on Friday in downtown Charleston to tour the newly opened Charleston Tech Center and discuss the economic impact of opportunity zones.

United States Senator Tim Scott and former House Speaker Paul Ryan along with US Representatives Joe Wilson and Ralph Norman met with representatives from some of the companies that call the Charleston Tech Center home.

Ernest Andrade, Executive Director of Charleston Digital Corridor, says the $54 million building on Morrison Drive and the companies housed inside help attract and keep recent college graduates in the city.

"As a state, we were producing them [college graduates], but basically we were a net exporter of talent to the rest of the country and we had to reverse that," Andrade said. "We had to basically avoid that brain drain and create opportunities."

The opportunity zone legislation written by Sen. Scott allows governors to designate economically-distressed communities for federal tax incentives to entice private investments into the area. There are currently more than 8,700 areas designated as opportunity zones in the United States with 135 of those zones in South Carolina.

Scott says when it comes to opportunity zones he wanted the focus to be on the communities and that gentrification has remained low in those areas. Ryan echoed that point saying it was about revitalization and not gentrification.

"One of the things that we always thought about when this happened was we didn't want this to be a regentrification machine," Ryan said. "We want it to be about revitalization about bringing capital into these communities to revitalize those communities meaning to revitalize the people in those communities."

Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he had worked on similar programs in the past and felt that private investment into communities was one of the best ways to fight poverty.

"This is a vision we've always had about one of the best ways at fighting poverty by getting private capital, private entrepreneurs into the space to make a big difference," Ryan said.

Scott says meetings like the one on Friday help when planning for future legislation to maximize the potential of opportunity zones.

"We as a country need to lean into funding infrastructure in such a way that it includes high speed broadband and connection issues need to go away for all of America, rural Americans, inner city Americans to have access to this next gig economy that's not coming, it's here," Scott said.

The Charleston Tech Center currently includes the 92,000 square-foot building and an 816 space parking garage. They say they have the land to build a similarly sized building next to the current one which could potentially allow up to 900 tech jobs in the space.

John Mulvey, Digital Echo Founder & President
LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Digital Echo Helps Those With Disabilities Access A Tech World

John Mulvey is the founder of Digital Echo, a Charleston-based firm that helps organizations make the digital world accessible for individuals with disabilities.

This series is brought to you by Charleston County Economic Development.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many professionals to depend on technology more than ever, just to make it through a workday.

But even before the pandemic, John Mulvey saw how tech-dependent the business world was becoming – and recognized the need to ensure access for people with disabilities.

Mulvey founded Digital Echo in 2019 to help clients make their digital properties available to people with visual impairments, motor-skill impairments and other disabilities.

"Technology empowers people," Mulvey said. "It allows those with disabilities to communicate with the rest of the world. No one knows who's behind the computer, but then again, everything has to be set up properly so it can be accessed. It's just like the ramps and rails of a building."

What does Digital Echo do, and what was the inspiration for starting this company?

We're very niche right now. We make PDF documents, or digital documents, accessible to people with disabilities, including blindness, visual impairments, and motor skill impairments. We set up documents so they can be read by screen readers and other assistive tools to give everyone access to the same types of content.

Separate but equal doesn't count with digital access, and it never has. What we do qualifies as a compliance issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, along with similar things like that around the world. It fits in the diversity and inclusion space. Those with disabilities are a protected class, and in order for an organization to be truly inclusive, they have to be accessible to everybody.

Has accessibility for individuals with disabilities always been a topic of conversation?

According to the courts, there are no set laws stating that PDF documents or websites have to be accessible. However, they've realized if websites and all things digital had been as prevalent when the Americans with Disabilities Act was created, this totally would have been included in the law.

As the world continues to conduct more business digitally, it's necessary for everybody to have access to different software packages, websites and content. It just levels the playing field. Companies used to do it for a compliance reason. Now, organizations we work with do it because it's the right thing, and they see it as an opportunity to address a market that's been a bit disregarded.

How did COVID-19 impact your business in 2020?

2019 was all about survival and planting seeds for Digital Echo. When 2020 came, it was time to harvest. Looking at my pipeline, things were great, or so I thought. By the third week of March 2020, everything had shut down. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that my pipeline was toast because it was composed of hospitals, healthcare organizations and city governments.

Luckily, we were doing some PDF work before. We realized we were really good at PDF work, and we enjoyed it. Getting federal money through the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) was instrumental because it kept our eyes on the prize. It was a tough time, but we had a great year on the business side. It really defined where we needed to focus our energy, and we were able to pick up a lot of great clients.

You source talent nationally and globally. Why did you go this route?

We're definitely in a gig-type of economy, and COVID-19 has only amplified that. The type of work we do with PDF remediation lends itself directly to hiring 1099 employees, or contract employees. It's a very tedious and manual process right now, but we're working to implement more automation in the future. Our team is currently composed of employees both in the United States and offshore.

We take on projects and ramp up by using contract employees. We pay per page, so our employees can amplify their earnings by doing better work. PDFs are pretty cut and dry. They're either done right or wrong. We're able to assess talent by checking in on how new hires perform, how reliable they are, and by measuring their speed and quality of work.

What brought you to Charleston?

I was born in New York. We vacationed in Charleston quite often until my family eventually decided to move here. I was 16 at the time. I went to Bishop England for high school and Clemson for college.

Following graduation, I came back to Charleston for a job in the software industry. I traveled a lot doing that and saw the rest of the country. I have 44 states under my belt, and it really doesn't get better than here. So, I came back and stayed.

I graduated from Clemson in 1993 with a degree in finance at the tail end of the recession. Finding a job was tough, but I landed a position at a company called the Halcyon Group, a locally based company that provided financial analysis software for banks and other commercial lenders.

How does someone in finance and accounting get into tech?

It was mostly taking advantage of the opportunity. When you graduate from school, you have to accept an opportunity and thrive where you land. Bloom where you're planted. And you do the very best you can to master it before moving on. I never thought I'd be a sales guy, and 25 years later, I'm still in sales.

What do you look for in hires, and what advice would you give a college graduate?

I look first at how someone treats others. That sounds simple, but it matters. Manners matter, too. I check if the person pushes in their chair after they get up. I think that says a lot about somebody and how they're going to leave a situation. Are they going to leave things better than they found them?

Workwise, I look for trustworthiness and reliability. Customer service and work ethic are key. Our top priority at Digital Echo is "Relentless Customer Service." You only have one reputation, so you have to make sure you live up to that every day.

Who has been the most influential figure in your life from a business standpoint?

That's easy. It was my first boss, Bob Brinson. Bob gave me my first opportunity after graduation and taught me more about running a small business than anything I'd learned in school. I learned about managing inventory, cashflow, accounts receivable, accounts payable, the whole nine yards on that, just by watching him.

He was a great manager, and that's rare these days. The art of being a great manager has somewhat disappeared. It's not a matter of getting everything out of somebody; it's about making them better, too.

What do you do outside of work?

I have two daughters, so the answer to that question used to be whatever 4- and 5-, or 6- and 7-, or 10- and 11-year-old little girls did. They're 13 and 15 now and very independent. In the last year, I've gotten back into fishing, and I have a '99 Wrangler Jeep, which is basically a big Lego set I work on.

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A Powerful Partnership Yields Drug Cost-Savings Tool

Three years ago, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) trimmed several million dollars from a multimillion-dollar drug budget by using a pharmacy-designed algorithm that searched the complex drug pricing universe to bring the best values to the surface.

The software engine that drove those savings has since been spun off by MUSC into a separate enterprise called QuicksortRx, and its pharmacy spending benefit has been expanded to other health systems and hospitals nationwide.

Now, QuicksortRx aims to extend its reach. The Charleston, S.C.–based pharmacy technology company recently formed a partnership with ASHP that will offer "next-generation pharmaceutical software and analysis" to additional health systems struggling to cope with the lack of drug pricing transparency.

"One of the things that was really challenging to us was knowing when a price changed. That has never been very transparent," said Paul Bush, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, ASHP's vice president of Global Resource Development and Consulting, who was the chief pharmacy officer at Duke University Health System for a decade before joining the association.

Dr. Bush said although the price changes "would be recorded on the specifc line item, the individual responsible for drug procurement in the pharmacy department could not easily see them. Days could go by when we'd be paying a higher price."

That lag time is the target of QuicksortRx's supply chain purchasing tool. "We find all of those places were switching products would save money," said Matt Hebbard, PharmD, QuicksortRx's vice president of sales and accounts. "And we use historical purchase data and current pricing as well to project the impact of switching. We take the largest of those opportunities and we surface them to a dashboard, where they can be seen as an alert: 'Here is something you can act on today to save your hospital signicant costs.'"

At AdventHealth, Richard Montgomery, BSPharm, MBA, the contracts and operations manager, told Pharmacy Technology Report that being able to monitor fluctuating drug prices in close to real time–-especially in the 340B space where there is lots of movement–-"is really important. There are a lot of dollars left on the table when you don't have access to that."

At the time of the interview, AdventHealth was close to signing on with QuicksortRx. "We have services and such that do contract utilization," Mr. Montgomery said, "but there is such a lag time. With Quicksort, you're in the moment and you can act on it and see results within the next day or two."

As one of the country's largest health systems, with dozens of hospitals across nine states, AdventHealth has an annual drug spend that Mr. Montgomery said was "north of $500 million. We are planning to start with a few select hospitals with a spend of around $60 million. If we can get 1% or 2% off of that, it would be nice win. More than that would be great. You know, under- promise and over-deliver."

The idea for QuicksortRx began in a chance encounter that Dr. Hebbard had when he was working as an informatics pharmacist at MUSC. "My wife works at MUSC as well," he told Pharmacy Technology Report. "One of her technicians was telling me about some purchase decisions he had made on oral dosage forms that was pretty low delta in price."

Dr. Hebbard looked into it and it struck him, he said, that "there was a lot of value to be gained by reviewing the products we purchased more frequently." But it was a dicult process. Over time, however, through a collaborative effort involving "the pharmacy department and purchasing folks, we began do this work with greater efficiency."

Dr. Hebbard said he ran into Jonathan Yantis, now QuicksortRx's CEO but then a network engineer at MUSC, who was looking for an innovative project to develop. The price search work being done in the pharmacy department seemed to fit the bill. Together, Dr. Hebbard and Mr. Yantis approached MUSC's chief innovation officer seeking support for their project.

They brought "proof-of-concept" numbers showing some "significant savings–-a couple of hundred thousand dollars with a couple of days work in spreadsheets," Dr. Hebbard said. They received the resources to push the concept forward. "And then as this progressed from spreadsheets to automation," he added, "we realized that these opportunities arrive much more frequently than we thought. We ended up saving MUSC several millions the first year."

It also occurred to them that a technological tool that produced such results for MUSC had tremendous value as an intellectual property that could form the basis for a MUSC spin-off.

In a follow-up phone call, "We talked about how we could work together," Dr. Bush said. "One of the things we do at ASHP Consulting Services is work with knowledgeable consultants that help health systems improve their processes. We were so impressed with Quicksort's tool in terms of optimizing the drug spend by buying the right drugs at the right time that we knew this was a natural relationship that we should try to structure. So, we did."

Digital-First Uncommon Giving Corporation Grows Workplace Platform, Names Earl Bridges President and COO

Uncommon Giving Corporation today announced the promotion of Earl Bridges to President and Chief Operating Officer, highlighting the significance of the company's Workplace Generosity line of business, which Bridges has led since October 2020. Under his direction, sales of the newly launched workplace component of Uncommon Giving's SaaS platform are steadily rising with targeted companies, underscoring the company's potential for targeted growth. Read more:

LYRASIS Announces Acquisition of BiblioLabs; Combination Supports Mission of Library-Driven Content and Expands Community Engagement

LYRASIS, a global nonprofit serving libraries, archives, museums and research communities, announces the acquisition of BiblioLabs, LLC., a Charleston, SC-based library technology firm. The acquisition unites two organizations on the leading edge of library software and support services and transitions BiblioLabs from a mission-aligned for-profit firm into the mission-driven non-profit model of LYRASIS. The acquisition is complete effective June 15, 2021 and was funded through cash purchase and charitable contribution by the owners of BiblioLabs.

BiblioLabs will continue to operate with the same staff, programs and name as a division of the LYRASIS organization. There will be no interruption of service for BiblioLabs or LYRASIS, and no action needs to be taken by current clients, subscribers, members or partners. All services will continue as-is and all client contracts will be honored in full. Please visit our FAQs for more information.

The organizations share a mission to take library eBooks into the next era and have pursued parallel paths around library eBook technology and distribution models over the past few years. BiblioLabs launched their BiblioBoard platform to the library market in 2011, providing community engagement services and content distribution used by public, academic and K-12 libraries. LYRASIS has been a leader in library software and technologies for more than a decade, and for the last three years has worked to support the development and adoption of SimplyE/Library Simplified.

"With BiblioLabs, we saw an opportunity to strengthen our existing eBook services and offer more value to our members and other public, academic and K-12 libraries. By adding community engagement and local content creation tools, on top of the library-focused technology provided by our SimplyE/Library Simplified offerings, we can give users a seamless eBook management experience. Furthermore, this highlights the personalized, local nature of library communities while harnessing the safety and benefits of large-scale, community-driven technologies. Bibliolabs is a fantastic addition to the LYRASIS portfolio of programs and services. It gives all of the members and users the best available experience of library-focused technologies. As a non-profit, we are able to focus on the community benefit in a unique way, and we are excited to bring BiblioLabs into our mission-driven organization," says Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS. "In addition, I would like to thank all the partners of BiblioLabs (three of whom are joining the LYRASIS team), for their generous donation to LYRASIS, which was key in this merger being possible," said Miller.

"As many of our library partners will attest, we have been a mission-based organization from the start," said BiblioLabs founder and CEO Mitchell Davis. "To continue our work as a nonprofit is the perfect way to ensure the library community reaps the benefits of the work we have done over the past decade and that we will continue to do into the future. Libraries are in the midst of a transformation. Our priority is helping libraries compete for digital attention and building cooperative business models that provide sustainable impact for the work bringing about this transformation. The intersection of mission between ourselves and LYRASIS in these areas is undeniable."

BiblioLabs has used its BiblioBoard discovery platform, initiatives like the Indie Author Project and their community publishing tool, Creator, to create local digital content workflows for all types of cultural institutions and the communities they serve. "We help libraries and museums excel at local content with software and program support that creates strong local value and effectively engages writers, artists, musicians, researchers, museums, cultural organizations, and every other member of the community they serve," Davis continued. "We have made a lot of progress over the past ten years but feel like we are just getting started. We look forward to seeing these programs grow as part of the LYRASIS community."

Shawn Jenkins  and Steve Swanson with QuicksortRx  leadership team

QuicksortRx Announces Investment and Additions to Board of Directors

QuicksortRx, a technology company helping health systems reduce medication costs, has announced the close of an investment round and the appointment of Shawn Jenkins and Steve Swanson to their board of directors.

Headquartered in the Charleston Digital Corridor's Flagship at the Charleston Tech Center, QuicksortRx helps health systems across the country improve medication purchasing efficiency with technology developed at the Medical University of South Carolina. QuicksortRx software manages hundreds of millions of dollars in pharmaceutical purchasing across large, non-profit health systems, helping pharmacy supply chains navigate the volatile medication marketplace with real-time purchasing oversight, analysis, and savings identification.

"We are excited to welcome two of Charleston's great tech business leaders who have shown not only their expertise in building amazing companies, but also their commitment to the Charleston community," said Jonathan Yantis, CEO of QuicksortRx. "Steve and Shawn are fantastic to work with, and we are thrilled to have them on board to further our mission to decrease the costs of healthcare."

Prior to joining QuicksortRx, Shawn Jenkins was the founder and CEO of Benefitfocus, a publicly traded SaaS company and a leader in data-driven, cloud-based software solutions for healthcare and benefits administration. Jenkins served as CEO through its IPO in 2013 where he grew revenues over $250 million until his retirement in 2018. Shawn is also a primary benefactor of the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital, a state-of-the-art pediatric facility impacting the lives of countless women, children, and their families.

Steve Swanson co-founded Automated Trading Desk (ATD), a pioneer in high frequency trading, in 1989. In 2001, Swanson was named President and CEO where he was responsible for growing ATD to 7% of US daily equity trading volume. In 2007, Citigroup acquired ATD for $680 million. Today, Swanson serves on the board of directors at the Bank of South Carolina as well as several other privately held companies. He also serves on the boards of directors of YESCarolina and the board of trustees at his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

Denture Care Shop Co-founders,  Steven Kleiman and Adam Bielsky

Local Startup Reimagines Dentures With 3D Printing, Digital Dentistry

A Charleston-area startup is using digital scanning, 3D-printing technology and a tele-health dentistry platform to make high-quality dentures significantly more affordable, convenient and faster than traditional methods. "The traditional way of getting dentures is just extremely broken," said Denture Care Shop COO Selena Martin. Read more:

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