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Charleston’s Tech Economy Demonstrates Resilience In 2020

In its Annual Wage and Job Growth Survey, the Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to report that the region's tech economy has demonstrated resilience in earnings and job growth in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average annual wage for regional tech companies participating in the 2020 survey is $91,183. This number is more than twice the State of South Carolina's average wage of $44,380 and is almost two times the Charleston Region average wage of $47,800 according to the latest (May 2019) data available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Key findings and insights from the 2020 survey:

  • 57% of companies reported adding jobs in 2020
  • 100% expect to continue hiring into 2021
  • 100% of companies are operating virtually at some level, with 50% reporting that their entire staff is working virtually

In recent years, Charleston's economy has benefitted from the hub-and-spoke model as tech companies realize that a dispersed workforce effectively finds and retains talent. "The pandemic is expected to accelerate this trend as professionals increasingly seek smaller high-amenity metros," said Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade.

The recent development of new office buildings, like the Charleston Tech Center and 22 WestEdge, supports the robust tech economy via high bandwidth internet and enticing amenities. Further, enhanced building systems, such as ultraviolet (UV) germicidal irradiation for air disinfection, allow teams to operate safely despite the ongoing pandemic.

Vikor Scientific is the model company for employee growth in 2020. As a market leader in providing targeted, molecular diagnostics to improve clinical and economic outcomes, Vikor Scientific has increased its payroll by 325 employees in 2020 alone, a remarkable 425%. The company is also expected to make additional hires by year-end and into 2021.

"Charleston's commitment to investing in business infrastructure to support the tech and life science industry combined with the region's renowned livability is a big factor in our ability to attract talent for our company," said Vikor's co-founder, Scotty Branch.

Bill Harley, Co-founder & CEO, Zeriscope

Choosing the Right Business Partner Is Paramount

Bill Harley is the cofounder and CEO of Zericsope, a multi-disciplinary telemedicine company. Zeriscope utilizes the latest technologies to enable focused and efficient remote medical encounters. Their system is a web-based mobile technology platform that leverages live interactive video and streaming real-time physiological and environmental sensor data to creatively enable new medical treatments and protocols.

Bill is a serial entrepreneur, over the past 20 years he has started and built numerous companies. He realized early in his career that the startup culture sparked an emotion in him that he couldn't stay away from. He started his first company in 1997 and began to feel the peaks and valleys often associated with startups and realized he never wanted to work for someone else again.

"Startups are not for everyone, but I am totally energized by the creativity and realization of new ideas, and the uncertainty and risk associated with startups. "

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

How did you come to be in Charleston?

My wife and I were ready for a change. I am originally from South Carolina and my wife and I got married here so we were familiar with the area. We knew we ultimately wanted to stay in the Southeast and coming from Ft. Lauderdale access to water was important to us. We looked around and ultimately decided on Charleston. At the time I really didn't think much was going on in Charleston, but I was pleasantly surprised about how much early-stage and startup activity was happening here.

In your own words, what does your company do?

In short, we create solutions that others aren't doing within the telemedicine space. We focus on niche markets to create deep use in a certain area. We look to identify areas ripe for technology to improve patient care and outcomes.

We see ourselves as more than the traditional telemedicine company as we aren't only enabling virtual visits but are providing biological information and extract important data from it.

Some areas of our work include systems for aiding in traumatic brain injury treatment, assisting therapists in treating patients with PTSD, supporting 1st responders in early stroke diagnosis and so much more. We are incredibly excited to be able to offer solutions that bring healthcare to patients who might not get the care otherwise.

How would you describe your organization's culture?

Agile. Open. Collaborative. Startups are most often a big experiment and just like any experiment you've got to be willing to learn and to change on a dime. This is why being agile is important. You've got to try and if you fail, you have to willing and able to adjust try again. Equally as important is hiring true contributors. In the startup environment it's critically important to work with people who take full ownership of what they do and have that self-starter attitude.

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

Choosing the right team , especially your business partner. It can be analogous to a marriage. You spend large amounts of time together and need to be able to trust each other, work through situations and often make tough decisions.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

I've got 3 big ones. First, believing it's going to be a normal job with 8-hour workdays and being able to leave work at work. Second, that there will always be money to pay your salary. Lastly, thinking that sales don't matter. They absolutely matter and putting the energy and time into sales will be critical to your success.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs?

Do what you can to keep your sanity. There will be times when you need to burn yourself out by being completely focused on your work and there will be times when you need a balance. Make sure you can identify those times. It is also important to have hobbies and interests. If you don't, you risk your work consuming you.

How do you prevent burnout?

Luckily, I don't experience it as much as I used to. My faith and family keep me in perspective. But when I was younger, I was able to have blinders on and go all in. Now as I have matured, I can see when and where I need the balance before I get to a point of burning out.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I like to run and bike. I also enjoy house projects. I love the entire process, from designing it to figuring out how to do it all the way to executing the project! My latest interest is researching how to make knives. Learning about the whole process of creation, the metals available for different uses, how to heat treat them and even how to shape the handles.

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

Recruiting IT talent has been tough, but this is true everywhere and not specific to Charleston. I've got friends all over and we all have the same challenges with IT talent.

Rapid Fire Section

Mac or a PC: Both!

iPhone or Android: iPhone

Folly Beach or Sullivan's Island: Sullivan's

Favorite Book: How Not to Die

Starbucks order: I don't have one.

Favorite Charleston restaurant: Magnolias


Blackbaud Spotlight

We are pleased to spotlight Blackbaud, whose main goal is driving impact for social good organizations.

  • Company Founded - 1981
  • Chief Executive - Mike Gianoni
  • Total number of employees - 3400+
  • Fun fact - 89% of Blackbaud employees either volunteered or served on a nonprofit board over the past year
  • Blackbaud Career Opportunities

Reducing Stroke Risk In Kids With Sickle Cell Disease

Medical University of South Carolina stroke neurologist Robert J. Adams, M.D., knows firsthand how innovation can bring about dramatic and positive change. He was one of the STOP, Stroke Prevention Trial in Sickle Cell Anemia, investigators who found that transcranial doppler ultrasonography (TCD) could be used to assess stroke risk in children with sickle cell disease (SCD) and stroke risk could be reduced by giving the highest-risk children regular blood transfusions.

"If you put them on regular blood transfusion every three to four weeks, you eliminate 90% of the strokes in these patients," said Adams. Read more:

Uncommon Giving President & CEO, Earl Bridges

Uncommon Giving Adds Workplace Generosity For Corporate Employee Engagement

Uncommon Giving Corporation today introduced a new workplace giving initiative for companies to enhance their employee engagement and corporate social responsibility programs. The new, integrated charitable giving solution will be led by industry veteran Earl Bridges who serves as President and CEO, Uncommon Workplace Generosity.

Uncommon Giving Corporation is a financial services start-up that launched its first of several planned generosity-related tools, UncommonGiving.com, in July 2020. Through the online giving platform, people can discover nonprofits, explore causes and donate to 1.2 million 501(c)(3) charitable organizations from one, digital giving wallet – a democratized donor-advised fund. The company is developing investment portfolios with risk-based, cause-based and faith-based options through its SEC registered investment advisory affiliate, Uncommon Investment Advisors, and recently announced plans for what is believed to be the first "generosity index" for ESG investing.

"Uncommon Giving provides a unique opportunity to bring together not only charitable giving tools for employees, but also impact investing and democratized donor advised funds that haven't really existed in the workplace before," said Bridges. "Uncommon Giving is the platform that can help companies connect with employees and grow their presence in the community."

With more than 20-years' experience in nonprofit-focused technology, Bridges is no stranger to the workplace giving space. In 2009, he founded Good Done Great, an industry pioneer in corporate grant management, employee giving, volunteer hour tracking and employee engagement programs for large and small businesses. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Good Done Great served more than 60 companies and 3.5 million employees before being sold to YourCause in 2017.

YourCause was subsequently acquired by Blackbaud in 2019 for approximately $157 million. Bridges went on to become host of a PBS travel-documentary series, The Good Road, where he and co-creator Craig Martin travel the globe highlighting stories of philanthropic individuals making a difference in difficult situations. With nearly 20 million viewers nationwide, The Good Road is the most-viewed television program focused on global philanthropy.

"Uncommon Giving provides a platform to support the charities we feature on our series, but it goes beyond that," Bridges said. "By leveraging our technology to create sustainable change for good, profitable corporations can create a positive company culture and provide a triple-bottom line to their stakeholders."

When Uncommon Giving Corporation was founded in 2018, no one could have imagined the tremendous needs the United States and the world would be facing today. Uncommon's leaders believe it's more important than ever to provide a workplace giving solution accessible to people wherever they may be located.

"As companies become increasingly focused on social responsibility and employee engagement in remote environments, we see a tremendous opportunity to become a workplace partner for all things generosity," said Ron Baldwin, founder and CEO, Uncommon Giving Corporation. "We are thrilled for Earl to join our team and lead this effort."

In July 2020, Uncommon Giving Corporation closed a 506(b) founders' round of $13.5 million in capital from more than 80 private investors to develop its online giving platform. The company later announced it has confidentially submitted a preliminary offering statement on Form 1-A with the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed public offering pursuant to Regulation A.

Charleston Tech Center - Morrison Drive (east) view

Charleston Digital Corridor Accepting Reservations At The Flagship

The Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC), a multi-faceted initiative focused on building and nurturing the region's tech community, is pleased to announce that reservations for workspace leases at the new tech incubator in downtown Charleston are now being accepted. The 15,000 sq. ft. Flagship on the 2nd floor of the Charleston Tech Center (CTC) offers residents a limited number of flexible workspaces ranging from individual to team office configurations.

The Charleston Tech Center, a 92,000 square foot building of modern architecture was developed specifically to support the robust growth being experienced by tech companies in Charleston, SC. The CTC also positions Charleston to accommodate companies from around the US increasingly seeking to distribute their workforce in a post COVID-19 world. The privately led development of the CTC fulfills a vision many years in the making and includes partners at the local, state and federal government.

The Flagship represents the culmination of over a decade of experience by the Digital Corridor in developing workspaces specifically for the tech sector. Recognizing the evolving mindset of the tech worker, the Flagship offers coworking space reimagined with flexible leases for individuals and organizations with access to amenities including a covered roof top deck, a variety of eateries in close proximity, podcast/recording studio, private nap room and phone booths with state-of-the art medical grade ventilation. Additionally, there are multiple Wi-Fi enabled collaboration spaces inside and in the adjacent park.

"Our success continues to be driven through the provision of a unique set of resources sought by early-stage and growing companies. The development of the Flagship allows us to extend our support to a broader and more diverse group of tech companies in this new era of social-distancing and with a focus on employee safety. The CTC will serve as the anchor of the tech community in Charleston, offering a modern and convenient facility to host educational programming, professional training, special events, workshops and networking opportunities," said Ernest Andrade, Director, Charleston Digital Corridor.

"We have a history of working on projects to benefit community. We were excited to partner with the Digital Corridor to develop the CTC, a project where our visions aligned perfectly. The CTC will be accretive to the local tech community for many years," said John Hand, Managing Partner, Iron Bridge Capital Partners.

To learn more about the Flagship, take a tour or make an office reservation, contact Ernest Andrade or call 843.607.1264.

Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade

After COVID, a Hub-And-Spoke Office Style Could Become The Norm

Probably the most constant reminder of the lingering effects of COVID-19 is our daily work routine. For most of us who are either not allowed to return to the office or choose not to, each day is a quest to work productively in our home environment while ignoring the unavoidable household distractions. Read more:

Upcoming Events

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CDCA Defense Summit

The CDCA Defense Summit is one of the largest defense-focused events on the East Coast, bringing together more than 1,000 government and industry leaders to spark ideas, innovation, and solutions to technology challenges. Learn more HERE.