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Charleston Tech Center - Update 1

After many years of planning, the 92,000 square foot Charleston Tech Center and accompanying 812 space parking garage is underway. This landmark building, anchored by the CDC's Flagship3, is being developed to support the professional office needs of Charleston's rapidly growing tech community. Under the premise that a picture is worth a thousand words, starting today, we will provide you with a visual update of progress on a monthly basis.

James Ward, Executive VP at SRC

SRC’s Ward: Don’t Be a ‘Hound Dog Leader’

James Ward is executive vice president at Scientific Research Corporation, which provides innovative solutions to the U.S. government, private industry and international markets. Ward is based at SRC's Charleston location and leads a team of about 1,000 in the company's Integrated Systems and Solutions Division. He previously served as executive director of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Atlantic (SPAWAR) in Charleston, which is now called the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic (NIWC).

This series is brought to you with support from Charleston Southern University.

When James Ward talks about management insights from his career in government and private industry, he points to two figures as instructional.

One is former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The other is his uncle's old hound dog.

From Gates, he learned how trust empowers people.

Ward recalls the second time the defense secretary visited SPAWAR in the late 2000s. The workforce was busy installing electronic systems on what was then a new generation of military vehicles. Known as MRAPs, which stands for mine-resistant ambush-protected, the vehicles were designed to withstand improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the tour, Gates asked Ward, who was then SPAWAR's executive director, if they could talk privately in the back of an MRAP. Fearing the worst, Ward got in and closed the door.

"He said, 'I only want to tell you one thing,'" Ward recalls. "'I've been here twice now, and I know you guys are getting bombarded with people to make sure this is going right. I trust what you're doing here.'"

Gates also gave him a number to call if anyone got in the way of the MRAP program, Ward said.

"You talk about the value of trust," he said. "All of the sudden, did I become more accountable? You bet I did. I was empowered. This guy, he trusted what we were doing. Not just me, but really what the command was doing in this regard. We actually increased the capability; we increased the speed because they trusted what we were doing."

And then there's the lesson on leadership from Alvin, a hound dog that belonged to his Uncle Hiram in Danville, Va., where Ward grew up.

Any time Hiram drove the car out of the driveway, Alvin ran out of his dog house to the street. The dog, who resembled Disney's Pluto character, waited for the car to turn left or right, and then ran ahead. When the car reached its destination – perhaps a relative's house or the grocery store – Alvin would already be there, waiting.

"I'm asking my uncle, at 11 years old, 'How is Alvin so smart?'" Ward said.

"Now my uncle, I don't even think he was high school educated. He worked in the tobacco fields. He always called you by your first and middle name. He said, 'James Dallas, Alvin ain't that smart. That's hound dog leadership.'

"He said, 'You'll find in life a lot of folks jump out in front like they're leading, but they're only watching where the crowd goes. Alvin's not leading anything. He's watching which way I go, and then he jumps out in front like he is. You don't want to be a hound dog leader. You want to make your own mark.'"

Over the years, Ward said, he has appreciated the wisdom in his uncle's words.

"It's caused me to think about how leadership involves personal risk," he said. "It involves taking a chance, getting out there when maybe the crowd hasn't assembled yet. That's what leadership's about. That's some of the best advice I've gotten: 'Don't be a hound dog leader.'"

We sat down with Ward to talk about leadership, technology and more.


You grew up in Virginia. How did you get to Charleston?

I was in the government in Virginia as an underwater acoustics engineer and worked in federal service in that regard. I would come to Charleston often times to work on the submarines when the Naval base was still here. I'd always go home and I'd say, "You know, if we ever moved anywhere, we might want to move to Charleston."

Little did I know that we were going to have the Base Realignment and Closure. It closed down the organization that I worked for in Virginia. One of the options was Rhode Island, and one of the options was Charleston. For my three boys and my wife, it was just a no-brainer. I came down for SPAWAR, to get SPAWAR stood up. That was back in the mid-90s.

How long have you been at SRC?

I retired from SPAWAR in 2008, so about 11 years now.

In your own words, what does SRC do?

I like to use the word "partner." Our principal business is being a partner with Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic, formerly SPAWAR. We win competitive contracts, and we provide primarily engineering services to support the efforts that NIWC Atlantic has ongoing in the cyber domain, in the intel domain, in the communications domain, in the network domain.

What is the best part of your job?

I'm very fortunate in having a first-class team. That is so much fun, just having folks you can trust, depend on, cover for each other. When something goes wrong, we jump in. The best part is the team, not only here but the team in Atlanta, the owners, the corporate officers.

The other thing I enjoy the most is that I feel like I'm still doing a lot of the things I was doing when I was in the government. And I felt like every day in the government, I was able to make a difference to the young men and women serving this country in keeping them safer or more enabled to do their mission.

At SPAWAR and SRC, we don't do the kinetic stuff. We don't do the bullets and the bombs and all that. We provide systems that give them more intel and insight into where the bad guys are. We also provide things that would keep them safer when they're going into harm's way. It's neat to have a career of significance over there and here, where I know we're making a difference.

For example, you can imagine the challenge in Afghanistan, Iraq, all over the world where they're in tenuous situations, of verifying people's identity. For the bases overseas, that's a real risk nowadays. We've put together a system called Gatekeeper on the Move. You can have 20 folks walk through it in a minute, and there's a 99 percent confidence factor. We're using a variety of biometrics.

I know that's keeping the guys on that base safer because they're catching the bad guys before they get in the gate, even though they're disguised or whatever. It checks things like your iris. It's a dynamic situation where you don't touch anything. We use it on the way in and the way out. If a guy comes in and he's 50 pounds heavier, well, you must have something – or a really big lunch. I know that's keeping kids safer who are serving the armed forces for the U.S.

What is the hardest part of effecting change within an organization? How do you overcome it?

I think when you have organizational change, the real key is people have to understand why. Why are you doing this? Is it just because some admiral somewhere says change? Well, then that's not going to go very well. But if they can see why we're doing this – here's the why: We're keeping kids safer, more enabled. The why is the critical part.

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

Go get certifications. In this field today, you can get your CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), for example. There are a lot of certifications you can get that actually give you a lot more credibility in that field. It will cause you to make more, it will cause you to get into places. Go get certs in addition to your academic credential.

Secondly, a lot of folks in this business are introverts. Stretch yourself. Become more extroverted in conversations, your interactions. Write hand-written notes. Do that kind of stuff. You want to get set off from the crowd in this business? I don't mean a text message or whatever else. Go do those things; it will set you off. The communication. The face-to-face stuff. Because that's rare in this business – having folks that can really talk and persuade and convince, not just over social media.

The third thing I would tell them, especially in today's environment, is as soon as you get out, think about what small business you're going to start. And start it, after you get your feet on the ground working somewhere. Go start a small business and bring those 10 other guys you knew in school that were really smart with you. Then you're in control of your own destiny.

**People often say that 10 or 20 years ago, many local tech jobs were in the government contracting sector. Now, there's much more diversity in job opportunities. What has this meant for Charleston's government contractors? **

A couple things. One is that, different than 10 to 20 years ago, the government is utilizing a lot more commercial technology than it did in the past. The commercial solutions are becoming relevant to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, federal agencies. This Gatekeeper on the Move – that's commercial solutions. It's not mil spec that would've had to go through this arduous process to be approved. It's commercial solutions.

So you have a lot more opportunity for folks in this area to work on either side, which is good. But it's also made it more competitive. The unfortunate thing is there's just not enough talent. But overall, it's been a really good thing because we're getting more capability in a quicker time and using different skill sets. It's giving people more options, and options are always good.

Today, we're doing agile software development in the government; you're doing agile software development in private industry and in commercial. You've got scrum masters in both places. You're doing model-based system engineering in both places. It's blurred the lines. It used to be that government developed a lot of technologies and it moved to the commercial side. Today, I see it even more the other way.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I love to play golf. Family is the biggest thing. We are very blessed, three sons, great families, seven grandkids.

What's a book you always recommend, and why?

I love the book "The Speed of Trust" by Stephen Covey. It's such a simple concept but really can make such a difference.

But the one that sticks with me is one I read recently called "Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates." It's by a guy named Brian Kilmeade. It's the story about how, after the Revolutionary War, the United States was very much indebted to France and other countries. They had funded the Revolutionary War. We had to pay them back. How are you going to pay them back? What we figured was we would pay them back with commercial goods. So, we started moving goods across the Atlantic, the Straits of Gibraltar into Europe.

The pirates of Tripoli, that are right there at the Straits of Gibraltar, had a different idea. They started taking our goods and capturing our crews. At that time was when Thomas Jefferson started the Navy and the Marine Corps. It's an interesting story about how Naval warfare was really born in this country.


Heatworks Spotlight

We are pleased to spotlight Heatworks, who is reinventing the way the world heats and uses water.

  • Company Founded - 2005
  • Chief Executive - Jerry Callahan
  • Total number of employees - 16
  • Fun fact - If all U.S. households used a MODEL 3 Water Heater to heat water, it would save enough energy to close down 12 coal-fired power plants.
  • Heatworks Career Opportunities

Heatworks Adds Four New Hires to its Growing Team

Heatworks​, the US-based company that is reinventing the way we heat and use water in our everyday appliances, is excited to welcome new additions Dave Modeen to its leadership team and Robert Brunson, John Michael Burton, and Pete Schallot to its product team. The four new hires are joining the Heatworks team to help the company ready itself for mass MODEL 3 Water Heater production, as well as product rollouts of the highly anticipated Tetra Countertop Dishwasher and DUO Carafe.

The additions include Dave Modeen, general manager; Robert Brunson, project manager; John Michael Burton, senior mechanical engineer; and Pete Schallot, software engineer.

"With the inclusion of our proprietary Ohmic Array Technology in multiple product and R&D projects, the new additions to our team couldn't come at a better time," said Heatworks Founder and CEO, Jerry Callahan. "With diverse backgrounds in all aspects of product and technology development - from contract manufacturing to product and software strategy - the new hires strengthen Heatworks as an innovator in the liquid heating space."

Dave Modeen has over 20 years of experience in new product development, operations, and engineering management in both the OEM and contract manufacturing arenas. Dave holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University at Buffalo and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology. After serving as Director of Product Management of UEC Electronics, Dave was named President in December 2016.

Before joining Heatworks, Robert Brunson led the largest USAF Training System contract, valued at $179M, which included over 150 employees across 17 sites. Robert has two engineering degrees, his MBA, and PMP Certification.

John Michael Burton is a Charleston local, born and bred. He grew up on Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island before heading up north to Durham, NC, to get his engineering degree from Duke University. John Michael worked on heavy equipment and automated machinery before jumping into the startup world and falling in love with the fast-paced design.

Pete Schallot has been in the software industry for 10 years. He has worked in enterprise medical systems, built scheduling software for the Marine Corps, developed Automated License Plate Recognition-based parking systems for trucking facilities, and worked on explosive-detection algorithms for the U.S. Army.

Powered by Heatworks' patented Ohmic Array Technology, Heatworks products don't use traditional metal heating elements that can rust and scale over time. Instead, Heatworks uses water as the heating element. Through graphite electrodes and advanced electronic controls, the naturally occurring minerals in water are excited, directly and efficiently heating the water. And, since water is used as the heating element, the hot water is purer than water from any other sources available in the industry today.

To learn more about Heatworks, its technology or award-winning products, visit MyHeatworks.com​.

Ceterus Among Inc. Magazine's Annual List of America's Fastest Growing Private Companies

Inc. magazine today revealed that Ceterus is No. 2110 on its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy's most dynamic segment–-its independent small businesses. Microsoft, Dell, Domino's Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.

Ceterus provides a done-for-you accounting and benchmarked reporting solution for entrepreneurs as well as an accounting technology solution for CPA firms.

"Empowering entrepreneurs to realize their potential by providing them with an accounting solution that provides financial insights is why we do what we do. To continue our growth trajectory and be recognized a 4th time by Inc. 5000, moving up each year, is a great bonus," said Levi Morehouse, Ceterus Founder and CEO.

Over the past three years, Ceterus has experienced 191% revenue growth. Other notable achievements include recognition as one of the 40 fastest-growing companies in South Carolina by SC Biz News, one of the best tech start-ups by Tech Tribune, and Ceterus Edge, a mobile app, won the 2019 Mobile Star Awards in three separate categories.

"The companies on this year's Inc. 5000 have followed so many different paths to success," says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. "There's no single course you can follow or investment you can take that will guarantee this kind of spectacular growth. But what they have in common is persistence and seizing opportunities."

Seller Labs Named to Inc. 5000 List for Second Year

Seller Labs, the premier software and services provider for Amazon sellers and brands, was named today to the annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies.

The Inc. 5000 list is a rigorous analysis and ranking of the most successful rising stars among independent small businesses in the US. Many of the world's biggest name brands have appeared on this list, including Microsoft, Dell, Domino's Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, and Zillow.

"Receiving this honor for the second year in a row is no small feat - but it comes down to having an incredible team with a heart for our customers," said Hank Harris, CEO of Seller Labs. "The Seller Labs team is driven every single day to deliver the best solutions to the Amazon seller community, and that commitment to our customers is what drives our success."

Companies on the 2019 Inc. 5000 have shown staggering growth within their markets, and are ranked according to revenue growth. Honorees must be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent. Seller Labs' growth of 245% over the ranking period places it #1672 overall and #182 in the software category. The Inc. 5000's aggregate revenue was $237.7 billion in 2018, accounting for 1,216,308 jobs over the past three years.

"When we started in 2013, we had a vision to disrupt the way Amazon sellers operated - and solve real problems," said Seller Labs Chief Relationship Officer Jeff Cohen. "And that hasn't changed. As the marketplace evolves, so does our software. I am excited about the new innovation we continue to bring to solve customers pain points."

Test pile 2 of 600 that will be installed

Charleston Tech Center Breaks Ground In City's Digital Corridor

It has taken five years of discussions and planning, but the Charleston Tech Center (CTC) is about to become a reality with construction underway and completion slated for late 2020.

The CTC is the third flagship space to help support the creation, importation and growth of the tech sector in the city. The effort is part of Charleston's 2000 economic plan to diversify the economy, provide attractive jobs to keep local college graduates in the area and to raise the overall wage standard.

The Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC) was created in 2001 to be a liaison with tech companies at all levels –- start up, mid-range and mega –- and the city, ensuring that company needs are met. By interacting with tech companies in the region, the CDC has been able to understand and address their unique business needs.

"It is the high focus on execution, developing key business resources, relevant community events and leadership that is responsible for the growth of Charleston's tech economy," CDC Director Ernest Andrade told the Palmetto Business Daily in an email interview.

Much like the previous buildings, Flagship 1 and Flagship 2, the six-story, 92,000-square foot CTC will be a tech-focused business incubator, Andrade said.

"It will also include office space for other growing tech companies seeking to be in a business or work environment, built with an exclusive focus on the tech industry as well as tech companies looking to relocate or expand business operation to Charleston," Andrade said. "Unlike traditional building owners, who look at business credit as the first item before they sign a lease, the CTC would look at an alignment between the company and the buildings."

The building will have retail and restaurant space on the ground floor, and a parking garage administered by the city. It has space for 12 offices and two conference rooms, and can be leased by the month for up to a year. Tenants will have access to facilities at the other flagship buildings, such as showers, bike storage and extra conference rooms.

The CTC is being located in a Federal Opportunity Zone using a combination of public and private-sector funding.

Upcoming Events

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In progress

Charleston Technology Group Happy Hour

The next Charleston Tech Happy Hour is hosted byCode/+/Trust.

Stop by on the way home from the office for a drink and socialize with your fellow Charleston technologists, programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs. Come talk about the latest project you're working on, the new framework you've been using, or the latest tech news. Learn more and RSVP here.


Moving from Promises & Async/Await to Async Algebraic Data Types


5:30 - 6:00 - Networking and Food and Beverages
6:00 - 7:00 - Main Talk: Moving from Promises & async/await to Async Algebraic Data Types
Speaker: Robert Pearce
7:00 - 7:15 - Break
7:15 - 8:00 - Talk: Lighting Talks
Speaker: RFPs Open
7:30 - 8:00 - Lighting Talks

Pizza and beverages will be provided.

Learn more about this event and RSVP HERE.


Grants For Technology Focused Entrepreneurs

The SBA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant program provides $2.8 billion/yr to small businesses who have an innovative new product idea and need funding to conduct scientific research to bring their product to market. This workshop will review the requirements to write a winning proposal. Learn more and register HERE.

Are You Ready To Start A Business

This workshop by SCORE will cover all the important considerations for those entrepreneurs seriously thinking about starting a small business. Many small businesses fail early on because some factor was either overlooked or not thoroughly investigated. Attending this workshop will reduce the risk and improve your opportunity to succeed. Learn more and register HERE.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Training

Tom Hashem, President of Seek Quality, LLC, will return to the Charleston Digital Corridor on September 24-25, 2019 to present a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) class. This Leading SAFe training provides a comprehensive overview of the Scaled Agile Framework and is ideal for upper-level management, program and project managers and anyone interested in leading a Lean-Agile transformation. Event pricing includes instruction, materials and SAFe Agilist certification exam fee.
Learn more and register HERE.


Charleston Venture Conference

Inaugural half day conference showcasing entrepreneurs and investors in Charleston and the Southeast. Learn more and register HERE or apply to pitch 55 investors HERE.