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
STATS

Latest News

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BlueKey CEO, Ben Cash

Music Career Turned to Tech for BlueKey CEO

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.

Ben Cash is founder and CEO of BlueKey, a 14-person digital agency located in downtown Charleston – soon to be a 60-person digital agency with additional offices in Toronto and Dublin. See their big news here.

Where did you grow up?

Nashville, Tennessee.

How did you come to be in Charleston?

I started the business in 2000 in Virginia. In 2005, I brought a partner on who actually lived in Charleston, so we opened an office here. Then in 2009, I came here to help grow the market, fell in love with Charleston – surprise, surprise – and decided to stay.

In your own words, what does your company do?

We are a full-service digital agency. We do digital strategy, brand identity development, digital marketing and content strategy, and web design and development.

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

My first job was working in a movie theater. I've always had a passion for movies. I would make the popcorn, tear the tickets, clean the theater, but mainly when there was nothing else to do, I'd go sneak in and watch movies. I probably saw some movies in the '80s a few hundred times. I think that grew my love for movies, but my career path was pretty different.

I actually have a bachelor's, a master's and half of a doctorate in trombone, in music performance. So that was really kind of my first career. While I was pursuing my doctorate, I started taking computer courses as electives. Got interested in it. Taught myself web design. Put an ad in the paper, got my first client and then just kind of faked it for a number of years and figured it all out and bought books and taught myself.

What I took away from my music career was that technique serves creativity. Meaning that you play your scales, you learn your technique, all so that you can communicate, express yourself through the instrument, to say something meaningful. I found the same parallel in web design which is what drew me to it. All the code and technical stuff serves the creative design, and not the other way around. I think that is something that set me apart when I was starting out.

What inspired you to start your business?

Through certain circumstances, I had moved to a town where there were no musical opportunities and it afforded me extra time to learn and explore digital more. I also had to generate an income as my enormous fortune from years of being a freelance musician had dried up. It was just perfect timing.

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

I think musicians are naturally entrepreneurial. To be successful as a musician, you have to be very self-motivated, create your own schedule, work hard and be very disciplined. Those are the traits that made me successful as a business person because in music, you were only as good as your last performance. You always had to keep practicing. You never stopped. And I think that that drive for perfection and constantly reinventing and creative expression really helped me.

I also think there are some other characteristics about being a musician that carried through. The collaborative aspects – in the music world, it's all about ensemble playing, collaboration and working with others to create a great piece of music. The same thing happens in digital agencies. You've got a lot of people with different disciplines, different skills coming together to create something unique. I found those parallels of creativity, self-discipline and collaboration critical to entrepreneurial success.

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

These are somebody else's words – I can't remember who wrote them – I found them online one time: You either make things happen, or you watch things happen, or you wonder what happened.

In running a business for a number of years, you get this sense where you start to see things happen in your business, whether it be trends with clients or profitability or your team or the quality of the work. You see trends and your gut tells you there's something there, and if you don't address it or make those things happen, you're going to wonder what happened.

So, acting sooner rather than later and fixing problems before they become unmanageable or unfixable.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

That entrepreneurs have all this freedom to do whatever they want and go in different directions and carve their own path. The reality is that entrepreneurs often don't have a lot of freedom because the buck stops with you and you're the one that has to order the toilet paper and solve problems when they occur, like Saturday at midnight, right when something comes up. There's the old joke that once you're an entrepreneur you can set your own schedule, it just happens to be 24-7.

What do you look for in the people you hire?

Curiosity would be the first thing. Technology and methodology are always changing, and skills are constantly being refreshed. If you don't have basic curiosity to learn and to improve, you won't last long-term.

Obviously, in the short-term, you have to check the boxes of the skills and the experience; they have to be able to come in and do the job. So that's a given. But the real thing is curiosity. And then also self-discipline. With our culture being more about empowerment and self-control, we don't want to have to manage people to tell them to do it. They should be motivated.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find something you are passionate about doing, and don't stop. Don't worry about money. Don't worry about being successful right away. Having drive will only get you so far. It has to be something you are passionate about because you have to be able to sustain through the lean times, the hard times, etc. If it's something you're passionate about, it will be a lot easier to do that.

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

Specialize. Whether that's a skill set or a certain role – specialize in certain types of software, certain platforms, certain languages. I think the problem is universities and colleges are creating a lot of generalists, which is great because you teach a broad range of skills. But most good agencies or tech firms are specialized in certain markets or industries or certain software or languages or methodologies. You are going to be more attractive to successful agencies and tech firms if you are specialized yourself.

What do you see as the future of your company?

I see us long-term as strategists and creative thinkers, less than technology service providers for a given set of services. Because technology is constantly changing and there is always a lot of disruption, but the one thing that can never be automated or outsourced or disrupted is critical thinking and insightful strategy.

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

Mac, iPhone. Have always been. I think it comes from a respect for their thoughtful software user experience that is intuitive. But also Apple has a great digital identity-based brand, and as a digital marketer, I can respect that.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

I don't drink coffee, don't do caffeine. The one thing I like at Starbucks are the hibiscus gummy bears.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

Family, travel.

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

It's been very challenging to build a technical team in Charleston because there is so much competition and so little talent. If you go to our jobs page, we're not even targeting local. It says, "Do what you love in America's best city," and we link to the page touting Conde Nast's selection of Charleston as the No. 1 small city in the United States.

The Iron Yard was a good thing, and JRS Coding School is doing good things to help grow talent here. But there just needs to be more investment in education, especially in the technology area, at an early age. It's not just Charleston, it's across the country. We are falling behind the rest of the world, and we've got to catch up because technology is only going to grow.

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

Cost of living. Salaries are high because the market demands it, but they're also high because people can't afford to live in Charleston. They want the Charleston lifestyle. People come to Charleston because they love the city and lifestyle, but they realize that the cost to rent or buy a house is astronomical and they end up having to be way outside of town.

There have been occasions where we have made an offer to someone outside of the state, they are excited, they want to take the job, but then they do their research and they can't make the math work.

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

It's grown tremendously, and it's exciting to see. I think that's the result of a lot of successful entrepreneurs building businesses, the business community and its support, and the Charleston Digital Corridor and all that they've done to help foster the tech community. I've been very impressed since I've been here to see the depth and breadth expand in Charleston for technology. I hope it can continue. I think for it to continue we need to address affordable living, talent and education. 

Edge Computing, Cryptocurrency, Bots, VR, Security, Topics at Syntax Conference

Software engineers and developers from across the US are attending the third annual Syntax Conference June 6-8 to learn from leaders in their field and to increase their skills, knowledge and abilities.

Presenters at this year's conference are from IBM and Amazon Web Services, while others come from companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Walmart, Couchbase, Buffer, MailChimp and SentryOne. Speakers are corporate developers, owner/operator developers and tech evangelists.

Conference keynotes are from nationally recognized professionals. Scott Hanselman Principal Program Manager at Microsoft keynotes and speaks about "JavaScript & the Rise of the New Virtual Machine." Preethi Kasireddy CEO at TruStory addresses "Understanding the Basics of Blockchain and Ethereum." Andrew Mitry Senior Distinguished Engineer at Walmart speaks on "Edge Computing: What it is; Why it's Important; and How it can be Leveraged." Mary Beth Westmoreland Chief Technology Officer at Blackbaud will discuss "The Power of Community."

With 34 sessions over two days, SyntaxCon brings the exploration of enterprise-level technology to South Carolina and provides ongoing professional education for the developer community.

Sessions are organized in three tracks: Front-End Development; Back-End Development; and Platforms. Examples of Platforms are chatbots, IoT (Internet of Things), cloud-hosted services and infrastructure, mobile development, and many other topics.

SyntaxCon is designed for both established and junior developers who come from across the continent to learn, discuss, examine new trends, and socialize.

Karl Hudson Phillips, conference organizer from Harbormark said, "Our presenters are addressing all aspects of what's next in the world of development. Smaller companies in the southeast can't afford to send their employees to larger conferences where they learn in face-to-face sessions with nationally recognized tech leaders. I'm proud that Syntax brings top-notch content and speakers to the region."

Tickets for the hands-on Pre-Conference workshops on June 6 (College of Charleston North Campus) are $200; and for the two-day conference June 7 – 8 (North Charleston Marriott) $350.

For speaker lineup, general information and to register –- visit http://www.syntaxcon.com

Charleston Digital Corridor Offers Summer Camp for Middle Schoolers

The Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to announce CODEcamp Kids - CS Upstart, a summer camp for kids. CS Upstart is a week-long, half-day camp designed for middle school students to promote an interest in computer science and tech careers while expanding on the core STEM concepts from their other classes. Students will learn the fundamentals of web development (HTML, CSS and Javascript) and entry-level robotics.

The class is being taught by two rising high school seniors, Nicholas Ermolov of Glenbrook South High School, outside of Chicago and Parker Thompson of Charleston School of the Arts. The sessions, limited to nine students, will be offered the week of July 16 and July 23, 2018 and will be held at the Charleston Digital Corridor's FS2 Incubator Mac Lab at 78 Alexander Street. Computers and supplies will be provided, as well as a snack and drink each day.

"We're really working to reach students who are at the prime age to learn about computer science," Ermolov said. "With programs like CS Upstart, we believe we can have a meaningful impact on how students view STEM," Thompson added.

"With over a million high-wage jobs in technology going unfilled and this trend expected to grow, introducing middle school students to an exciting career path in the technology industry is paramount" said Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade. 

Local Tech Leaders Offer Advice for New Grads

These standouts in the Charleston technology community have shared their personal stories and leadership insights over the past year, including advice for new graduates looking to join the tech industry. The Charleston Digital Corridor has recapped their tips for the Class of 2018.

Just build something

It's so nice these days that you can just build something. You can create an app. It doesn't have to be the product that's going to change the world on your first try. But building anything will help you learn a lot. You learn more in that than just reading about it in a book. You'll develop the types of skills that you would need in the tech industry: researching technologies, putting it together, seeing how a customer would interact with it.

Brian Hutchins, CEO of Waitlist Me

Specialize

Specialize in certain types of software, certain platforms, certain languages. I think the problem is universities and colleges are creating a lot of generalists, which is great because you teach a broad range of skills. But most good agencies or tech firms are specialized in certain markets or industries or certain software or languages or methodologies. You are going to be more attractive to successful agencies and tech firms if you are specialized yourself.

–Ben Cash, founder and CEO of BlueKey

Offer to help

Take any internship you can convince anybody to give you. Work for free. Don't be so hyper focused on, "Oh, because I've got this degree, I should be able to get a six-figure job." That will come. Go and offer to help companies. I think a mistake that a lot of people make coming out of college today is thinking, "I put in my time, I need to get a job."

You might have student loans. You might have a lot of good reasons for saying I need to go get a job. But focus on the community and those companies that are doing things that you think are really interesting. If you can actually help them, they are the ones that are going to see your talent and are more likely to find a place for you, even if they don't have an opening.

Julie Moreland, CEO of Vizbii

Think beyond your degree

Don't focus so much on your credentials. We hire for emotional intelligence first.

Jake Hare, cofounder of LaunchPeer

Be mindful of your approach

In general, young folks that come right out of college, they're ready to take on the world. They think they know everything. They want to be challenged. They want to have continuous feedback on what's going on. I need more, I want more, I need another project, I want to do this, I want to do that. And my advice on that is, that's great; you have the right attitude, but it's how you do that. What's the esprit de corps in how you want to get that accomplished? There's a wrong and a right way to approach your boss in terms of what you want to do.

Ravi Sastry, vice president of sales and marketing for Immedion

Change course if needed

It's OK to not know what you want to be in five years. Find a job and an environment that lets you get exposed to things that you might be interested in. And then if you find that you're not, be OK to change. Just really embrace the fact that this is such a peak time to grow and experiment. And, again, don't get into an environment for long that doesn't support that exploration.

Different than when I got out of school, students now almost have to make their career decisions when they're in high school. It's unfair. That's why we stopped asking, "Where do you want to be in five years?" I don't know if we've ever asked it in here. Let's figure out where you want to be this year, and then set your goals toward that.

Elizabeth Buske, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton

Look for a liquidity event

Go work at a company that has some traits of an early stage startup but is about to go to that next level, like an IPO or a big acquisition. See it happen. I think seeing things happen and being a part of things is really powerful. I would also say try to get in with somebody who you think can really teach you a lot, no matter what stage of company that is.

Sean Coughlin, cofounder and CEO of FaithStreet

Connect with the community

Trying to find that first job is really, really hard. Even knowing how to code, knowing how to do the job, you have to keep coding every day to keep up your skillset. Don't give up. Continue to publish any work that you do and talk about it. Get out into the community, go to events, talk to as many technologists as you can, introduce yourself and really seek opportunistic meetings. Even though it's a large industry, it's still very much a word-of-mouth process.

The last thing is to do some pro bono work or do some work for nonprofits while looking to get a job. It can't hurt to add value to folks that may not be capable of affording software development work but need it. Look for opportunities to give, and then other opportunities will come your way.

Tom Wilson, executive vice president and chief technology innovation officer for New Jersey-based Tabula Rasa Health Care's JRS Innovation Center

Get out there

Go to events. Network.

Belinda Hare, cofounder of LaunchPeer

Find the right employer

Find an inspirational boss or company to work for and learn with them.

Luke Blessinger, president of TalkTools

Learn the business world

Find a place that's going to foster your growth those first couple years. When you're looking for where you want to go and what opportunity to take, look at what you are going to come out with after a year. What are you going to learn? How are your skills going to improve? How will you be better a year from now? If you can't answer that, then that's probably not a great fit.

Go into it with your eyes open, because when you start in a career, you want exposure, experience. You need to start learning how the business world works.

Jen Boulware, senior director of engineering at Snag

Choose a job based on your end goal

It depends on what your end aspirations are. If you just want to work in technology, I'd say definitely target a bigger company. If you want to work for a small startup or be a technology entrepreneur, you can't start learning fast enough with that. There's a huge learning curve of two, three or more years of becoming an operator of a tech startup. There are going to be tough times, but you just have to push your way through those, and you can't start early enough if that's what you want to do.

Trey Pringle, cofounder and CEO of Sovi__

Keep learning

(The technology industry) is constantly changing, and that is going to accelerate and continue to accelerate. So remain focused on career learning, constantly staying abreast of what's going on both in business and technology.

Todd Lant, chief information officer of Blackbaud

Upcoming Events

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SCRA Launch and Learn

A Go-To-Market strategy is essential for early-stage companies to identify and validate scalable product-market fit. The SCRA  Launch & Learn bootcamp will provide insights and concepts that can be readily applied to your business, and the journey from early-stage to investable or growth-stage. Learn more and register HERE.

Syntax Conference

Coastal South Carolina's premier code event offering practical training and opportunities for application developers. Learn more and register HERE.

The Reality of the Insider Threat

With the exponential growth of technology, the capabilities of the average users have increased the reality of the insider threat. At the June Fridays @ the Corridor event, learn from Rick Norwood of Interclypse to identify the insider threat and the balance that must be struck between technology, policy and training to change the culture and defend against a quiet threat. Learn more and register HERE.

CODEcamp Meetup

Technology is in every aspect of our lives. Attend our CODEcamp meetup to learn the basis of what drives the technology we use every day. It may just spark an interest that leads you to pursue a career in web development. Learn more and register HERE.

Introduction to Web Development

CODEcamp is an in-classroom continuing tech education program designed for busy adults exploring a potential new career in the software industry or working professionals seeking a career change. Students learn the fundamentals of web development (HTML, CSS & Javascript) in a hands-on classroom environment. Learn more HERE