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FEATURED NEWS

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.

View Charleston Tech Center live construction cam HERE.

Sean Flood, Founder and CEO of Gotcha
LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Mobility Startup Gotcha an ‘Accidental Tech Company,’ Founder Says

Sean Flood is founder and CEO of Gotcha, a mobility-as-a-service company that launched 10 years ago on the campus of Florida State University. Gotcha now operates electric bicycles, tricycles and scooters and electric vehicles. The company is headquartered in downtown Charleston.

This series is brought to you with support from Charleston County Economic Development.

In his mid-20s, Sean Flood found his calling in real estate.

After college and a stint in the corporate world, Flood began redeveloping historic properties in downtown Atlanta. In his words, "everything I touched turned to gold." He loved it, was good at it and planned to be a developer forever.

Then came the real estate market collapse of 2009.

"I was not only a casualty of it, but a mass casualty of it," Flood said.

Reeling and wiped out financially, Flood took a trip with a friend to his alma mater, Florida State University. While hanging out with former fraternity brothers, Flood heard current students talking about the difficulty of finding rides to and from bars. It was 2009, before the rise of Uber and Lyft, and the situation got Flood thinking about a solution.

"Two days later, my buddy and I went back and convinced FSU to let us bring a rideshare program to campus," Flood said. "We went and bought five electric vehicles. I relocated to Tallahassee to start the original Gotcha."

Days after moving, Flood met his now-wife, Jacklyn, and the two began building the company together.

Ten years later, Gotcha has grown to over 100 employees and contracted with 106 college campuses to operate mobility programs. Roughly 40 of those are up and running, and the rest are launching in the coming months.

Gotcha's business model has shifted, and its vehicle fleet has evolved beyond its original electric vehicles, with seats for six, to include electric bikes, scooters and trikes. And Gotcha's focus has broadened as it operates within the shared-mobility space, seeking alternatives to single-passenger cars.

"We fundamentally believe that if you get people out of cars, in particular single-passenger cars, you improve the daily lives not only of those folks, but the people around you," Flood said.

In your own words, what does your company do?

We have evolved a lot. Today, Gotcha is an e-mobility-as-a-service provider. We design and deploy all-electric shared-mobility products. Today, that's an e-bike, an e-scooter and a trike. Then we have a whole software side; we developed the app platform.

The goal is to be a one-stop for a consumer to be able to open their phone in a market like Charleston and use an e-bike or a scooter or a trike, something other than a single-passenger car.

What is an e-bike?

We've converted all of our products to electric. The original bike we have here in Charleston is a pedal bike. You just pedal it, and it goes. Our new product is an e-bike, so it has a battery and a motor. So you still have to pedal, but you could bike over the Ravenel Bridge, and it would make up the difference and allow you to continue pedaling at your same pace. It's a pedal-assist bike. An unbelievable riding experience.

What we've found is that if you're going to try to replace cars – which we are – you need to have products that are accessible to everybody. Bikes are a great mode of transportation. They've been around forever. My dad rode one in Ireland where he grew up. He still rides one now at 77. But they're not accessible to everybody.

An e-bike allows you to bike to work and not be sweaty when you get there. It allows folks who just don't think they're physically fit enough to bike. There's a whole group of our population who are like, "I'd love to bike, but I can't do that." So they just wouldn't try. These electrified products open it up to everybody.

What brought you to Charleston?

We moved to Charleston five years ago when Gotcha was just my wife and me. We had an office on King Street that we kind of leased desks at. It was, at the time, purely for lifestyle. It was before we had kids. We lived in Atlanta and wanted something that was a different pace and a different makeup.

We knew nothing about the startup culture or business environment. Probably like a lot of people, we just thought of it as a tourist town that had history, good food and booze. Our mindset has changed a lot since then about the city.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

That it's easy, and that it's always fun. I think we, particularly in America, lift up entrepreneurs as the backbone of business and everything looks fun. You can be casual at work, and you can have an office that has cold brew and beer, and you can do fun things and not be tied to this corporate America.

The thing I think people don't see is that, one, it's an unbelievably lonely job. You only get to see the outwardly exciting stuff. But you ask any successful entrepreneur, and they've got real battle wounds. You've got to make hard decisions, typically by yourself. People only see the positive. And I don't think the majority of folks who are just jumping into it appreciate the amount of work it really takes.

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

Gotcha is actually an accidental tech company. When we originally started our rideshare, there was no app. It was a phone number that people called. And for the first eight years, we outsourced all the technology. We licensed the lock that's on the bike here in Charleston from a company that's now owned by Uber. We didn't have any software engineers. I hired our first software engineer 18 months ago and, at the time, was like, "Hey, could you build and deploy our entire app?" And – I think he was maybe just being nice to me – he was like, "Sure. I can do that." Well, we have 12 of them now, a data scientist, and tech support people.

I didn't set out to build a tech company, but our bikes and scooters are basically iPhones that people ride. Everything has a tech piece. I've learned on the job how engineers look at a problem, and how you build out a team focused on that. I'm still learning that side of it. But I would fully encourage people to jump into that side of it.

What I think is important from a technology standpoint, if you're in school and want to work in tech, is having that daily drive and work ethic. Because building new technology is not easy, and I don't think there's a simple formula for it. We're lucky that we've got an amazing team of engineers who work very long hours but have very creative solutions around it. That's imperative. People who want to come out of school and just go sit in front of a computer and code, then this kind of environment, a startup, probably isn't for you. There's probably a great job. But if you want to get out there and really build something, I think there's no better place for it.

You didn't have an app until 18 months ago?

We outsourced it. It was another person's app. When you opened it, you had to go find the Gotcha system. For a while, we had two: we had a rideshare app and we had a bikeshare app. Our team has now combined those. But that's within the past 12 months.

I'm not an engineer, so I didn't know the process around it. It has reenergized me around the concept because you get to learn a whole new need and skillset.

What do you see as the future of your company?

I don't think the shared-mobility space is a trend. I fundamentally think we're not all just going to go back and want to buy more cars. I think the single-passenger car days are behind us. I think the auto industry sees that, and that's why they are partnering with people like Gotcha.

I think the next 18 months of the industry is going to see a lot of capital raising, which we are in the process of doing, and consolidation, which I can see happening for a company like Gotcha. In North America and in Europe, shared mobility is such a big industry that you're going to have some winners and losers, and then at that point you're going to have some consolidations.

While we have an office in LA, we've been very focused on running a company that is tech-enabled and has electric-based hardware, and doing it out of Charleston. Our headquarters is here. Across the street, we have a warehouse where we build and test all of our products. We do that all on the peninsula. What is challenging, candidly, is how do you find the right investors who understand you can do that here and not just in Silicon Valley.

To the best of my knowledge, we're the only shared-mobility company not in San Francisco. We've been able to grow it successfully. But the next challenge is how do you find investors who want to step up and say, "I want to invest in that community"? It's probably been the biggest challenge to me.

How do you address that? Or how does the community address it?

I think Charleston is doing a better job. And I've only been here five years, so I don't know all the evolution of it. I think you've got to get investors to realize this isn't just a place to go vacation. There are probably plenty of investors who have great houses out at Kiawah and the beach, but you can really build a business here.

We've got great talent. It hasn't been difficult to retain people who went to College of Charleston or The Citadel. It also hasn't been difficult to convince people to move here. We've got people from Atlanta, Charlotte, all over Florida moving to Charleston. So I think we've got the right culture, but we need to get investors to say, "Wow, there are different kinds of industries here." It's not just health care. It's not just automotive. A shared-mobility company headquartered on King Street is probably not known to a lot of folks. So I think we need more megaphones out there saying, "Hey, look at us."

I was guilty of that when we moved here. I was like, it's a cool tourist town with great food and booze. We are significantly better than that.

Outside of work, what keeps you busy?

My kids (ages 5, 3 and a newborn). It's the only thing.

There was an article that came out recently that said if you want to grow a successful business, you can only pick three of these things. It was a laundry list of things, like work, family, friends, health. My wife joked, "Did you pick work twice?" But I didn't. I picked family, health and work.

I have great friends, but my friends also understand I'm probably the worst at returning a phone call or a text. I just believe you only have so much time. There's plenty of people out there who are like, "No, you can manage your schedule like X, Y and Z," and I just don't see it. So at this stage of our business, work consumes a massive amount of my time.

I want to be healthy so that I can be around longer for my family, and I want to spend time with my wife and kids. So if I'm not here or traveling, I'm with them almost all of the time.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

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

Omatic Hires Ken Haigh as Chief Technology Officer

Omatic, an integration software platform solely dedicated to nonprofits, is pleased to announce the hiring of Ken Haigh as Chief Technology Officer.

Ken brings over 25 years of experience in software and SaaS to Omatic, a company named to Inc. Magazine's Inc. 500|5000 - America's Fastest Growing Private Companies list for five years. He is the founder and former President for Radioactive.io, a provider of products and services to help organizations with business planning and execution. Ken also served as the COO at PeopleMatter and Director of Software Development at Blackbaud, Inc.

"Ken's professional background and passion for building amazing software products and platform integration combined with his leadership will take our team to the next level and allow us to capture the opportunities in front of us," said Omatic Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Kim.

Omatic Software currently employs seventy-five associates and is now seeking a wide range of professionals to join their team.

Mike Gianoni, Blackbaud CEO

Charleston Tech CEO Named to Forbes List of Top Innovators

A new Forbes list puts a Charleston technology executive in the company of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg in a ranking of the most innovative leaders in the country.

Mike Gianoni, CEO of Blackbaud Inc., was ranked 65th. He took the job at the Daniel Island-based software company in January 2014 and has steered the company fully into a subscription sales model for its products and services. Blackbaud's technology helps nonprofits, churches and educational institutions raise money and manage their finances. Read more:

Charleston County Economic Development Wins Major Communication Award at the 2019 SEDC Annual Conference

Charleston County Economic Development received one of the top honors for a communications piece at the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) Communication Awards Ceremony. The awards ceremony was held during the 2019 SEDC Annual Conference in New Orleans in August.

"These annual Communication Awards recognize and showcase the leading communication and marketing work done by economic development professionals throughout the south. Charleston County Economic Development hit the mark this year with this communication piece. Its entry in the Audiovisual (URL) category titled, Charleston Tech: Our Time is Now won a Special Judges Award for Talent Attraction. This piece not only showed creativity, but also solid messaging and effectiveness at reaching their target audience. We were wowed by all the entries we received this year and were impressed with the high level of marketing work being done in economic development by SEDC members," said SEDC president, Gene Stinson, after the ceremony.

In a partnership between Charleston County Economic Development and Charleston Digital Corridor, the four-minute video displays and celebrates some of the tech companies responsible for making Charleston the preferred destination for professionals and tech businesses.

"The Charleston tech community has grown from 18 businesses in 2001 to more than 450 today," stated Charleston County Economic Development Executive Director Steve Dykes. "The Charleston Digital Corridor has played an integral role in that success. It was a natural partnership to work together to highlight our assets and promote our thriving tech industry to the world."

The Communication Awards are given each year by SEDC at its annual conference. More than 20 categories of communications and marketing work submitted by SEDC members are evaluated within four divisions. The awards are: BEST OF SHOW, BEST OF CLASS, SUPERIOR, EXCELLENT, MERIT, and SPECIAL JUDGES' AWARDS. Judging criteria for General Entry Awards include Graphic Appeal, Clarity of Message, Quality of Information, Positioning/ Differentiation and Format. All winning pieces were on full display for attendees to view during the conference.

Charleston County Economic Development also received a recognition level of excellence for their Technomic Development Annual Report and a recognition level of merit for their Business Resource Guide. These pieces, along with the Charleston Tech: Our Time is Now video can be viewed at www.CharlestonCountyDevelopment.org.

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​.

Upcoming Events

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September

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.

Visualizing Industry 4.0

There is a massive shift coming in how humans interact with the digital world. Instead of moving a mouse around a desk or tapping on a 2-dimensional screen, we are now able to reach out and touch objects with virtual hands in virtual worlds, or watch as digital objects come to life in your own room, yard or factory. You'll get a chance to hear from and talk with people and companies in the community who are actively pushing forward with this exciting new technology. Not only that, we will have several devices set up for you to try, including an Oculus Quest and Oculus Go for Virtual Reality, and a Magic Leap One for immersive Augmented Reality. Learn more and register HERE.

October

HACKLATL

Join Atlatl Software as they host their first ever HACKATL! Register to join a team or come out and watch as teams hack to improve the speed, accuracy, or experience of something in daily life. Teams will have from 8AM until 7PM to work with a Happy Hour and prize presentation following. Learn more and register HERE.

Stemapalooza

Hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers, we will have representation from 20 different tech companies that will include demonstrations from Boeing, Google, Cummins, MUSC, Blackbaud, Booz Allen Hamilton, NASA, NIWC, Mercedes Vans as well as community STEM supporters / resources like The Charleston Library, Charleston County School CTE, and others.

Fridays @ the Corridor - Driving Productivity Through Remote Teams

The ranks of remote employees and teams are growing. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that companies actually benefit from work productivity and quality by remote workers. At the September Fridays session we will explore the benefits and challenges of working as a remote employee or being part of a remote team and how Charleston is benefiting from this trend.

Our panelists feature Will Gregg, VP Solutions - Workiva and Barnes McLaurin – Regional Sales Director, Workday on building remote teams and Christopher Wilhite on working as a remote employee for DataStax. Learn more and register HERE.

November

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.

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