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Happy Tuesday!

It’s just one day from The Best And Most Important Day Of The Year (aka St. Patrick’s Day), so there’s no time to waste. Here’s what’s top-of-mind this top o’ the early afternoon: 1) Scroll down for all the info to participate in our first-ever March Mugness contest of “Where’s Pete?” coffee shops; 2) No hermit crabs were harmed in the making of the latest The Friday Nooner, though one was (temporarily) lost on the mean streets of Joe’s native Akron, Ohio; 3) Be sure to register for the inaugural Greppy Awards, which will be held virtually on Thursday, April 22 at 12 Noon.

Venture Connect

CED’s three-day, virtual Venture Connect summit begins one week from today, March 23. Today we have a preview of the event as a whole to go along with the bakers’ dozen (and counting) new features we’ve run over the past month-plus on Triangle startups that are participating. You’ll likely recall that last year’s Venture Connect was all set to kick off on March 17 (hmm, what else is that date known for?) until the whole world turned upside down a week earlier, forcing it to move hastily to an all-virtual format.
Now with a year of adjustments to our Zoom overlords, Venture Connect is back with a slew of tweaks to better fit the virtual world. Read our full preview story here, and you should also visit the Venture Connect site.


Buzz Off

Checking in at No. 13 in our series of features of startups that will present at Venture Connect is Raleigh-based Vector Textiles. (Not to toot our own horn, but we’ve also written features in the past on 21 other presenting startups.) Vector Textiles arises from the work of five NC State professors from three different departments who developed a way to develop products—especially textiles—that repel mosquitos without chemicals or pesticides. In much of the world mosquitos are more than simply annoying pests—they carry illnesses that kill more than 1M people a year.
Former Where’s Pete? winner and Triangle Startup Trivia Tournament participant Mark Self is Vector Textile’s CEO, and he has the job to commercialize the IP into physical products. You can read the latest on that progress in our full story here.


Branching Out

Back in July, CEO Scot Wingo and Spiffy announced that it would be offering franchises for the first time. Today, the mobile-car-care startup named its first five franchise partners. The franchises will operate in the following seven markets: Wilmington, Del.; San Jose; Cincinnati; Greensboro/Winston-Salem; Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, S.C. (All three Palmetto State markets were awarded to a single franchisee.) The Delaware franchise is the first to launch standard services for fleets, which is only fitting for the First State (history/trivia buffs will recall that Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, a fact that would have scored you a point in the Triangle Startup Trivia Tournament).
Scot gave a Q&A to TechWire this morning that has more details on Spiffy’s latest expansion.


Startup Updates

Back in January we wrote about Brij, a patent-pending platform that offers a new way for consumers to get connected, stay engaged and provide financial support to local business—especially those who have suffered during the pandemic. Last week Brij announced that a number of Triangle businesses had joined the platform, including Guglhupf Bakery (which you can vote for as part of March Mugness!), NuvoTaco, Convivo and Cocoa Cinnamon (another March Mugness contestant).
TBJ also has a feature on another startup that we profiled in January: Durham’s Tiny Earth Toys and Founder/CEO Rachael Classi. After a successful pilot program, Tiny Earth is officially launching its subscription service of high-quality, re-usable, age-appropriate wooden toys.


One Year Later

In Item No. 1 above we strolled a bit down the memory lane of how the pandemic went from “hey, maybe this could be a concern” to “the whole world is shutting down!!!” just over a year ago. TBJ took a deeper dive with a number of local execs, including Second Nature CEO Thad Tarkington and Cree CEO Gregg Lowe, reflecting back on the one-year mark. It’s an interesting read. Many of them echo at least one similar refrain: people left the office on Friday, March 13, and scrambled to prepare for what most thought would be a relatively short absence—but many simply haven’t returned, at least not on a consistent basis.


Cutting Crew

We seem to be all over TBJ stories today, and here’s another: a feature on Joshua Esnard, the Founder of Chapel Hill-based The Cut Buddy, a physical template that helps everyone from teens to novice stylists to professional barbers to shape and trim hair. Joshua appeared on Shark Tank in 2017, which helped him land a licensing deal with a clipper company that put his product in every Walmart.

He returned to the show in 2020 as part of a special episode on how past Shark Tank companies were pivoting during the pandemic. In The Cut Buddy’s case, the startup provided freelance jobs to out-of-work barbers and stylists to try the products and write reviews. Oh, and Joshua also has a truffle farm, but you can read all about that on TBJ.


New World

The U.K.-based tech and product design company Cambridge Design Partnership announced on Friday that it has opened a new R&D center in Raleigh. The new facility will serve as CDP’s U.S. headquarters. The company plans to hire across a range of disciplines, including mechanical, electrical and software engineers, and will also launch an internship program.


Make It Legal

Hutchison is a boutique law firm that embraces the entrepreneurial spirit and steers technology and life sciences entrepreneurs to success through all stages of their company’s life. Hutchison partners with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded organizations to enable business solutions that make the law work for them, and advises angel investors and venture capital firms to support their investment selections to maximize their potential for success. Hutchison takes the time to learn your business and understand what’s behind the deal.


Because too much news is never enough.


Here's some helpful content from our partners.

You can find our full Partner News page here.

It's time for March Mugness!

It’s time to play March Mugness! We’ve put together a 32-“team” bracket of coffee shops that have appeared in “Where’s Pete?” And we mean actual coffee shops, not the outside-restaurant pics we’ve been forced into since the pandemic. Here’s how it will work:
– The coffee shops have been separated into four regions: Downtown Durham, Downtown Raleigh, The Killer C’s (Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Cary), and Burbs + NC State. (Hey, when you have to break a Triangle into four pieces, you need to get creative.) We’ve seeded each location within each region.
– Go vote now on the 16 first-round matchups. Voting for this round will be open until tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5pm ET. In Thursday’s newsletter, we will unveil the Sweet 16 games.
– The ballot includes pictures from each “Where’s Pete?” location to jog your memory.
– Here are the first-round matchups:
Downtown Durham Region
Beyu Caffe (1) v. Foster Street Coffee (8)
Durham Hotel (2) v. Monuts (7)
Mad Hatter’s (3) v. Saledelia (6)
Cocoa Cinnamon (4) v. Joe Van Gogh (5)
Downtown Raleigh Region
Morning Times (1) v. Benchwarmers (8)
42 & Lawrence (2) v. Yellow Dog (7)
lucettegrace (3) v. Videri Chocolate (6)
Sir Walter Coffee (4) v. Heirloom (5)
Killer C’s (Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Cary) Region
Café Carolina (1) v. Crema (8)
Carolina Coffee Shop (2) v. Perennial (7)
La Farm (3) v. Fount (6)
Gray Squirrel (4) v. BREW Cary (5)
Burbs + NC State Region
Bean Traders (1) v. Jubala Coffee (8)
Guglhupf (2) v. Benelux (7)
Starbucks/Page Road (3) v. Starbucks/Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd (6)
Liquid State (4) v. Pine Street (5)
– What are you still doing here? Go vote now!

(Note: We've included a bonus picture below of Pete at Beyu Caffe, the top seed in the Downtown Durham Region. This was the second-ever picture in Where's Pete? history and the first in a GrepBeat shirt.)

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