For those who think they’ve already peaked and can’t possibly go any higher, let this be some motivation: Mount Everest just grew by more than two feet.
I never imagined when I took this job that I’d be sharing stories about transforming fecal sludge into drinking water, yet here we are. Duke University-spinout 374Water is the startup behind that transformation, which has major potential impact to help reduce waste and address the persistent shortage of clean water around the globe through a new spin on “recycling.” The startup is a recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Resource Recovery Prize and was also recently named as one of NC TECH’s 10 “Startups To Watch.” Read our full story on 374Water here.
Turning from Duke to UNC, a quintet of Tar Heel undergrads (all of them seniors) are behind MUSE Biomedical. The startup, a recent winner at the Carolina Challenge Pitch Party, is trying to stop opioid addiction before it starts. Patients will wear a sensor on their chest that tracks their response to opioids, while an app processes and displays the information for doctors and family members to monitor. The group already has a provisional patent for their prototype. Read our full story on MUSE Biomedical here.
Adzerk ==> Kevel
Our long national nightmare of confusing Adzerk with Adwerx has ended. Durham’s Adzerk has rebranded itself as Kevel simultaneous with its cashing of a fat $11M check from a Series A round led by Fulcrum Equity. CEO James Avery explains that Adzerk started 11 years ago with the goal of building an innovative, fast ad server, and thus the “Ad-” name made sense. But Adzerk—sorry, “Kevel”—is more about providing APIs and other tools to allow its customers to build their own custom ad platforms. Thus the new name, which provides a “blank slate”; and the new cash, which will enable Kevel to capitalize on the surge in demand it’s seeing.
With the worldwide success of Fortnite turning Epic Games into a global power, it’s no surprise that investors are eager to bet that some of those who’ve worked on the game can lay some new golden eggs. To wit: the $5M that has been invested in Raleigh’s Lightforge Games, a not-yet-officially-launched game studio headed by CEO Matthew Schembari, who led the UI team for Fortnite, and several other Epic Games vets. TechWire and TBJ have more details.
If you didn’t happen to help create Fortnite, it might be a little tougher for you to raise millions of dollars before even launching your startup. Zeke Trezise, who like the MUSE Biomedical team is a senior at UNC, had compiled a list of 38 Triangle-based VCs or VC-adjacent funding sources for both tech and life sciences. And I was a little surprised that it includes Colopy Ventures as well as Jurassic Capital. Well, I can say that Colopy Ventures (GrepBeat’s parent company) once took a chance on a young go-getter who had just moved here from Chicago. (Me. I mean me.) Also, Jim Verdonik and Benji Jones of Innovate Capital Law highlight another potential capital source that, thanks to an SEC rule change, might hold more possibility for startups: crowdfunding.
Bull City's Brightest
Staying in the self-referential lane, the latest edition of Durham magazine profiles five startups that are “making it” in the Bull City, and includes GrepBeat as one of the quintet. Personally I view GrepBeat less as a startup in itself and more as a media property with the mission of telling the story of early-stage tech startups in the Triangle. But hey, if Durham magazine wants to give us—and more to the point, GrepBeat Godfather Joe Colopy—some pub, I am totally here for it. The other four companies featured in the story are, in order, ArchiveSocial, StrongKey, Sift Media, and Loanwell. We’ve profiled each of the last three, while ArchiveSocial Founder Anil Chawla has been a guest on Exit Storiesand current CEO Ray Carey has been a subject of The Download.
HomeLendingPal, a fintech startup that’s split between Durham and Florida—we profiled them last year—has received a $45K grant from the MetLife Foundation after being one of two startups selected by its peers in Village Capital’s Finance Forward U.S. 2020 Accelerator Program. HomeLendingPal is an online marketplace that uses chatbots, machine learning, and blockchain to help first-time homebuyers with buying a home.
Last week, TBJ released its Fast 50 Awards for the fastest-growing private companies in the Triangle. Among the tech-y names were: No. 2 TrialCard, No. 6 My Computer Career, No. 11 Pendo, No. 13 insightsoftware, No. 15 Sift Media, No. 26 Spreedly, No. 28 Adwerx, No. 32 FM:Systems and No. 49 Prometheus Group.
You probably know Vaco first and foremost as a talent firm that can help you find and hire just the right employee, something that seemingly gets harder and more important by the day. And that’s something you should know them for, because they totally kill it on that front. But Vaco can do a lot more than just place a new pair of hands; they’re also willing and able to roll up their sleeves and gets hands-on alongside your team. They can take over entire projects for IT and accounting/finance solutions such as building and integrating new software, improving your remote work or cloud game, or laying the groundwork for an IPO. (Hello, fat exit!) With its 40+ locations worldwide, Vaco can think global, but it very much acts local out of its Raleigh office. Or, post-vaccine, back at its unofficial office-away-from-the-office at Lynwood Brewery.
Mea culpa: we neglected to mention in last Thursday’s newsletter that CED has opened applications for startups who are hoping to present at Venture Connect 2021 from March 23-25. The application deadline is Dec. 18. Of course, even if a startups isn't picked to pitch, there are plenty of other benefits to attending. See the CED site for more info.
Guess where Pete is and (maybe) win a GrepBeat mug!
Please, send your guesses here so I can put my jacket back on. TIA