The GrepBeat Godfather is on vacation this week, but we’ve found a guest co-host to slide into the virtual seat next to Pete for tomorrow’s The Friday Nooner: Jason Caplain, General Partner at Durham’s Bull City Venture Partners. We’re also going to welcome back angel investor (and Greppys judge) Jan Davis after last week’s technical issues prevented us from hearing many of her words of wisdom. Watch on Facebook or Youtube, and as always, the fun starts at Noon ET and runs for a half-hour.
The e-learning market is already worth $200B a year, but Natalia McElroy saw an unfilled niche: there aren’t any virtual platforms focused on live—not pre-recorded—classes for adults. That’s why she founded IQ Everest, which will be one of the five startups presenting next Wednesday at the Demo Day for the second tech cohort of CED’s GRO Incubator. So whether you want to learn how to train your dog or make the perfect flan, IQ Everest may have just the class for you. Read our full story on IQ Everest here.
Cary’s Epic Games is making progress in its plans to develop what used to be the Cary Towne Center mall as its new corporate HQ. TBJ reports that Epic has proposed zoning changes to the town that would allow for up to 3.5 million square feet of office space, 75,000 square feet of commercial space and, just for kicks, a 200-room hotel. The proposed zoning would also allow buildings up to 12 stories in height. Epic Games bought Cary Towne Center for $95M, though maybe it wonders whether it paid too much judging by sentences in their proposal like: “The current status of the mall cannot be described as anything other than blight.” Ouch.
In other Epic Games news, the company announced that it now has more than 500 million accounts with 2.7 billion “friend connections” across Fortnite, Rocket League and the Epic Games Store. That’ll buy a lot of Orange Juliuses.
We suspect that Apple execs won’t be booking many nights at Epic Games Hotel, given this year’s courtroom brawl between the two. But soon enough the companies will be neighbors as Apple moves forward on its upcoming RTP office that will eventually lead to as many as 3,000 employees.
Another summer, another cohort of NC State’s Andrews Launch Accelerator. (We first wrote about the program in the summer if 2019.) This year, the program will (virtually) host five startups with Wolfpack ties for 15 weeks from May 18-Aug. 30, culminating in an Aug. 30 Demo Day. We already wrote about one of the five startups: Flux Hybrids, which makes conversion kits to turn gas-powered cars into hybrid vehicles and was the judges’ winner for Best On-Campus Startup in the inaugural Greppy Awards.
The other four: 1) Casalú, a rum-based seltzer targeting the Latino market in the U.S.; 2) Docable, a platform enabling instructors to create interactive computer science teaching environments; 3) Elles, a DTC (direct-to-consumer) brand of luxury but attainable medical scrubs; 4) Rella Social, a platform for influencers to create and manage their relationships with the right brands.
Ring The Bell
Raleigh-based digital workplace solutions company FM:Systems has acquired South Africa-based WizzPass. (Financial terms were not disclosed, alas, though TechWire does have more info.) I’m hoping that FM:Systems won’t be keeping the WizzPass brand name because it sounds like what kids in elementary school might call a bathroom pass. In fact, WizzPass provides visitor management services for companies, which was one of many things that came under increased scrutiny during the pandemic. Though I don’t see why more companies don't simply employ the visitor management strategy I use at Colopy Ventures HQ: when the bell rings, I pretend I don’t hear it in the hopes that someone else will deal with it and I won’t need to walk all the way downstairs to the front door.
Raleigh-based Constellation Digital Partners didn’t have to travel far to find the first credit union to launch digital services for its members on the Constellation platform. Raleigh-HQ’d Coastal Federal Credit Union, which has more than 278K members and about $4B in assets, will now offer its members a modernized digital bill pay and person-to-person payments system. This is an important proof of concept for Constellation’s first-ever, open-development fintech platform dedicated to the credit union industry, which has generally been slower than the big banks to get into digital services. You can find more info here.
As the pandemic mostly recedes from the Triangle—knocking furiously on wood—tech companies continue to grapple with when, whether, and how to bring workers back into the office. That was the subject of this week’s GrepBeat video story, which clocks in at a lean 1:48 and features the voices (and faces!) of Kelli Dragovich, Chief People Officer at Pendo, and ChannelAdvisor VP of Human Resources Randi Seran. TBJ tackles the same issue with a story headlined: “Leading differently: How Triangle tech executives are thinking about hybrid work.”
One issue the story notes is that if workers are allowed to choose whether to come back in a true hybrid model, then managers have to be careful that those who do work in the office every day—and thus get more facetime (though less FaceTime) with management—don’t zoom past their Zoom-reliant colleagues working from home. Hey, I’ve got plenty more WFH puns if you ask nicely.
Dualboot Partners is a software development firm that helps ventures at all stages build great software and great companies. Founded by serial entrepreneurs, Dualboot Partners comes to each project with deep expertise in technology and business, as well as a commitment to supporting its clients well beyond the development process. The team offers advice and perspective—built over the course of hundreds of projects—and leverages its vast network to connect clients with investors, future hires and other resources critical in turning a concept into a successful venture. Intrigued? Email them here!
The deadline to apply to the Fall 2021 cohort of the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator is next Wednesday, June 30. The 13-week program starts Sept. 7 and ends Dec. 3. You can apply here.
Guess where Pete is and (maybe) win a GrepBeat mug!
This week’s winner is loyal GrepBeat reader Lee Folger, who correctly noted that I was outside Raleigh’s Transfer Food Hall. Lee is the Director of Business Development for Scoutr, which he describes as "a scrappy Triangle startup that helps companies hire smarter and build better teams." (We wrote about Scoutr in 2019.) We love Lee’s hustle in putting on GrepBeat red for his celebratory picture.
More from Lee: “As a GrepBeat aficionado, it is a thrill to win the coveted coffee mug. GrepBeat is like the Derek Jeter of Triangle tech media—always making great plays at the right time.” Well, as a Mets fan I would quibble with Lee's over-the-top description of Jeter, but I humbly accept the compliment in the spirit in which he intended it. But seriously, Jeter is totally overrated.