Triangle Startup Weekend – Education #TSWEDU

Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Entrepreneur, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

Triangle Startup Weekend TSWEDU

Triangle Startup Weekend – EDU style.  Finally a 2 day weekend with the first signs of spring weather. So after a full week of work inside away from the cold, what could be better than to put on a pair of shorts and log another 40 hours inside? To be fair – I was standing on the shoulders of giants and the view from up there was worth every second. And by standing, of course I mean that I was chilling inside of a super posh space, on a beanbag at @HUBRaleigh . As for these massive giants – were they scary? They were scary smart. These giants were my new found Triangle Startup Weekend @coursefork teammates, three of which I had never met until Friday night. One of them, Elliott Hauser @hauspoor came with a brilliant concept. He is an impressive, passionate educator at the University of North Carolina. You won’t get that sentence from me but once, ever. In fact, I just lost 20 years of Wolfpack street cred – so that tells you how impressive he is. After his pitch attracted two developers that seemed to gel immediately – it was like watching a jam session as they banged out and merged code.

Triangle Startup Weekend brings out familiar Triangle entrepreneurial giants every time, but this specific TSW was focused on education. The focus on that niche brought out additional giants from distant fee-fi-fo-fiefdoms for the event. Educators came from Raleigh, Durham, Chapel-Hill, and from counties throughout NC that I had never even heard of. Ok, I had heard of the counties, but that was a long time ago and I can blame my NC education for not making all 100 county names stick. (Too soon?)

Educators were not only there to provide subject matter input, they were there to pitch their startup *solutions* to problems they see firsthand. They brought passion from the daily front lines of helping students succeed. There were K-12 teachers, workshop builders, professors from UNC, NC State, Davidson, Duke, and even one from Western Michigan. There were students from as far as California, and there were NCState students, and many UNC students and graduates participating throughout the weekend too. (Let’s go Wolfpack family for TSW later this year!) These people were excited enough about the possibilities and potential for innovation in education that they were willing to drive many hours to an event to contribute. It was powerful to see roughly 1/3rd of a room filled with educators that were essentially risk-seeking investors. While they weren’t necessarily “VC” investors, there is no doubt that the investments they made were substantial. They seeded us all with inspiration and further recognition that we have some of the most amazing educators in the world here in NC – and especially here in the Triangle. I was left with little doubt that we have the ability to create innovative systems, processes, and tools to help these passionate educators and ultimately their students – thrive.

More on the weekend events coming soon…

Including more on our winning team of giants @coursefork – and a startup that is about to fork with your collective minds:
  • coursefork
  • Elliott Hauser | @hauspoor
  • Eric Martindale | @martindale
  • Matt Hoffman | @matt_thinks_so
  • Vance Fitzgerald | @vancefitzgerald
  • Derrick McIver |

  • TriangleStartupWeekend
  • @TriangleStartup
  • Coaching Youth Basketball – Herding Cats

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Basketball, North Carolina

    They say that coaching youth basketball is like herding cats. They are correct. Coaxing kittens out from under a carousel even. The movie Hoosiers teaches coaches that the best game plan is to search for Jimmy Chitwood, hence the visual reference. No doubt. The best defense is a good… assistant coach with a big, strong, fast, athletic second child. The reality though is that you probably are coaching kids that more closely resemble Ollie. You know, the kids that would rather smack each other in the Willie and tell poop jokes while taking water breaks. Sometimes that prankster is your kid too, regardless of how much you’ve cajoled, begged, or threatened him on the rides to practice. The variance in skills, knowledge, athleticism, and interest from one player to the next makes the experience of coaching kids one of the more fascinating social engineering experiments you will ever participate in. Did I mention the sheer joy of working with parents who knew nothing about basketball when it was time to sign up to coach yet amazingly developed into John Wooden by the first game day? Did I mention the rule changes from one age group to the next that keep you and the refs guessing? It is an amazingly rewarding experience when your effort works out. All it really takes in those first years is your kids learning to love the game – even if it makes you have to go to work for stress relief. One tip, trick, play or example of teamwork that you know translated directly from your clipboard to on court success is an amazing motivator. An assist thrown from the normal ball hog to the kid who hasn’t scored is like a crappy day of golf with a birdie on 18. You’ll be back – there is a glimmer of hope. If this is your first year, welcome to coaching, welcome to herding cats. Take my word for it, you aren’t the only one waking up in the middle of the night thinking about how to break down a defense of swarming germ droppers. Coaching Youth Basketball

    Triangle Entrepreneur Week – Twitter Visualization

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Data Analysis, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech, Twitter

    Social dashboard I built to visually monitor events like Triangle Entrepreneur Week – Raleigh, NC. More info on the fantastic events that transpired can be found here: Originally Published Nov 15th

    The Pit – Authentic Customer Service & Barbecue

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Customer Experience, North Carolina, Raleigh

    My dad and I had lunch at The Pit today…
    I’ll start with noting that I’ve lived in Eastern NC, and I grew up in Western NC.  I love Eastern NC Barbecue, Western NC Barbecue, Central Hybrid NC Barbecue, Northern.. you get the picture.  I love barbecue, and I don’t discriminate when it comes to barbecue based on region.  Most importantly though – I don’t do restaurant reviews. There are plenty of food buffs that are much more influential than me that have raved about The Pit anyway.  It is widely known how great the food is, so aside from saying that ‘it was fantastic,’ I’m going to leave most of the food critique to those better in the know.

    Customer Listening
    What I am passionate about is customer listening and exceeding expectations (and from a business standpoint – driving returns from that investment as they fall out along the passionate path). If you happen to have read my post on Customer Listening then you know that a lot of my focus is on data driven listening. In this world – no doubt it is critical beyond belief. But today at The Pit was another fantastic reminder that customer listening, by any means necessary, is ultimately about wowing everyone to the extent possible, every time you get a chance. So this is NOT a restaurant review.  It is simply a great example of how to listen, act, and exceed customer expectations.

    Here is my story from today:
    I navigated through the future metropolis known as Raleigh’s Warehouse District, and dropped my dad in front of The Pit – Authentic Barbecue restaurant. By the time I parked the car, peeked in the windows of the now famous Raleigh Denim and hoofed it up the alley, dad had struck up a conversation with a chef that had stepped out front. Dad’s Winston-Salem (Western NC) roots meant that I had to sell him on trying The Pit by touting their unbelievable Western NC BBQ Sauce.  Suffice it to say that the Western NC sauce is fantastic (just to stick with my limited food-review theme).  The conversation dad was having with the gentleman out front was around Eastern NC BBQ vs. Western NC BBQ, and how he hadn’t found anywhere in Raleigh that had a western NC red slaw. The Pit doesn’t have red slaw on the menu either, nor do most Eastern NC BBQ restaurants as far as I know.

    I was hungry though, so I busted up the discussion and we ventured in.  Shortly after ordering – the chef came over to our table and told us that he was prepping some red slaw for us, to prove he could do it right.  That’s pretty cool.  At that point he introduced himself. He was Darrell Brown, The Pit’s Executive Chef. After a brief chat about Tarboro NC, barbecue prep and sauce preferences, Darrell disappeared into the back. As our food arrived, sure enough, so did Darrell.  And there it was – his customer specific above and beyond over-delivery, his fantastic red slaw.  So as noted – this isn’t a food review. (but off-the-record it was as good as any Western NC red slaw I’ve tasted)

    Clearly this isn’t about red slaw, or red sauce, or even barbecue.  This is about hustle stats, passion, pride, and delivering above and beyond for a customer.  And not just customers with high Klout scores or Gold Service levels.  ALL customers.  Customers that you’ve never met before, regardless of whether you think they are locals or passers through.  I could also frame this as North Carolina hospitality, business genius, or competitive juices making Darrell prove his chefpertise.  I’m certain there was a little bit of all three in Darrell’s recipe.  But part of the genius was that it was natural, and what I can tell you is that this is the second time in a row that I have been absolutely WOW’ed by the service I’ve received from The Pit. In fact, I had spent the entire drive there telling dad about the last time I visited with my son and that we were treated with unbelievable hospitality. Today I spent the entire drive home thinking about telling other people about it. That’s a lot of thinking about a barbecue experience.

    Darrell’s Red Slaw Recipe:
    • Listen to your customers
    • Act with empowerment
    • Exceed expectations
    • Make every customer leave WANTING to write about it and share their experience

    Thanks Darrell for an amazing recipe!
    BTW – The food was great too.

    Frying Pan Tower – Don’t Let the Bed Sharks Bite

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in North Carolina, Raleigh

     Frying Pan Tower

    The original depiction of Raleigh’s ties to NC Ports is from I stumbled across it a year or so ago, and it is one of the coolest marketing story telling efforts I’ve seen.  I leveraged (fancy word for stole) the concept and evolved the image to showcase the amazing Frying Pan Tower Bed & Breakfast. I have no affiliation or personal ties to either group aside from a love of North Carolina. Check out that original marketing campaign for the NC Ports at the above link.  See more about the Bed and Breakfast at I’m hopeful that the ‘leveraging’ of the graphic brings positive visibility to Raleigh, NC Ports, and to the Frying Pan tower.  For those that stumble here and don’t know – Raleigh is less than 2 hrs. from the coast of NC.  The 4 hrs. includes a drive to Southport, NC and a boat ride out.  Helicopter options may shorten the trip. I’m thinking that the software geek owner (compliment intended) should turn it into an innovation hub on the sea.  It is not quite what BlueSeed is doing on the West Coast:  BlueSeed is aiming to house 1000 entrepreneurs, is a bit more plush, and is targeting the foreign contingency that is unable to obtain a US Visa. Frying Pan max cap may be closer to 20?  Maybe a two week sponsored entrepreneurial intensive?  Free snorkel?

    Raleigh vs Durham vs Triangle

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in NCSU, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

    This @jproco thread got me thinking 
    As sexy as a subset of Durham is, it seems fair to say that IF you look at these as two distinct systems, Durham as a whole is not as appealing as Raleigh. Polarizing statement, perhaps, but settle down blue friends.  Clearly Durham is doing something very right though - else this would be an easy discussion. Raleigh is the North Carolina State Capitol, and it’s simply not going to crumble overnight.  Raleigh will be just fine for some period of time.  But that is not a solution nor a strategy for the future, and being just fine doesn’t cut it. So you settle down for a second too, red friends.  It is that subtle complacency that is a potentially big problem for Raleigh.  Embracing uncertainty and change, and being courageous enough to evolve and thrive vs. settle, is much easier when there is necessity.  According to most, necessity is also the mother of invention.  Durham has risen in part because of necessity and is spawning invention thanks to a growing number of bulls.  You are simply more likely to get people to change when there is a burning platform.  And the price is right then too. Raleigh doesn’t seem to sense a burning platform.  I’m just fearful of a slow roast if we don’t smell the smoke.  I believe that Raleigh is going to have to incent fast microfailures vs. marinating for a long slow macroast.  That is hard to say on paper, and even harder to make reality. But Raleigh has access to roughly the same critical three T’s as Durham – Technology, Talent, & Tin Cup (capital), so there aren't going to be any excuses when we look back and try to figure out how Durham blew up. I'm good with growing an obtuse Triangle, its all commutable. But from a Raleigh lens - there are simply no excuses for letting it be anything less than equilateral. 
    Meanwhile Durham is escaping what might have been perceived to be (that is me cushioning the message to avoid further polarization) a burning platform.  That burn appears to be helping Durham see the potential reward of small business bets and allowing them to have much less fear of the risks.  They are building critical mass, and please don’t let us underestimate critical mass for startups.   Startups are more likely to thrive together and much more likely to flail in isolation.  I’ve read blog posts and replies from James Avery for literally years now that should be the most compelling burning platform smoke detector for Raleigh.  To me he his cry for help from Raleigh should be listened to like a screaming toddler on the 4th floor of a burning building.  Fortunately there are a lot of brilliant folks pushing like crazy in Raleigh, but the sense of urgency from the masses has to happen sooner rather than later.  First to market would have been nice, but Raleigh may have missed that boat.  Perhaps we have survived thus far due to a massive talent pool.  But critical mass in other areas of the country will create a growing gravitational pull if we don’t offset it.  Not only will that be bad for the future of the region, but bad for the Universities themselves.  You see how this ecosystem works?
    If you are paying close enough attention you will also have seen the ad-hoc alliances that have formed in Durham across the startups.  You could argue that it’s because they have such magical products right out of the gate that they can’t help but choose to use their cross town startup’s product.  Or you could step back and realize that they are using each other’s products in part because of a simple yet powerful sense of team.  Can there be any other region in the WORLD that grasps TEAM & what the color of your jersey can do for the psyche?  This region should be able to relate to that if nothing else.  It is a magical thing my hatred of *cough* Rhode Island blue.  These startups are eating each other’s dog food, being each others best customer's, and in turn helping make sure that they will all ultimately be delivering wine.  That collaboration simply doesn’t happen between two companies that don’t share some common sense of purpose, perhaps some common enemies. And it happens much more often when they can share a beer tab, or make a food truck visit for lunch with each other.  We need to make sure that we have a shared sense of common enemies as we stand together in the Triangle.
    In an ideal world - we would do a flyover and see that this is really a single ecosystem, not two distinct, independent entities with a winner takes all outcome at stake. With the rate of change accelerating today, with enough backing from the big veteran companies of the region, and with enough smart people pushing the envelope – a Triangle All Star mentality is not completely idealistic. Somebody hug me.
    Recommendation 1:
    Build a diagram that shows alliances in the Triangle.  Connections indicate customers / partner relationships.  Direction of the arrows are open for discussion, but hopefully several will be synchronous.  This will help others to literally see the symbiotic results of creating a supportive, collaborative infrastructure in the region.   Build a single diagram for the Triangle and it will paint an informative picture. Concept:
      Recommendation 2:
    Go watch basketball this summer at the NCPROAM in Durham if you’d like an indication of just how exciting the blending of the blues & reds can be.  It’s even open source.

    North Carolina Startups to Watch

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in NCSU, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

    This is a work in progress… last update 5/28 I track several of these and their leaders via the Startup Watchlist – so you can follow along there too!

    Company to Watch



    Year Founded


    3tailer Charlotte NC
    6Fusion  Raleigh NC 2008
    ACF Technologies, Inc.  Asheville NC 2003
    Advanced Liquid Logic, Inc.  Morrisville NC 2004
    Affinergy Inc. Durham NC
    Amidon Contracting Solutions, Inc.  Youngsville NC 2006
    Argand Energy Solutions  Charlotte NC 2007
    Argyle Social  Durham NC 2009
    Automated Insights, Inc.  Durham NC 2007
    Bennett Aerospace, Inc. Cary NC
    BioAgilytix Labs RTP NC
    BioResource International. Inc. Morrisville NC
    BlueStripe Software, Inc. RTP NC
    Bronto Software Durham NC
    Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc.  Moravian Falls NC 1977
    Chimerix, Inc. Durham NC
    Clinipace Worldwide NC
    Combat Medical Systems  Fayetteville NC 2008
    Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, Inc. NC
    DataChambers, LLC NC
    Digitalsmiths NC
    Dorsett Technologies, Inc. Yadkinville NC
    Dry Corp, LLC Wilmington NC
    d-Wise Technologies  Raleigh NC 2003
    Emergency Technologies, Inc. Raleigh NC
    Entex Technologies Inc. NC
    EvoApp  Durham NC 2009
    Expression Analysis Durham NC
    Figure Eight Technologies Greenville NC
    FLS Energy Asheville NC
    Geomagic NC NC
    Hickory Nut Gap Farm NC
    Ignite Social Media NC
    Infina Connect Healthcare Systems, Inc.  Cary NC 2010
    Inlet Technologies NC
    Intelligent Access Systems  Garner NC 2004
    Jackrabbit Technologies NC
    K3 Enterprises, Inc. NC
    Kyma Technologies, Inc. RTP NC
    Liquidia Technologies, Inc. RTP NC
    LoneRider Brewing Company NC
    Mariner Container, LLC  Granite Falls NC 2002
    MercuryGate International NC
    Moog Music, Inc. NC
    Mother Earth Brewing  Kinston NC 2008
    Netsertive, Inc.  Research Triangle Park NC 2009
    PharPoint Research, Inc.  Durham NC 2005
    Piedmont Pharmaceuticals, LLC Greensboro NC
    PocketGear, Inc. NC
    Prometheus Group  Raleigh NC 1998
    Relevance, Inc.  Durham NC 2003
    Replay Photos, LLC NC
    Riley Life Logistics NC
    SciMetrika, LLC RTP NC
    Semprius, Inc. NC
    ShareFile NC
    ShopBot Tools, Inc. NC
    Skookum Digital Works Charlotte NC
    Smarter Systems  Charlotte NC 2008
    Southern Energy Management Morrisville NC
    Southern Fasteners and Supply, Inc.  Winston-Salem NC 1982
    Spoonflower Durham NC
    The Mother Earth Group, Inc. Charlotte NC 1989
    The Select Group NC
    Themis Group, Inc. NC
    TheraSim, Inc. NC
    TransEnterix, Inc. NC
    TransLoc, Inc. Raleigh NC
    Tranzyme Pharma NC
    Valencell, Inc.  Raleigh NC 2006
    Varrow, Inc. Greensboro NC
    XS, Inc.  Morrisville NC 1998
    Zift Solutions, Inc.  Durham NC 2006
    Romotive Las Vegas NV 2010

    Raleigh, NC was voted by Business Week to be America’s #1 City

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in North Carolina, Raleigh, Tweets

    Raleigh, NC was voted by Business Week to be America’s #1 City
    Measures included:
    Percent with bachelor’s degrees 47.5
    Percent under poverty level 13.9
    Median household income $53,370
    Violent crime rate 492.9
    Property crime rate 3,403.20
    School score 74.4
    Pro sports teams 1
    Foreclosure rate 0.0056
    Percent Unemployment 6.9
    Park acres per 1,000 residents 30.8
    Bars 110
    Restaurants 867
    Museums 51
    Colleges 10
    Libraries 18
    Air Quality Index 83
    Percent with bachelor’s degrees 47.5
    Percent under poverty level 13.9
    Median household income $53,370
    Violent crime rate 492.9
    Property crime rate 3,403.20
    School score 74.4
    Pro sports teams 1
    Foreclosure rate 0.0056
    Percent Unemployment 6.9
    Park acres per 1,000 residents 30.8
    Bars 110
    Restaurants 867
    Museums 51
    Colleges 10

    Raleigh : Top 3 Most educated cities in America

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in North Carolina, Raleigh

    Raleigh was noted to be the third most educated city in America by Men’s Health Magazine. Four of the nations Top 30 Cities are from North Carolina.
    Most Educated Cities in America
    1. Madison WI  A+
    2. Plano TX  A+
    3. Raleigh NC  A
    4. Burlington VT  A
    5. Seattle WA  A-
    6. San Diego CA  A-
    7. Honolulu HI  A-
    8. Fargo ND  A-
    9. Portland ME  A-
    10. Lincoln NE  B+
    11. Boise ID  B+
    12. Columbia SC  B+
    13. Colorado Springs CO  B+
    14. St. Paul MN  B+
    15. Minneapolis MN  B+
    16. Lexington KY  B+
    17. Pittsburgh PA  B
    18. Virginia Beach VA  B
    19. San Jose CA  B
    20. San Francisco CA  B
    21. Boston MA  B
    22. Salt Lake City UT  B
    23. Greensboro NC  B
    24. Durham NC  B
    25. Atlanta GA  B
    26. Omaha NE  B-
    27. Portland OR  B-
    28. Charlotte NC  B-
    29. Columbus OH  B-
    30. Anchorage AK  B-

    North Carolina Statistics & Data Resources

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in North Carolina, Raleigh


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