Velocity Labs Kickoff Celebration Recap

Velocity Labs, a Startup High Country led accelerator for high growth companies launched its first session of the 12-week course on September 11, 2018. The inaugural Cohort consists of 7 local startup companies in search of a repeatable, scalable and profitable business model.

The participants include:

ChurchLEARN, a software company that helps churches recruit, equip and develop volunteers.

Hatchet Coffee, a roasting lab, slow bar, and coffee lounge.

High Country Food Hub, an online market for local food and artisan goods. It features over 500 products from 50+ small-family farms and food entrepreneurs from Watauga and 9 other surrounding counties.

SGS, provides scenario-based learning development and a digital coaching platform for people and organizations needing greater risk agility, change of behavior, cultural alignment, improved performance, and innovation in an ever-changing environment.

SilverBarre, a fitness training technique that focuses on the training and support of the aging body. Age Graceful. Stay Active.  

The Insulators, use artificial intelligence to build models and generate accurate quotes for insulation and building world.

Thriftsy, the new way to save on your favorite brands while having fun in augmented reality!

Velocity Labs would not be possible without our amazing partners: NCIDEA, Watauga EDC, NCIF, High Country Impact Fund, and ECRS.

On Thursday, September 27th, the companies in Cohort 1 and community leaders gathered for a Velocity Labs Kickoff Celebration at the Hatchet Coffee Roasting Facility. Jeffrey Scott, founder and director of Velocity Labs  outlined the importance bucking the old way of getting a business started (huge business plan and traditional financing) and focusing heavily on problem/solution fit and customer discovery.

"Startups face a number of challenges while building a viable business. At Velocity Labs we help founders understand that they are really a temporary organization in search of repeatable, scalable and profitable business model. What is the big problem they are trying to solve and for whom? Is the opportunity worth the investment of millions of dollars and years of work? These are tough questions founders must answer first before the business plan is written, money raised and the business grown. We help them put first things first and validate their business model early on to increase their likelihood of success as a high growth company in the High Country." -Jeffrey Scott

Founders/CEO’s then gave 3 minute pitches to the room. Many great connections were made between the startups, local investors and potential mentors.

With 7 weeks remaining in the course, the companies will push to test their business models, interview and learn from their customers and will force to examine their processes and ask themselves tough questions in order to move forward successfully. The program will wrap up in early December with a community event to celebrate and motivate the founders to take what they’ve learned about themselves and their business and to go apply it in the real world.

Special thanks to our local brewery sponsors, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing Co, & Blowing Rock Brewing Co. for providing beer for this event. Everyone enjoyed great pizza from Carolina Pizza Co. and delicious cookies from Appalachia Cookie Co. as well!

As always, a huge thank you to our event sponsors and host-Hatchet Coffee, and all of those that attended and contributed to the Kickoff Celebration!

The Places With the Youngest Entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurs may spend years gaining experience and resources as they wait for the right time to finally take the leap and start a company. As it turns out, entrepreneurial hopefuls might be able to achieve their aim of founding a business years sooner — if they live in the right place.

A new study from LendingTree reveals which 10 major cities in the U.S. have the youngest business founders. Using anonymized data from business owners seeking funding through the LendingTree small business marketplace, the study compared ages of business founders on their companies’ dates of origination in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Average founder’s ages when starting their business ranged from 37 to 42 years old, the study found. This five-year gap in average ages might seem small, but it can represent many factors that work for — or against — entrepreneurs in each city.

Here are the 10 cities where young entrepreneurs are making their mark and forming the next wave of million- and even billion-dollar businesses.

Key findings

  • Salt Lake City, Buffalo, N.Y. and New Orleans have the youngest business founders, on average. Entrepreneurs in these cities, along with Oklahoma City, were younger than 38 years old on average at the time they started their businesses.

  • Providence, R.I., San Jose, Calif. and Hartford, Conn., fell on the other end of the spectrum — business founders were 42 years old on average when starting their companies.

  • Gen Xers helmed nearly 42% of new businesses founded in the last five years, followed by millennials who founded almost 38%.

  • Louisville, Ky. had the highest proportion of millennial founders, at 44.8%.

  • Providence, R.I. and Philadelphia had the highest proportion of Gen X founders, at 48.7%.

  • Baby boomers founded more businesses in Silicon Valley (San Jose, Calif.) than anywhere else, at 24.1%. As one of the most expensive communities in the country, it may take budding entrepreneurs longer to save up starting capital.

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs are likely to have some of the lowest barriers to enter entrepreneurship.

A closer look reveals that booming local economies, along with low local costs and taxes, may be fueling startup growth. These cities also have strong support systems in place to help founders and their startups succeed, from business incubators and accelerators to networking events and opportunities to apply for small business grants or attract venture capital.

In short, these are the cities where young entrepreneurs are more quickly reaching their goal to form a business of their own.

1. Salt Lake City

The youngest business founders in the country can be found in Salt Lake City, Utah. Entrepreneurs here achieve their dreams of starting a business at just 37.8 years old.

The area known as “Silicon Slopes” encompasses the Salt Lake City metropolitan area and nearby cities; it is home to billion-dollar tech companies such as, PluralSight and Qualtrics.

These big players have helped established a steady, growing economy in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah. The area also has an established (and growing) pool of qualified talent. Combined with the relatively low cost of living, and entrepreneurs in Utah have few obstacles — and plenty of opportunities.

2. Buffalo, New York

In Buffalo, the typical business founder is just 37.9 years old, and a decent portion of the city’s entrepreneurs belong to Generation Z (3.6%).

Buffalo’s business climate has improved in recent years, thanks in part to a billion-dollar economic development package proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012. This money has since flowed into the state’s second-largest city, and Buffalo has seen some gains from the program, even in the wake of some false starts and scandals.

On top of the “Buffalo billions” initiative, this city offers a relatively affordable cost of living and a strong support system for budding entrepreneurs. This includes business education and support through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at The State University of New York at Buffalo, and local business incubators like Launch NY and 43North.

3. New Orleans

The dream of entrepreneurship is within reach for many New Orleans founders — the average age of founders is just under 38.

Not only is New Orleans a cultural giant, it’s also a standout when it comes to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups.

A hallmark of New Orleans’ business landscape is the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Started by entrepreneurship-focused nonprofit Idea Village, this major event gives would-be founders a chance to learn, grow and even pitch their business ideas.

On top of strong community initiatives to support new businesses, New Orleans also provides twin benefits of affordable local costs and business tax incentives that can help lower the economic barriers to starting a business.

4. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma is the last city that can boast an average founder age under 38 years old, and it’s also the city among the top 10 with the largest share of millennial founders, at 43.7%.

These young entrepreneurs can thank the solid network of support found in Oklahoma City and throughout the state, too — for instance, a business incentive act offers a tax break to Oklahoma businesses participating in certified business incubators.

Lastly, a low cost of living will help ensure founders can put their capital toward starting and growing their Oklahoma City startups — and not just keeping the lights on.

5. Charlotte, North Carolina

The average age of founders in this rapidly growing city is 38.21. In 2017, most of the $1 billion in venture capital raised by North Carolina entrepreneurs went to Charlotte-based companies. The flow of money into new Charlotte businesses is just one sign of the city’s healthy startup ecosystem.

Another is Charlotte’s large cohort of Generation Z entrepreneurs: a full 5.0% of Charlotte’s business founders fell into this college-aged (or younger) group. This could be thanks to the support and influence of UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise entrepreneurship program, which provides business resources, trainings and certifications to students and Charlotte community members alike.

6. Minneapolis

Entrepreneurs are able to get a headstart on their startup goals in Minneapolis, where the average age of a business founder is 38.7 years old. The costs of starting a business here are kept low, thanks to the competitive living costs in the area and attractive tax incentives such as “angel tax credits,” which provide up to $1 million in for new, tech-centered businesses.

Minneapolis-based events, like Twin Cities Startup Week, can also give local entrepreneurs and businesses the perfect venue to network, promote and pitch themselves, and even raise capital. Another local initiative is the MN Cup, a statewide startup competition sponsored by the University of Minnesota — since its establishment, it’s seeded $2.4 million to local businesses.

Female entrepreneurs should also check out Women Venture, a local small-business nonprofit that helps women start and grow businesses in Minneapolis.

7. St. Louis

For young entrepreneurs, St. Louis provides a fertile environment in which business ideas and entrepreneurial ambition can grow — that’s thanks to a strong local startup scene and robust support network for new companies.

Local business investment foundations such as the Missouri Technology Corporation, Arch Grants and St. Louis Accelerator provide vital investment and grant dollars to attract and grow leading young businesses.

These are just a few of the incubators, accelerators and initiatives that provide enough support to young entrepreneurs to allow a typical founder to start a business as young as 38.8 years old.

8. Portland, Ore.

When inspiration strikes, young entrepreneurs in Portland, Ore. aren’t afraid to strike out on their own. But they don’t have to go it alone, thanks to incubators and accelerators such as Prosper PortlandPortland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and Portland Seed Fund.

The average founder in Portland is just under 39 years old. Home to campuses for leading brands such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel, Portland and the state of Oregon offer business-friendly corporate tax structures. New entrepreneurs should investigate tax incentives that can help lower their new business’ property and income taxes.

9. Milwaukee

The secret for Milwaukee’s young entrepreneurs, just under 39 years on average, could be the city’s low costs for businesses. Milwaukee’s lower cost of living combines with attractive tax incentives, exemptions and credits to make it more affordable for founders to start and ramp up a new business.

Entrepreneurial hopefuls can find plenty of backing in the Milwaukee area. Startup Milwaukee, for example, provides education and networking through Milwaukee Startup Week and similar initiatives. BizStarts offers further resources for local entrepreneurs, while other incubators like Milwaukee 7 can provide capital and funding for young companies.

10. Austin, Texas

Last on the list is Austin, the only city on this list in which the average new business founder is over age 39. From hosting innovation-centric conference South by Southwest (SXSW) to a booming local economy, this fast-growing city is a hub of entrepreneurship in Texas.

Several startup accelerators and incubators in Austin can help local founders grow a business at an stage. A bevy of newer venture capital firms in the area, like ATX Seed Ventures and LiveOak Venture Partners, could be spell good news for young businesses hoping to attract funding.

For young entrepreneurs, the right location can help a new business thrive

If you’re hoping to become a full-time entrepreneur, you’re not alone. Nearly a third of Americans have thought about starting their own businesses in the past year, according to a recent LendingTree survey.

Before launching a business, however, it’s worthwhile to consider your location and how friendly it would be to a new and growing company. The better the location you choose, the faster you can work toward founding and building your business.

Based on the top 10 cities above, here are some trends to watch for when researching where to start your startup:

  • Growing local economy: A startup will need a healthy economy and other businesses to survive. Check key economic indicators in cities you’re interest in — low unemployment and high consumer confidence in your area are positive indicators of a healthy economy with room for new companies to take root.

  • Business-friendly tax policies: Among the top 10 cities, a common thread is business-friendly tax policies. Many of these cities charged lower taxes to local businesses, and some even provided tax incentives to attract new and expanding companies.

  • Low cost of living: With lower expenses, you’ll need less capital to get your business up and running. These low costs can also keep your bottom line growing faster and keep your new business lean and competitive.

  • Strong startup network: Most of the cities with the youngest entrepreneurs were also home to robust support systems and networks for new entrepreneurs and startups. Research your area of interest to see if it’s home to business incubators or accelerators, entrepreneurial networks or events or even a coworking space. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Administration office can be a great starting point to find business resources and organizations.

  • Availability of business funding: Lastly, research opportunities you might have to access or raise funds for your business. See if your city of interest is home to venture capital firms or programs that offer small business grants or other funding. Check out potential sources you could turn to for small business loans, too.


Being picky about finding the best place to start your business can really pay off later. This study shows that a good balance of low costs and a strong startup ecosystem can help young entrepreneurs found a business years earlier. Even better, these factors can set a new business up for continued success in the quarters and years to come.

Anonymized data of borrowers seeking business loans on the LendingTree platform was limited analyzed to determine the average age of business founder in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The data was limited to businesses founded within the last five years, and founders’ ages are from the date they founded their businesses. Generations are defined by the Pew Research Center as follows: members of the Silent Generation were born between 1928 and 1945; the Baby Boom generation between 1946 and 1964; Generation X between 1965 and 1980; the millennial generation between 1981 and 1996; and Generation Z after 1996.

Code Spring Monthly Code Club Coming Soon

Code Spring Hosts Workshop for Kids

Athalia Whitworth, Code Spring

Code Spring hosted a workshop for youth, ages 8-13 and their parents on Saturday, July 14th at the Appalachian Enterprise Center in Boone, North Carolina. The workshop was the second in a summer beta program that introduced computer coding concepts to youth through an interactive games and challenges. Youth met a real-life computer programmer, learned to think like a coder through games, met new friends and ate pizza.

Front-end developer Jordan Estes shared how he got his start learning code and how he brings his professional training in theater and the arts to inform his technical problem-solving. He contrasted the spontaneous mindset of theater with the logical framework of computers. Working in teams, kids experienced this juxtaposition by using both logic and creative thinking to solve the classic river-crossing challenge.

Youth also worked in teams of 2-3 on Lightbot, a free online tool designed for the Hour of Code project. The interactive game introduced youth to instructions that a computer (the bot) can understand, using a visual platform and increasingly complex challenges.

“I started inexperienced and worked my way through. I got to know coding better than before,” said participant Maddie. Zoe, another workshop participant added, “It was fun!”
Code Spring will pilot a monthly code club for kids starting September 15 and continuing the third Saturday of the month. Dates are as follows, October 20 and November 17, February 16, March 16, May 18.

The initiative is inspired by a shared vision to impact the next generation with tools and resources in an increasingly technical world. Workshops are led by professional volunteers and sponsored by Smart Game SystemsWatauga Economic DevelopmentStartup High Country and High Country Local First.

Parents and students should register for upcoming workshops online at  
For more information and to become a volunteer and a sponsor, contact Athalia Whitworth,

August Startup Social Recap & Velocity Labs Deadline Extension

On Thursday, August 23rd, 70+ aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, technology professionals, ASU students, and community members gathered at Booneshine’s new brewing facility on Industrial Park Drive, in Boone, for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social.

Other regular sponsors, Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Lost Province Brewing Co. were in attendance and provided beverages for the event as well. Stick Boy Bread Co. prepared a delicious appetizer spread for the event while Artemis Independent contributed wine, and Hatchet Coffee provided a selection of nitro cold brews.

As always, our attendees socialize and catch up on current happenings around town, and then the entire group came together to learn more about Startup High Country (SHC) and our generous host and event sponsor, Booneshine Brewing Company. Tim Herdklotz, President of Booneshine, discussed the brewery expansion and relocation to East Boone as well as their plans to build a tasting room and restaurant in the not too distant future. Everyone loved their new production space and their newest beer on tap, the East Boone Pils - try it at Basil’s today!

When the floor was open for discussion, several pitches and updates were made by those in attendance including, 180 Float Spa, Out of Your Mind, boonies,

Madelyn Hjertmann from SHC shared information about coaching opportunities for startups from SHC team members and Mountain Bizworks. Madelyn also discussed the upcoming course, Velocity Labs, a 3 month startup accelerator for founders of pre-revenue or early stage companies. The course will begin on September 4, 2018 and run through November 16, 2018. The application deadline for Velocity Labs has been extended to August 31st and as of today, there are only a few more spots available. For more information and to apply please visit,

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As always, a huge thank you to our sponsors, our host, and all of those that attended and contributed to the August Startup Social. Stay tuned for info on the September monthly social coming soon!

Where is the capital for startups?

Where is the capital for startups? A view of the funding landscape in WNC:

Chris Grasinger, Mountain Bizworks High Country Regional Manager

As many of us know, successfully launching a business takes an immense amount of energy on the front end. Research and development, building your team, creating a minimum viable product, crafting a marketing strategy – all of these elements take time and hard work. There are an infinite amount of road maps and influencers that are telling you how to reach launch, but sorting through different strategies and advice can push you to capacity as well. All the while you have to keep cash flowing into your household and paying for your own personal bills. You can peak 14 hour days pretty quickly if you are not effectively prioritizing your actions.

In many cases, your business will reach a stage where you have to find money to launch or grow the business to a desired point. There are many triggers that can lead to this moment - whether that is finally paying the people doing the work, buying a crucial piece of equipment, or hiring a developer to build the software you need. So where does this capital come from?

Self-funding or Bootstrapping –

Sourcing funds from savings of the founders or pulling the needed capital from your own excess cash that the business is generating.

Friends & Family –

This source of capital is just what it sounds like. Sometimes you may receive money from folks within your natural network as a donation or maybe it will come with certain terms. A word of caution is to always be very clear on the expectations of all parties with this type of funding – you don’t want to get to a point of misunderstanding that could taint a relationship with someone close to you.

Crowdfunding –

Utilization of a traditional donation based crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or using one of the new equity-based crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder.

Angel Investment –

Angel investment can come in a number of forms but is typically defined as an individual or group of individuals that make early investments into companies, to fund the startup or early growth stages. An angel investor could actually be someone in your friend or family network. A new angel investment group specifically serving our area is the High Country Impact Fund. This group was formed to invest in entrepreneurs and companies, with high growth and local economic impact potential.

Traditional Debt Capital -  

These are the traditional lenders that we all know, such as Wells Fargo, First Citizens or BB&T. Many of these banks have excellent services for startup businesses, such as checking and mobile deposit. But they oftentimes lack the ability to fund a startup, due to federal regulations and risk grade.

Alternative Debt Capital –

There are a number of different types of lending institutions that are designed to make high risk loans. A localized version of this type of lender is Mountain Bizworks - a community development financial institution, focused on funding Western North Carolina startups and existing businesses.

Lauterer of Artemis Independent Shares Her Southern Roots and Latest Video Series

Welcome to the Boonies

Selena Lauterer, President of Artemis Independent

“Does your mother wear shoes?” “Do you have running water?” “Do you eat possum?” These weren’t mean questions. She was merely curious about this Southerner. Like I was a rare, splendiferous specimen worthy of a microscope. The woman seated next to me at the dinner party was just doing her research.

That was in the 90’s. In Portland, Oregon. When we really did wear ratty flannel shirts, ripped jeans and blown-out Birkenstocks.

I’d traveled before. All self-funded. To England for a summer after high school. Prague for a year teaching English. But nothing quite prepared me for the perception of what Southerners are to the rest of our country like living in the West.

So what was a girl from the hollar doing in the coffee-and-hop-infused folds of the Northwest? I’d like to say it was for unfettered, youthful adventure but the truth was I was running away.

My mother had just finished a bloody battle of a congressional race in the 11th district in North Carolina — the first woman to run...and lose — and it was ugly. I needed to evacuate. To forget who I was and where I came from. To say that politics in the Appalachian mountains is fierce and personal - especially when gun control and pro-choice/life is on the line — is a steep understatement. As we like to say in these parts, it weren’t good. So I left.

Living outside of the South in my new home, I learned to drop my accent. Real quick. Or else be teased - and to a 20-something insecure woman who wanted more than anything to be accepted and God-forbid maybe even admired, ain’t nothing I was going to do to tip the scale to disfavor. The uncomfortable truth was my accent equated being dumb. Slow. Lost in some fizzy, humid dream of the “wawah” (that’d be the Civil), where we had nothing so made velvet ball gowns out of curtains. We just didn’t know no better, bless our hearts.

I learned there was an idea out in America that Southerners were so close to being basic in our needs that we matched a caricature, a Li’l Abner cartoon cutout — grinning like a toothless wonder, swilling down liquid white and clear from a chipped brown jug with XXX scrawled over it, one strap overalls and no shoes. If you were a man. (A woman’s depiction is quite another story and for another time. Believe me - I’ll get to that one day.)

Race plays a colossal role in the definition of what it means to be Southern. I grew up with parents who marched for the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s and was taught we were all equal. As a little white child growing up in the 70s with hippie parents, I simply didn’t understand discrimination or why anyone would hurt another human being because of the color of their skin. I still don’t. And when I encountered folks in Oregon who thought I thought otherwise, I was incensed.

Fast forward to now. I’m 49. Have my own business in public media. A family. And after 11 years in Oregon, the siren call of raising children amongst kinfolk finally won out and I moved back home. In the years since the West Coast, I’ve wrestled with what it means to be from the South. Being in particular from the mountains, where it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful that if you look -  I mean really look -- at the Blue Ridge from a high view, with the cascading lines of lavender, gray-blue, indigo, black and let’s say you’ve been doubly blessed by a pair of hawks circling overhead calling out to one another in the wild, open sky...if you are lucky enough to be there and open your eyes and see (put your cell phone down please), you’ve just met heaven.

So I decided I felt lucky being back home. We may be poor (40% of our school kids in my county of Watauga qualify for assisted/free lunches) but we have an ironwood pride of being from Appalachia. Our families have been here for decades. Mine since the 1700s. Folks here came with hardly nothing. And they made something.

That’s what Boonies is about. It’s telling the story of our people making something. Making their lives in a place still remote to most city centers. Boone’s under two hours to Charlotte or Asheville. If you want a Target or an Apple Store, drive on my son. But if you want true grit and spit shine, people who know how to thrive, here you are.

We’re also about helping dispel the misperception of who Southerners are. We may be many things and please go crazy on what you think that is, but this is who I know we are: smart, resourceful, kind, and clever with a razor sharp wit. And generous. I don’t care what bumper stickers you have on your vehicle, if you’re broke down, we’ll pull over and help.

Boonies has two arms. One is the video series that will launch in 2019. Second is social media happening right now. Both highlight the small business owners and quality of living in the High Country. This is our way of introducing the world to this unique community and warm-hearted entrepreneurs who have chosen to respect and call these beautiful Appalachian Mountains home.

Some facts:

  • A few of our crew are freshly graduated from Appalachian State University. My husband and co-creator of the series, Dr. Kelly Davis, is a professor at ASU.

  • We’ve been working on this concept for about five years and our pilot subject, Jesse Miller, was our inspiration — he’s a volunteer auctioneer for nonprofits around here and has raised over one million dollars for the greater good.

  • I’ll never get back the money I’ve put into the project. To the folks that say it might be for personal gain, they’d be wrong. I’ve put in $180,000 worth of my time into the project and might see $4,000 of that. If that ain’t love, don't know what is.

  • We’ve never crowdfunded before. Fun times! If you are thinking of doing this — please, come see us — we have feedback. (Thank you to James Bance, Jeffery Scott, Erich Schlenker, Sara Figlow and Chris Grasinger for your invaluable guidance.)

I was asked for this blog what new tech has helped us. Instagram. 100%. This platform has been an incredible engine to reach out to High Country small business owners and communicate with our potential base. Facebook hasn’t proved itself yet to be as powerful. We shall see if that changes.

We're currently raising funds for the series. Find out how you can help support our work through Indigogo, and please follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks, y’all!

Our website:

Our Indigogo page:



Selena Lauterer

President, Artemis Independent

Lauterer is a producer/promoter for public television and owns Artemis Independent located in downtown Boone, NC. Her works include Emmy & Peabody Award Winning A Chef’s Life, A Craftsman’s Legacy, Reel South, Roadtrip Nation, etc. . To see more about her work and background, visit:

July Startup Social Recap

Last Thursday, July 19th, 50+ local entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, technology professionals, and community members gathered at Hatchet Coffee's new roasting facility on Den Mac Dr. in Boone for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social. 

Three local breweries were in attendance and provided beer for the event including, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing Co., and Lost Province Brewing Co. Hatchet Coffee also provided a nice selection of hot coffee and nitro cold brews. 

Attendees were able to socialize and network among each other and then everyone came together to learn more about Startup High Country and our wonderful event sponsor, Mountain Bizworks. Several Mountain Bizworks representatives were in attendance including Matt Raker, Director of Community Investments & Impact. Matt shared information about business courses and investment opportunities through Mountain Bizworks. Their upcoming Foundations Course will be held in Boone August 6th – Sept 17th on Mondays from 1-4pm, with Madelyn Hjertmann facilitating. To learn more and register please visit,

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When the floor was open to discussion, several pitches were made by those in attendance including, PubCycle of Boone, High Country Radio, 180 Float Spa, Wilderness Yoga, ChurchLEARN, Appalachian Enterprise Center, boonies, Appstate Student Careers, and several others!

Jeffrey Scott, team member of Startup High Country, discussed Silicon Hollar's upcoming Velocity Labs, a 3 month startup accelerator for founders & partners of pre-revenue and/or early stage high growth companies focused on accelerated growth of $5-7M in three years. The course will begin on September 4, 2018 and run through November 16, 2018. For more information and to apply please visit,

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As always, a big thank you to our sponsors, our host, and all of those that attended and contributed to the July Startup Social. We invite you to join us for our August Social at Booneshine Brewing Co.'s new facility on Industrial Dr. in Boone! Stay tuned for the date to be announced soon!

Check out these awesome images below courtesy of Gladco Media!



June Startup Social Recap and July Startup Social THIS THURSDAY

June 2018 Silicon Hollar Startup Social Recap

On Thursday, June 21st local business owners, entrepreneurs, technology professionals, investors, and community members gathered at The Greenhouse in downtown Boone for the monthly Startup Social. 

Lilly Steele from Artemis Independent shared information about their new TV series, boonies. "Artemis Independent is now in production on a short-form video series featuring unique business owners in Boone and throughout Watauga County, North Carolina. We love Boone & the High Country, and boonies is our way of introducing the online & TV world to this unique community and the warm-hearted entrepreneurs who have chosen to call these beautiful Appalachian Mountains home. Production begins September 2018. To expand the love, we're launching the social media "Insta Boonies" campaign, showcasing entrepreneurs in the area. If you're interested in being featured, visit boonies_series and DM us." -Lilly Steele

Beer was provided by Booneshine and Appalachian Mountain Brewery while coffee was provided by Hatchet. Several representatives from local businesses were in attendance including individuals from Valle Crucis Lavender House, Center 45, Hatchet Coffee, Booneshine, Vixster, and more!

July 2018 Silicon Hollar Startup Social

Thursday, July 19th from 5:30-7:30 PM at Hatchet Coffee's new Roasting Facility

Join us THIS THURSDAY for our monthly Startup Social! We will be hanging out at Hatchet's brand new roasting facility on Den Mac Dr. in Boone. Join us for networking, learn what folks in the area are working on and help us build the High Country's Startup Ecosystem!

Enjoy beer from Booneshine & Appalachian Mountain Brewery and of course coffee from Hatchet! Special thanks to Mountain Bizworks for sponsoring this month's event! 

Find our event on Facebook, also be sure to Follow us on social media!

Twitter: @startup_hc  Instagram: @startup_highcountry  Facebook: Startup High Country

NC IDEA Senior Director Visits Boone & Startup Community

A Trip to Boone

John Austin, NC IDEA Senior Director

Back in February, my colleague Lauren McCullough and I visited entrepreneurs in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Asheville (you can read about our adventure here). A couple of weeks ago, I hit the road again and spent some time learning about the startup ecosystem in Boone, NC.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve spent lots of time in the High Country – and loved every minute of it. Probably like you, most of my time spent in this part of NC has been a touristy bunch of great fun: Chetola, Blowing Rock’s downtown park, Kilwin’s, Mast General Store, Woodlands BBQ, some of the best short hikes on the Parkway (Rough Ridge, Linville Falls), Tweetsie Railroad, Cone Manor, Grandfather Mountain, Appalachian Mountain Brewery…but enough promo for the Chambers of Commerce.

The motivation for my recent visit was Startup High Country (SHC), a volunteer organization who wants to bring more high-tech, high-paying jobs to the High Country. SHC is a team of entrepreneurs, technologists and investors who are connecting, leading and inspiring a small but tenacious group of entrepreneurs. They are a recent recipient of one of our NC IDEA ENGAGE grants.

I got to know four of the SHC partners: Sam Glover, who runs product remotely for Durham startup Shoeboxed; Jeffrey Scott, a serial and social entrepreneur (Metamorphic Consulting); James Bance, working remotely as Director of Sales at Oath; and Chris Grasinger, he’s the High Country regional manager for Mountain Bizworks – a CDFI that helps small businesses across all of western North Carolina. Magelyn Hjertmann, a Fuqua MBA graduate and owner of the Lavender House, rounds out their team.


We started out at the Green House co-working space, followed by a great lunch at The Local. Perhaps, the most surprising thing I learned was how pervasive broadband is in the region; SkyLine has installed more than 1,800 miles of fiber in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. In many places, you can be way back in the hills and still get high speed internet – something that is crucial to economic development in the 21st century.

I also learned more about the High Country Impact Fund, an angel fund that was established in 2017 to fund high-growth startups in Watauga and surrounding counties.

Then it was on to meet some founders…

We checked in at Hatchet Coffee for some nitrogen craft coffee drinks. We met Hatchet’s co-founder, Jeremy Bollman, and two tech founders: Zak Ammar, founder of Vixter Trash and Recycling, and James Wilkes, a former Chair of Computer Science at App State and founder of Hive Tracks. Anyone who has lived out in the country has experienced sticking your stinky trash bags in the trunk of your car and driving them to the county dumpster. Vixster is Uber for trash; Zak matches up folks with trucks that are willing to haul trash with people who don’t want to do the dirty work – and he’s bootstrapped the business to cover 16 counties, over 20 haulers and 1,000 customers. Hive Tracks provides software that helps professional beekeepers manage their hives – which increases production and profits.


Then it was off to the other side of Boone and a visit to Tsuga with founder Jimi Combs. Tsuga designs and manufactures specialty bags and shelters – one of their really neat products is a lightweight water filtration bag.  It’s something that backpackers can use – but also has potential for providing clean water on a scale that could be needed following a natural disaster such as a hurricane.


We unfortunately ran out of time before I could meet with Pete Catoe, CEO of ECRS, probably the biggest startup in that part of the state that you’ve never heard of. Started in 1989, ECRS is now one of the world leaders in point-of-sale systems.

I timed my visit so that I could attend SHC’s monthly Silicon Hollar startup meetup – for those of you from the Triangle, it’s loosely patterned after Exit Event. In spite of drizzly weather and App State being between semesters, I was surprised to see more than 30 people in attendance. And as with any startup event, I was able to sample some of the local brews from Boonshine and Appalachian Mountain Breweries.


After some great beer and dinner at Lost Province, I left Boone with a new appreciation for the startup possibilities in the region. They have some key elements that can help make things happen: a dedicated core group of entrepreneurial leaders, an angel fund that can back some companies, an 18,000-student university to provide some talent and high speed broadband.

These statewide treks to meet entrepreneurs outside of the Triangle and learn more about what they are thinking and what they need to succeed are becoming one of the best parts of my job. It’s incredibly inspirational, and of course, getting to sample some great food and craft beer across NC is a highlight as well. But please don’t tell Thom Ruhe how much fun I’m having.

The Cobbler's Kids Get New Shoes

Time to Stop and Launch our New ERP

Pete Catoe
Founder & CEO ECRS (ECR Software)


ECRS is known for developing and deploying world class software systems for retailers.  Ironically, like the old saying, “The Cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” our own internal systems have long past their prime.  So November is a big month for everyone at ECRS as we go live with our new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.  It’s a modern, cloud based, comprehensive system that touches every part of ECRS.  

Launching a new ERP could be compared to changing the tires on a car still rolling down the road.  As you know, you have to stop the car first, and the same is true for the company.  We need to slow down - and even stop - so we can change our old way of doing things and replace it with a better, more effective approach.  This means that for the next few weeks, we will be asked to stop and help in this new phase of our corporate development.  Some team members may be asked to do extra, even duplicate, work.  It is a temporary and necessary pain that we must endure to successfully make the transition.  

Why are we deploying this ERP system?

If we want to build a better ECRS, to better serve our customers, we need tools that will allow every ECRS team member to perform at his or her best.  To some, this might mean having a lighter, more powerful laptop, or, to others, the very best development tools or increased process automation.  The ERP is a foundational tool, the nervous and memory center of the entire corporation.  Every company has an ERP, but our current system is made up of outdated systems, requires duplicated data entry and intensive manual processes.  It’s time to replace it with a unified system designed to eliminate duplicate entry, streamline operations, and increase accuracy.  Having a new core system will allow ECRS to grow $100 million higher in revenue.  The point is, we do not want our growth, and full potential, to be held back by old outdated systems.  

Time to pull together and act in a true spirit of collaboration.

In business, we tend to look for reasons to blame one another, missing opportunities to help each other succeed.  If we want to make the new ERP system fly, more collaboration than usual is needed.  Each team member must find ways to contribute individually for the sake of building something that is greater for us all.  Deploying this new ERP is a major cornerstone of our goal in building a better ECRS.  We can’t succeed if each and every one of us is not prepared to think and act in the true spirit of collaboration.

Onward and upward. 

Get your idea out there!

If you attended this year's Entrepreneurship Summit, put on by App State’s Center for Entrepreneurship, you were able to experience something pretty great. The fact that Appalachian state can put on a conference of that quality and attendance (over 300+ attendees) is a testament to the excitement and momentum behind the the High Country’s Entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This year’s keynote was delivered by a good friend, Chris Heivly. His talk was incredibly interesting and I hope people came away as motivated as I did - and ready to Build The Fort. [Chris likens the idea of building a company to building a fort. They share many characteristics and it can be useful to think of building your company in this way. I'd encourage you to read the book.] One thing stuck out to me in particular, and that was the notion of sharing your startup idea with others. It reminded me of an older, humorous, but TRUE article - Why Nobody Will Steal Your Shitty Start-up Idea. As funny as that article is, it's right and Chris is right - you've got to share your ideas - get them out there, get feedback, adjust them and build the thing.

At Startup High Country, we talk with so many people who have great ideas, and we consistently encounter the same questions and fears in these entrepreneurs. More often than not, entrepreneurs are afraid to share their ideas with others, not necessarily because they are worried about being judged in a negative light, but because they are worried about someone else stealing their idea and running with it. They start talking NDAs, patents and trademarks, oftentimes way too early. All of those things are important and have their place (and time), but in the infancy of a startup idea, they just don’t belong. What really matters isn't just the idea, but rather understanding the market for it and you and your team's ability to execute it. This is why investors will not sign an NDA before hearing your pitch and why you shouldn’t even ask for that. Focus your efforts on how you're going to out execute your competition.

It’s much more important for you to share your idea with as many people as you can. This will allow you to mold your idea, find out what parts of it are interesting to people, whether or not they would pay you for it and ultimately if there is actual potential for a product. Chris recommended sharing your idea with at least 50 people and by the time you get to that fiftieth person, you’re going to have the pitch nailed down, more ideas about the product and a more fleshed-out concept.

So start small and easy - share your idea(s) with your family and friends; then move on to complete strangers. Reflect on those conversations, then lather, rinse and repeat! We, Startup High Country, are always willing to hear your ideas and give you feedback on them. It’s one of the things we love most about working with entrepreneurs.

What are you waiting for?

Why I Burned The Ships

Building a company to last and not to exit

Pete Catoe
Founder & CEO ECRS (ECR Software)

I’m often asked if ECRS has an exit strategy.  An exit from what, I wonder.  

My career goal is to build a world class software company, and the other leaders who work at ECRS share this same goal: a lasting company that provides real value to our customers, employees, community, country and of course produces a fair return.  Can a leadership team simultaneously build to last and build to exit?  

In my opinion you can’t. Similar to Hernando Cortez, when you decide to burn the ships at the beach, and you have no possible retreat, it keeps everyone focused forward on conquering the many challenges that any business set on the long-term is sure to confront.  Building a lasting sustainable business is a marathon, not a sprint.  Nearly every decision and investment made at ECRS is done so in the context of how it affects the whole, in juxtaposition to an exit strategy, or how the decision will affect the shorter-term valuation.

So my answer is No. At ECRS we don’t have an exit strategy, and as long as I’m in charge we never will.  However, I’m a realist, so one day, when I’ve exhausted all that I personally have to offer ECRS, I will step aside and personally retreat.  When that day comes, it is my intense hope that ECRS will continue to charge forward independently, conquering new challenges and markets under a steadfast leader who understands that exit plans, just like ships, should be burnt. 

Silicon Hollar: Phase 2

Autumn has finally made its way to the mountains and the changing of the seasons always brings about a time for renewed focus and new energy for me. It's been a few months since we've posted here and it's not for lack of activity and momentum in the startup community; in fact, quite the opposite. We've been very busy here at Startup High Country on-boarding and mentoring the first two startups in our inaugural 2016 startup cohort: ChurchLEARN, a video sharing platform and online learning community for the church, and Fyssion, a premium audio equipment manufacturer. 

There are exciting things brewing in Boone, and it's not just the IPA at AMB and Booneshine. We're going to have several big announcements over the course of the next few months, so please stay tuned and join us at the next Silicon Hollar Startup Social at The Uptown, on October 11th, to hear more about the startups and other entrepreneurial activity in Boone. 

James and the Startup High Country team


Writer: Jason Reagan - a futurist, tech writer, communications specialist and optimist. Jason blogs for DroneLife (@DroneLife) and SiliconHollar.

This article first appeared in High Country Magazine, a sister publication of High Country Press

When James Bance and Sam Glover gaze out over the amazing vistas from Howard’s Knob in Boone, N.C., they see the usual sights — the college town’s main streets, Grandfather Mountain’s stolid profile and the gorgeous “hollars,” hills and peaks that have captured the hearts of so many.

But James and Sam see something else – an opportunity to transform the region from just a thriving tourist/university area into the next tech success story — a vibrant new hub for startups. Forget Silicon Valley, meet Silicon Hollar.

James and Sam form the core of Startup High Country. The nascent partnership is a hybrid incubator, startup accelerator and consultancy group. Wait. What does that mean?

“What that means is we provide mentorship, software and web development services, physical space and, in some cases, we’ll be providing seed investments to local entrepreneurs who have an existing company or a new business idea,” James said.

The duo teamed up with Chris Grasinger and Jeffrey Scott, two longtime High Country residents and advocates for local entrepreneurship and, together, the group hopes to blaze a new trail with the vision of building a technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem to support quality jobs and provide investment opportunities for everyone in the region.

“In the High Country we have a fantastic variety of entrepreneurs in the area, we have a thriving university and high speed internet infrastructure,” Grasinger said. “We created a title and an organization to help brand and organize the efforts of connecting and accelerating these elements.”

“I can remember growing up and people always talked about distribution and sales going off the mountain, but the beauty of technology is that neither one of those is an issue,” Sam said. “The world becomes your market and there’s no need for overhead, shipping and warehouses.”

“[Sam and I] had been blessed in that we’ve worked for amazing companies, like Google and Shoeboxed,” James said, adding that the duo “recognized that many of the residents here hadn’t felt the financial benefits of the 21st century. So, we set out with this completely audacious goal.”

The SHC Difference

That all sounds great, right? Better jobs, a higher quality lifestyle, access to better technology. But can it really work here? Local residents have heard this before – the blossoming of a new startup and venture-capital paradise nestled in the Appalachian Mountains has to some extent been only a dream in the High Country for years.

The Startup High Country difference? It boils down to experience. The four-person team has tons of experience as startup entrepreneurs – you might say they’ve climbed this tech mountain many times.

“We’ve all experienced the successes and the scar tissue that comes with the territory of starting a company,” James added. “We want to short-circuit a lot of the inevitable early mistakes that first-time entrepreneurs will make and then put them on a track to ramp up faster.” In fact, Startup High Country has already started mentoring and providing services for four companies.

It’s Business and It’s Personal

For James, the startup culture has been part of his DNA for most of his life. He co-founded his first tech company at 21 after moving to the Bay Area from his native Wisconsin. Over the past 15 years, he has built a solid resume in the tech and investment world, occupying roles in leadership, sales, marketing and business development at companies like Bazaarvoice, (a 2012 IPO), Adometry (which was acquired by Google 2014), AOL/Verizon and John Hancock. He knows his stuff.

However, James’ High Country journey started in Deep Gap. He and his wife, Sharla – along with their children, Blake and Mila, – moved to Blowing Rock from Austin (another American startup success) four years ago to be closer to Sharla’s parents, Deep Gap residents John and Vicki Unmack.

“They’re amazing people and have a heart for serving others so they’ve built deep relationships here. My wife and I decided to make the move to be closer to them.”

As happens so often with new residents, James and his family immediately fell in love with the outdoor life of the area from skiing to cycling. But the Great Outdoors will only take you so far when the siren song of Entrepreneurship calls.

A High Country native, Sam attended UNC-Chapel Hill and is known throughout the region as an innovative entrepreneur and growth leader. Over the past six years, he’s worked with several NC-based startups. Sam helps them define core metrics, accelerate growth and scale product development. He recently launched and sold his first company, Zip-Services — a technology platform aimed at disrupting the commercial laundry and linen business. Currently, he’s VP of Operations for Shoeboxed, Inc. Like James, he lives in Blowing Rock with his wife and dog.

Silicon Hollar

While the High Country may never match the startup tech horsepower of Silicon Valley, Startup High Country believes the region can brand an appropriate moniker – Silicon Hollar. The name arose after a conversation with local entrepreneur James Bauler, referring to the deep, rich valleys (hollows or hollar as we say ‘round here). Because SHC is already working with the Appalachian Regional Commission to attract angel-fund investors, the Hollar metaphor resonated immediately.

“Silicon Hollar is simply an idea, a concept to rally around, a place and a metaphor for the tech ecosystem here – much like Silicon Valley in California or Silicon Prairie in Nebraska,” James said, adding “it’s not an attempt to become, or to be thought of as another Silicon Valley, we don’t want that.”

Using a strong and memorable branding metaphor like Silicon Hollar has the potential to highlight the uniqueness of the High Country and leverage its strengths, along with technology, to set the standard as a beacon in rural Appalachia and to demonstrate what a successful tech community can look like.

“What I love about the [Silicon Hollar] metaphor is that is gives people in the area something to rally around and be proud of,” Sam said. “It’s a network of people interested in bettering the High Country through entrepreneurship and technology.”

“Most people have now heard of Silicon Valley, so the name will usually make some sense to individuals,” Chris said. “The truth is our Silicon Hollar will have its own unique personality – similar to the valley, we aim to be a hotbed for high growth entrepreneurship, but we also value adventure, outdoors, and the beautiful environment in which we live.”

It Takes a Community to Raise a Startup

Setting a vision like Silicon Hollar and offering startup resources is all well and good, but to really succeed, Startup High Country will need community buy-in.

Fortunately, the High Country has already blazed a small-scale trail in both tech and other startups, thanks to a few local pioneers. A prime case study is ECR Software (ECRS) Corporation, a startup icon founded and headquartered in downtown Boone.

The company has not only transformed the way we shop, but has also helped lead a renaissance in “Main Street” development. Housed in a former auto dealership building, ECRS was founded in 1989 by Peter Catoe, who was a marketing student at Appalachian State at the time.

The software/hardware company holds the exclusive rights to their self-checkout register software– systems that allow consumers to easily scan, bag and pay for their groceries at thousands of retail outlets across the country.

According to the company’s website (,) the local business offers a plethora of retails systems “from front-store systems including point-of-sale and self-checkout, to comprehensive back office, warehouse, and inventory management solutions. Clients include grocers in San Francisco, Montana, Toronto, as well as beverage companies, breweries, health-product distributors, fuel suppliers and healthcare systems.”

“When I was first approached by the core team at SHC, I was struck by their level of energy, optimism, passion and entrepreneurial vision they have for our community,” Catoe said. “In addition, I’ve also really enjoyed observing the Silicon Hollar meetings. It’s very exciting and heart-warming for an old tech entrepreneur, such as myself, to see so many young entrepreneurs coming together within our community, and being excited about building great products and great companies,” he added.

Watauga County has also transformed the startup environment by becoming a Certified Entrepreneurial Community. In partnership with AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, the county launched a strategy in 2007 to create “overall business climate, policies, regulations, and opportunities to learn and grow [that] are simple to find and available.”

“When you put it all together you can see that SHC is filling a void that was present, because free enterprise can only be transformative within a community when entrepreneurship is valued and most of all, nurtured,” Catoe added.

James says a key component to Startup High Country’s success lies in the already available resources at Appalachian State University. Local university contacts like Dr. James Wilkes, Sara Beth Hopton, Erich Schlenker and Ged Moody have helped pave the way by linking SHC with students and faculty who have a vision and drive to start new companies locally.

Other community resources include Mike Quinto, James Bauler from Cruxolve, and Dave Walker from Ascent. “They have been integral in creating the momentum behind Silicon Hollar and we couldn’t have moved the needle without them,” James said.

ASU’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship has also launched a unique enthusiasm for startups both among students and local community leaders.  Directed by Schlenker, the center’s staff empowers those with new startup ideas and partners with them to research and crunch numbers to determine if there’s a market and viable business model. “Entrepreneurs can use the center’s office space and other on-campus facilities while center staff connect them with professional services, funding and mentors,” notes a recent report in

“It’s easy to be excited about ideas and opportunities, but the difference between having success and not having it is being willing to start,” Erich said.

Real Results

As SHC’s Silicon Hollar concept gains traction, the group is seeing new success stories blossom across the board.

“We’re really focused on job and investment opportunities, and by getting several startups off the ground and funded within the next 12-18 months, they will quickly make a really positive impact in job creation,” James said.

Promising young entrepreneurs, like Zak Ammar from Vixster and Dale Yarborough from Gidoa (pronounced Gi-Dough), stand out as success stories for SHC. Vixster, for example, is a trash and recycling service company that facilitates a peer-to-peer removal service for commercial and residential customers. Think of it as Uber for trash service. By using a digital, GPS platform, users can create an account, request an on-demand pickup – pay for it online, and Vixster will match them with a driver in the same vicinity to pick it up. Gidoa aims to provide transparency and accountability in the charitable donations industry. Both are finalists for the recent 2016 Pitch Your Idea Competition at ASU.

“We’ve had a really nice response from the community to what we’re doing,” James said.

Startup: The Next Generation

A tech-oriented community will wither on the vine quickly without a fresh infusion of talent and software experience. To meet that challenge, SHC plans to break new ground in software coding education.

“In order to stay competitive globally, not just locally, we need to get more of our kids exposed to software coding before they hit the post-secondary level,” James said. He is among a growing number of startup leaders who believe computer coding classes should be required in high school curricula.

We’re really focused on coding education,” Sam said. “We’re hosting a summer camp – High Country Coding Corps – with App State’s Gear Up program, teaching rising 6-9th graders computer programing through something they all love – Minecraft.

“For most of us coding is a foreign language, but kids who make coding their native language will be well equipped to snag high-paying jobs and work at amazing companies like Google and Amazon, or even locally at ECRS,” James added.

Making Headway in the Hollar

While most people can get on board with Startup High Country’s vision and enthusiasm, everyone involved also realizes the road ahead, like the region’s soil, will yield a lot of bumps, rocky obstacles and steep climbs.

Although the High Country offers many advantages for startup incubation and recruitment — Outside magazine has named Boone one of the “10 Best Small Towns in the U.S. – job creation has always suffered due to a variety of factors, including cost of living and geography.

“It’s no secret that there’s a serious lack of quality, high-paying career opportunities in the High Country,” James said. “It’s not an indictment on anyone here, it’s just a reality.”

And the future for the High Country may grow bleaker if economic strategies fail to adapt. According to the N.C. State Institute for Emerging Issues’ Future Work Job Disruption index, Watauga County outranks all other counties in North Carolina in potential job losses due to technology automation.

“I see SHC as an opportunity for our community to get ahead of the forecasts and take control of our future, to push back against that prediction,” James said.

“Let’s use what we know: creation, innovation, and technology to rewrite our community’s economic story.”

Get Involved with Silicon Hollar

“I tell everyone, this is challenging work, but it’s good work. All we need is a few lighthouse companies — those companies that shine brightly and that others can follow and avoid the rocks. With Startup High Country, we can invest in entrepreneurs ‘on the mountain’, so they don’t have to go ‘off the mountain’ to build their companies and fulfill their dreams,” Startup High Country Co-Founder James Bance says. “The easiest way to stay connected with the tech initiatives in our area is to sign up for the mailing list at and come out to the events. We help curate the site, but it’s really a public space for everyone to use; it’s a gateway to all things tech in the High Country.”

“You don’t have to be a computer programmer or work for a technology company to be involved. The beauty of a startup community is that almost anyone can get engaged. It takes many different disciplines to drive success, not just tech. Designers, photographers, executive assistants, writers, project managers and more, are all essential to the mix.”

This article first appeared in High Country Magazine, a sister publication of High Country Press


April Startup Social Recap

If you weren't able to attend April's Silicon Hollar Startup Social, at the Greenhouse in downtown Boone, do not fear - here's the recap and you can join us for the next event on April 14th.

As always, a big thank you to everyone that contributed and attended! Once again Appalachian Mountain Brewery, and Booneshine, hooked us all up with some super tasty cold beverages for the evening.

We had a really wonderful turnout, with by far the most attendance of student entrepreneurs and coders we've had.  We're super pumped for all of this momentum and are really excited for what the next few months are going to bring the area.  To learn more about the work we're doing at Startup High Country, please read Jason Reagan's awesome article in the most recent High Country Magazine.

The winner's from our High Country Hacks hackathon presented their project Verb, which really has lots of potential - definitely be on the lookout for more from this team.  James Bauler talked about the work Cruxolve is doing and their new project WorkPlace.  Brandon told us about his project - Church Learn - which is just getting started.  

There are a couple of cool job openings in the area as well: Nordic PC is looking for a web developer to build out a new site for them and Jackson Sumner is currently hiring engineers.

The next Silicon Hollar Startup Social will happen on May 12th, 5:30, at the Transportation Isight Center on App State's Campus.

March Startup Social Recap


If you weren't able to attend March's Silicon Hollar Startup Social, at the Greenhouse in downtown Boone, do not fear - here's the recap and you can join us for the next event on April 14th.

Huge shoutouts to everyone that contributed and attended! A big shout out to Danny Wilcox from Appalachian Mountain Brewery, and Tim Herdklotz from Booneshine, for supplying super tasty cold beverages for the evening. Even though at this point we shouldn't be, we were surprised once again by the great turnout (it was App State's Spring Break), with over 40 coders, local entrepreneurs and high country residents who work in, and have a desire to contribute to, high growth technology in Boone. 

Steve Mercil from Angel Capital Group talked about the formation of the angel fund that's currently taking shape right here in Boone.  We'll be sure to keep everyone updated on the progress and we think before long, we'll see an investment from this group.  How cool was it to hear from (and see in action) Jimmy from Spinboxx?   Also, Vixster has officially launched, so go check out their service - we've only heard and experienced good things.  Be on the look out for a special event at the May social, sponsored by Vixster.    

The next Silicon Hollar Startup Social will happen on April 14th, 5:30, at the Greenhouse. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

The Internet of Thneeds

By Jason Reagan

Internet of Things: “a world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants.” — Stephan Haller, SAP Research, 2009

“This thing is a Thneed. A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need” —The Once-ler, 1971

With the proliferation of wearable technologyRFIDsself-driving cars and the Quantified Self movement, it’s clear that The Internet of Things has moved beyond trendy, PowerPoint slide fodder and into the Real World of Things.

In the wearables market alone, sales are expected to leap 129 percent by year’s end, hitting 22 million shipments by 2015 and a Google-Glass-shattering 135 million by 2018, according to CCS Insight. AGartner report predicts the existence of 26 billion devices comprising the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020.

To better gauge where “Things” are headed, Pew Research asked 1,606 experts:

“As billions of devices, artifacts, and accessories are networked,will the Internet of Things have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025?”

The experts shouted a resounding: “Yes!” as 83% agreed with Pew’s thesis question. chief scientist and survey participant JP Rangaswami waxed poetic about IOT’s potential. He writes:

“The proliferation of sensors and actuators will continue. The quality of real-time information that becomes available will take the guesswork out of much of capacity planning and decision-making. This will affect the food you buy and cook and eat; the fuel you use to power yourself, your devices, and your vehicles; the time you take to do things; and, as you learn to live longer, the burden of care will reduce as a result of far better monitoring of, and response to, your physical and emotional state, in terms of healthcare. People will engage with information using all of their senses: touch and feel, sight, sound, smell, and taste—using them in combination, more often than not. Wearable, connected devices will become embedded more and more in our bodies, more like implants, as in the [Google] Glass becoming more like contact lenses.”

As technology evolves, individual parts of the whole move from Want to Need. In the 1980s, mounting a computer on every desktop for most businesses was a Want — “It would be nice..but we can’t afford it.” Fast forward to 2014, and that same computer-less business would measure its shelf life in nanoseconds.

But in between Want and Need is yet another subdivision — theThneed. You’ll recall the Thneed from Dr. Seuss’ cautionary tale The Lorax. The book follows the rise and fall of the ultra-capitalist Once-ler as he ramps up production of thousands of Thneeds (which were apparently the Swiss Army Knife equivalent of a Snuggy).

To make a short story shorter (and let’s just table the fate of the poor Truffula trees for now), the Thneed didn’t start out as a Need. In fact, people didn’t know Thneeds existed until the Once-ler began to manufacture them.

Once word got out (we assume the Suessian denizens had Engadget), the Thneed became the Prime Want (the iPhone, the Galaxy, the Kindle).  People lined up for hours outside Truffula Stores. Before the Thneed could cross over from Want to legitimate Need, however, the Once-ler decimated the environment and resources at “the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows.”

Ultimately, the Thneed occupied an in-between niche, in that, people not only wanted them, but almost “needed them” to live their version of a self-actualized, modern life.

Right now, full deployment of the Internet of Things is a Want — a Wow Factor underscoring what is already the greatest Era of Wow our species has yet encountered. Our economy won’t grind to a halt if every manufacturer fails to employ RFID inventory control; we won’t see a spike in heart attacks for lack of FitBits.

However, as the experts already foresee, the shift from Want to Thneed will come. And by 2025, the Thneed will transition to a Real Need. Our precious planetary resources will require the kind of laser-focused management that only a network of Big Data-driven devices, implants and actuators can likely provide.

To again quote Rangaswami:

“The net effect will be to reduce waste everywhere: in physical flows and logistics, in the movement of people and goods; in logical flows and logistics, in the movement of ideas and information; decisions will be made faster and better, based on more accurate information; prior errors in assumption and planning will be winkled out more effectively.”

From a Transhumanist perspective, the inevitability of the Internet of Things will play a pivotal role in human longevity. Incrementally, we will continue to deploy network-capable devices both near, on and inside our bodies as a means of monitoring, measuring and enhancing our health.

“The population curve … will cause much of the monitoring and assistance by intelligent devices to be welcomed and extended,” said University of North Carolina Professor Paul Jones in the Pew survey. “This is what we had in mind all along—augmented life extension.”

Our challenge: To shape this technology from an “Ain’t It Cool” Want to a sustainable Thneed (and protect those Truffula trees) until The Internet of Things settles into its rightful role as a Need in our journey of enhanced human evolution.



Jason Reagan (@JasonPReagan) is the creator of TransHumaniac, a newbie futurist, tech writer, communications specialist and optimist. He also blogs for (@DroneLife).

This article was republished with Jason's permission.  The original article can be found here

February Startup Social Recap

If you weren't able to attend February's Silicon Hollar Startup Social, at the Greenhouse in downtown Boone, do not fear - here's the recap and you can join us for the next event on March 10th.

Huge shoutouts to everyone that contributed and attended! A big shot out to Danny Wilcox from Appalachian Mountain Brewery, and Tim Herdklotz from Booneshine, for supplying super tasty cold beverages for the evening. Once again, we had a great turnout, with over 40 coders, local entrepreneurs and high country residents who work in, and have a desire to contribute to, high growth technology in Boone. 

How cool was it to hear from the Glance team about how they're planning on disrupting the hiring and recruiting space. Here at Startup High Country, we're super excited about their future and are really looking forward to seeing how these guys progress.  Also, we were fortunate to hear directly from Ralph Wood and see his Teknest iPad case in use.  

The next Silicon Hollar Startup Social will happen on March 10th, 5:30, at the Greenhouse. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Five Character Traits Of Innovation Leaders

By Henry Doss
Managing Partner at Rainforest Strategies LLP

A leader is best when people barely know he exists.  When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say:  We did it ourselves. - Lao Tzu

Leading innovation is a lot like parenting.

As a parent, you generally don’t have any meaningful training or preparation before you start.  You kind of learn as you go, and figure things out as they land in front of you.  Most of the advice you get is off base and not at all relevant to your circumstances.  By the time you’ve accumulated enough experience to be more or less competent, the skills you’ve acquired are mostly irrelevant.  To top it all off, the really important things you did, the things that will really matter somewhere in the future, are totally invisible, hidden away in a flurry of daily actions and drama and living.

You will rarely, if ever, get credit for good parenting.  And you will rarely, if ever, get credit for leading and causing innovation.

At least not if you’re leading the right way.

Becoming a powerful leader of innovative organizations rests in many critical ways on a foundation of ways of being, ways of thinking and ways of conducting yourself.  Self-awareness and insight into yourself as a leader and as a member of a social group will determine how much you contribute to or cause innovation in your world.  As a beginning point for reflection about how to be a leader in innovation, here are five likely characteristics of strong, collaborative leaders and role models:

1:     Don’t do.  Influence.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory. — Leonardo da Vinci

More often than not, you create value and innovation in an organizational system by being a role model for behavior and thinking and accountability, not by calling on organizational authority or lines of command.  You do not simply proclaim “Innovate!” and expect anything to happen.  It is who you are, rather than what you do that will matter.  Doing, making demands, setting goals, checking, measuring, reporting and so on are of course necessary parts of any organization’s operation; but these actions are functions of command and hierarchy, not innovation.   You cannot create or cause innovation through appeals to authority — yours or anyone else’s.  Authority is a rote function of history and hierarchy; influence is a function of character, risk, and caring.  Innovation, and innovation cultures, derive from the latter.  As a leader, cultivate a state of being that is innovation, rather than a set of commands about innovation.

2:     Seed the future, not the present. 

Never let the future disturb you.  You will meet it with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.  — Marcus Aurelius

The demands of organizational accountability tend to be urgent.  Things need to be done now.  Reports finished. Meetings scheduled.  Production quotas met.  These are necessary things, but they have nothing to do with innovation.  The future is where innovation always lives, and sometimes that future is a long way off, uncertain, and really hard to forecast.  Those who wish to be true leaders of innovation must be able to meet urgent, near-term demands, and at the same time serve as role models for the future . . . without worrying too much about the specifics of that future.  The seeds of culture and risk and trust that you sow as an innovation leader of the now will only manifest themselves at some future, unpredictable time and place.    Be in the present; be about the future. You will have lots of company worrying about that next board meeting, or that next quarterly report; but as a leader of innovation you may find your concern for the future to be a lonely spot.  Stay there.

3:   Work for the love of change and improvement, rather than for what you get for yourself:

We set out to save the Shire, Sam and it has been saved – but not for me. — Frodo Baggins, from The Return of the King

Innovation leaders tend to be motivated more by what can happen for the benefit of others and of their organizations, rather than what can directly benefit them.  That’s not to say that you should not have an interest in how you benefit from your own hard work, nor does it mean that you don’t pay attention to your personal welfare.  What this does suggest is that the state of constantly being concerned for other’s benefit, for the growth and success and fulfillment of others in your organization, has an almost magical impact on outcomes — yours and everyone else’s.   Where you want to drive positive change and constant improvement, lead from outside yourself and you’ll see those results.   Lead from your own personal interests, and everyone else will, too.  And that’s a recipe for mistrust, fear and zero-risk states, not innovation.

4:    Take personal risks that will benefit others, even when — especially when! –  those who will benefit may not even know what you’re doing.

Not for ourselves alone are we born.  — Cicero

It seems inevitable that in most — all? — organizations, rewarding is deeply linked to recognizing.  This emphasis on recognition, in turn,  creates a value set that causes individuals to seek recognition.  Work is evaluated in terms of how much recognition any particular action might realize, not in what value that action might have for the organization.  Incentive structures — the great demon of unintended consequences – then create feedback loops that equate being seen and known with being a contributor.  The result:  No one will take risk that might cause someone else to be recognized, or to cause a negative recognition in the event of failure. Which, of course, ensures the long-term failure of any organization.

The positive behavior leaders of innovative organizations want to role model and to embed in their teams is selflessness.  This is a tall order, and one that can feel a bit out of reach.  But the call of being a leader is to be an agent of change, and making things better.  Powerful leaders of innovation will both be, and cause others to be, grounded in taking appropriate risks on behalf of others, rather than themselves.  When this happens, if this happens, organizations are transformed

5:     Share, share, share all the time.

Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality. –  Dalai Lama XIV

Business (all manner of business) is simply the control of information.  But in the case of innovation, there is a trick to that word “control.”  The most powerful driver of new things, and of discovery, and of invention is transparency.  Look around your own organization.  Where you see silos, you’ll see information hoards.  Where you see “departments” that are incentivized by their individual success, you’ll see information hoards.  Where you see individuals seeking recognition or power or advantage, you’ll see information hoards.  And where you see information hoards, you will not see innovation.

Effective leaders are grounded in the notion that “what’s mine is yours.”  They will see information and knowledge as treasure to be shared, to be used by everyone in service to organizational goals.  But most organizations structure their operations, incentives, and metrics in such a way as to discourage the actual sharing of information.  Innovation leaders will be in constant search of ways to open up information flows, of ways to bring individuals and groups together to share and optimize knowledge.  When this happens, when structure and incentive and ways of being encourage open information systems, the result may be rather unpredictable; but it will certainly be innovative.

There is one thing that all five of these leadership characteristics have in common: They are all ways of being, or thinking, or acting.  They are not skill-based; they don’t require any specialized knowledge; and they certainly don’t require any authority.  They simply require a change in how a leader thinks.

And that may be the only leadership assignment that matters.

Henry Doss believes authentic leadership can change the world.  His book, The Rainforest Scorecard, provides a guide to the measurement of innovation in organizations.

The Internet of Things Will Connect Us All

By: Matt Zothner

Imagine driving up to your house and your garage, lights, blinds, and even music are aware that you’re home. The lights turn on and your music picks up right where you left off a second ago in the car. Imagine this kind of technology also connecting your fridge, washing machine, and air conditioning, saving you both energy and money.

Sounds great doesn’t it? It’s called the Internet of Things, and it refers to all electronic devices being connected to the internet, communicating to each other as we go about our daily lives.

So far, there are a handful of products or “things” connected to the internet including cars, TVs,  printers, airport kiosks, etc. Soon, however, the world will be connected through roughly 30 billion devices, according to Gartner.

If you can imagine your house being completely connected, then can you imagine an entire city, a “smart” city, collecting data by itself about anything from traffic logistics to hospital wait times? Or better, imagine a connected public transportation system - buses, parking spots, traffic, maintenance - all improved for a better city life. It sounds ludicrous, but it’s almost here.

The “smart” city is just the beginning of the Internet of Things, or IoT. The ultimate goal, in fact, becomes connecting all electronic devices across the world. When everything is linked, systems can be seen and updated in real-time. This reduces waste and cost for all parties - consumers, companies, and the government.

The technology is still being developed because it faces issues like technical standards, meaning that each device must be able to communicate with all the other ones regardless of manufacturer. Also, the experience needs to be easy for us to work with. That issue may be solved already, since all the information can go to our smartphones and wearable devices.

To some, this sounds like it could turn into a dystopic sci-fi film from the likes of Terminator, and they may be right. It’s true that when more things are connected, there are more security breaches and a larger potential for hacking. But in order for the Internet of Things to truly take off, consumers have to be willing to give their data away. This information won’t be related to personal data, but rather data from the amount of energy you use, health signs from wearables, and much more.

When we can understand our data collected from these devices, we can understand ourselves better. Our patterns, habits, and future trends may stem from the Internet of Things, and it’s an exciting time for a world of connectivity. I’m certain that as our “things” become more connected, we as people do too, and then, hopefully, the world truly becomes one.

Zothner, a junior marketing major from Cary, is an opinion writer