Welcome New Groundworkers

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We would just like to give a big shout out to the two new companies that joined Groundwork Labs yesterday. These new teams are:

Green Shoot: Green Shoot is a cloud and automation services company, focused on using technology to help businesses do more with less. It accelerates businesses by automating complex technologies through intelligent analytics, methodologies and cloud services.

 Healthy Bytes: Healthy Bytes lets you take pictures to log meals and receive personalized feedback and encouragement from a nutrition coach. This platform allows nutrition coaches to achieve better client retention, manage more clients, and monetize their down-time.


Catching Up with Hostel Rocket

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Hostel Rocket makes it possible to search and book any hostel from any device- Rocket Fast.

Hostel Rocket participated in Groundwork Labs in fall of 2013 and was a member of The Startup Factory’s Spring 2014 cohort.  Last week we caught up with co-founder Michelle McBryde…

 GL: Tell us something about your background before you founded Hostel Rocket

HR: Our founders are hostel owners/operators, hostel travelers, and high tech dev. people.

 GL: How did you come up with the idea for Hostel Rocket?

HR: As hostel travelers ourselves, having stayed at thousands of hostels and owned and operated two we realized that there were major problems in the online booking experience for hostels: It currently takes between 4-6 websites or 1-2 hours before being able to book a single hostel accommodation due to the fragmented industry. And good luck booking a hostel on an ipad! Not to mention, it is nearly, if not, impossible to re-arrange travel on the fly or even cancel your reservation without loosing your deposit. So, we decided to simplify the hostel travel/booking experience. Hostel Rocket is a meta-search engine (essentially) for hostel travelers that saves them time and money and allows them to search and book from any device.

GL: What’s your ambition for your company?  Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

HR: Hostel Rocket’s core focus will and always will be- being the absolute best hostel booking site in the universe. When we nail this we have some pretty cool features we would love to build- we will see when the time is right.

GL: What keeps you up at night?

HR: Besides my one year old son- I sleep pretty good. I was able to draw some really amazing and experienced dev/design talent for equity so my burn is really low. Although, a few months back there were some sleepless nights as we ran into some pretty big tech issues surrounding integration with other API’s but, again, due to our CTO and tech talent we were able to move right through them and solidify our place in this market. We also learned why know one has entered this space before- it’s very complex!

 GL: Tell us about your Groundwork Labs experience.  What has had the biggest impact on Hostel Rocket

HR: Groundwork Labs was a great place for me to go when I was a single woman team. I met some great mentors in Groundworks- one of them I have actually had come back and run a leadership course as I grew the team from 1-6. I love the free office space and the ability to walk into John’s office and brainstorm ideas.

GL: What’s next for Hostel Rocket?

HR: Public launch! Revenue!

Welcome New Summer Groundworkers!

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Two Mondays ago, we welcomed five new companies into our “Underground Summer” program. These companies were born within the North Carolina universities, including UNC, NCSU and UNCC. They will be working alongside our current groups and taking advantage of all of the Groundwork Labs mentoring and perks from now until August 16. The teams selected for Underground Summer are:

Contour Medical: Contour Medical is looking to change a medical device that has evolved little since its inception in the 1930s—the rib spreader. By creating a device that changes the way thoracic tissue is engaged, Contour Medical hopes to reduce the incidence of chronic post-operative pain in patients who require thoracic surgery.

Undercover Colors: Undercover Colors is working to create the first technology ever that empowers women to discreetly protect themselves from drug-facilitated sexual assault. To do this, we are developing a clear coat nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs in a spiked drink. Through this product, we hope to reduce the overall rate of drug-facilitated sexual assault by making potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators. We are Undercover Colors.

 Video Collaboratory: The Video Collaboratory is a private, web‑based application that allows small groups of users to upload their own videos or embed YouTube videos for purposes of collaboration. Users discuss by adding text, sketch, or multimedia comments directly at the point of interest within a video. Comments are linked to a specific time point or segment of the video, and timeline markers serve as navigational aids to examine the material. This approach removes the need for a separate text document or email chain to discuss the contents of a video and enhances the specificity and accuracy of the communication

 OmniThrive: OmniThrive builds casual digital games to improve patient education, empowerment, activation, and medication adherence.

501Carbon: 501Carbon is a not-for-profit carbon offset and renewable energy development firm that works with project development partners all over the US and internationally. Their carbon offsets currently come from international Gold Standard projects developed with their partner Umwelt-Projekt-Management headquartered in Munich and are planning for more domestic and international projects.


Groundwork Application Deadline June 8 and Info Session June 4

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The next Groundwork Labs Session will start on July 21. Application deadline is June 8 (changed from June 1). We are accepting teams for both our standard Groundwork Labs program as well as more experienced teams for our Groundwork++ program.

Groundwork Labs will be holding an information session for those interested in applying to Groundwork Labs on Wednesday June 4 from 4-5 pm at Groundwork Labs. John Austin, Groundwork’s director, as well as several of our current teams will be there to answer questions. Please respond to if you plan on attending.


Welcome New Groundworkers!

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On Monday we welcomed seven new teams to Groundwork Labs.  With them, we’ve started two new things – they are the first to start as a cohort, and 2 of the teams are the first to be part of what we are tentatively calling “Groundwork++” – experienced entrepreneurs (Brian Jenkins and Sylvain Dufour) who have joined Groundwork to both help mentor other teams as to fill some gaps in their own company.

  • 451 Technologies - Matt Womble, Tony Pulido.  451 empowers any community to identify, coordinate and respond to safety and emergency issues.
  • AdvisorPool - Tom Parker, Jeff Angtuaco – AdvisorPool provides automated marketing tools to help execute an overall client relationship building strategy.
  • AnyCloud - Brian Jenkins.  AnyCloud aggregates content that consumers have scattered across multiple email, social, and cloud services for easy access.
  • Farmzie - Griffe Youngleson.  Farmzie empowers local farmers to create an online FarmStand, connecting them to local buyers while receiving recommendations based on their geographic area
  • Fotoswipe - Sylvain Dufour. FotoSwipe is the easiest way to instantly share photos on your smartphone with anyone near you; all you have to do is “swipe” the photos from your phone’s screen to your friends’ screens.
  • Fusion3 Design - Chris Padgett, David Padgett. Fusion3 designs and manufactures high-performance 3D printers at 1/10 the price of printers with similar specs.
  • Mission 100% - Janice Smith. Mission 100% captures highly effective instruction on film and edits the footage into an online library of best practices that can be used to train teachers nationwide.

Looking ahead – in June we will have four teams from the local universities join us as part of our Underground Summer program, and our next “regular” cohort of teams will start in early July.  Deadline for applying to the July session will be June 1.

UP Global’s NEXT Program coming in April

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The Up Global NEXT program for startup teams is happening in the Triangle for the second time this April.

 NEXT is an intensive and selective  mentor driven pre-accelerator program that will prepare startups for an accelerator or investor.  Using hands-on mentorship, NEXT helps committed early stage startup teams find the path to achieve product market fit.

During NEXT companies will test their startup idea and team, get weekly mentorship, and grow their network of startup experts and other founders.   NEXT consists of 3 hour weekly sessions for five weeks. Teams are expected to hustle outside the session and complete a set of deliverables each week.

It’s a great opportunity for folks who may not yet be able to commit full time to a program like Groundwork Labs or an accelerator like The Startup Factory.

The best NEXT teams will get invited to the NEXT First Look Forum – a global demo day event with accelerators, investors, and media.

NEXT is backed by Startup Weekend, Google for Entrepreneurs, Techstars, and the Global Accelerator Network.

The NEXT organizers for the Triangle are John Austin, Director of Groundwork Labs, and Mital Patel, Attorney at Triangle Business Law.

Mentors for this session will be Todd Mosier, CTO at Zone Five Software, David Baxter, founder of Big Pixel, Bill Bing, former founder of Loyalese, Karl Rectanus, co-founder of L(e)arn, and Tim Huntley, Entrepreneur in Residence at The Startup Factory and founder of Ganymeade Software.

The program will run for the five Wednesday evenings in April from 6-9 at HQ Raleigh.

Meet the Instructor Information sessions will be offered at

  • Groundwork Labs, American Underground 334 Blackwell St., Suite B005, Durham 12-1 March 13

  • HQ Raleigh, xxx Hillsborough St. , Raleigh noon March 21

Detailed information and application


Groundwork Labs – 2 Years In

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February marks Groundwork Labs’ second anniversary and it’s a great time to acknowledge the major achievements of our companies during the last year.

Our mission is the same as NC IDEA, the non-profit organization who funds us:  helping technology startups in North Carolina.  Unlike an accelerator, we don’t make an investment or take an equity stake in the companies we help.   So we measure our success by the revenue and number of jobs created by the entrepreneurs (not the companies) who have been in Groundwork.  It’s too soon for either of those metrics to be meaningful, and so in the short term we are measuring the steps along the way:  seed investments, grants, and acceptance into accelerators.

We don’t expect every company that comes through Groundwork to succeed.  We have helped 48 companies along with seven university teams who participated in our 2013 summer Underground program.  About a quarter of those companies have ceased operating and another quarter are struggling.  The other half range from “too soon to tell” to “making great progress”,  with about 10 of those achieving some significant milestones this year.

Two companies made significant progress in 2013.  Klever (Phil Verghis) joined Groundwork in February,  raised a seed round of $350,000 in the summer, launched their knowledge sharing platform in September, and now have customers on four continents. Groundfloor (Brian Dally and Nick Bhargava), a platform for crowdlending to commercial real estate developers raised a seed round of $165,000 and launched their first project in Atlanta.  Both Phil and Brian are experienced guys who you don’t think of as your typical Groundwork entrepreneur – and are awesome members of the Groundwork community.  They both helped the other teams in Groundwork as much as we helped them – but while at Groundwork got some critical bits of advice and contacts.

Three companies were accepted into accelerators in 2013 (bringing our total to five).  Home Wellness (Colby Swanson and Eric Calhoun) was selected for the fall 2013 Startup Factory class, and in addition, was a Cherokee Challenge winner.  Sqord, one of the first Groundwork companies back in 2012 was in the fall 2013 TechStars Chicago cohort (to be fair, we hardly knew what we were doing when Coleman Greene was in Groundwork, so we take very little credit for his success!).  Gema (Joanna Rogerson and Jon Guida) participated in the Fall 2013 Healthbox Nashville accelerator, having pivoted  the use of their technology from consumer merchandising to medical.

Two companies won NC IDEA grants in 2013.  FokusLabs (Rich Brancaccio) is developing a device to help ADHD and autistic kids stay on task.  He will use the funds to build 100 prototypes and do a study of the effectiveness of the device.  SnapYeti (Justin Beard) has launched a photo contest platform that enables business to incentivize customers and promote their brand with something they are already doing today – snapping pictures.

On the product front GoGown (Ginny Porowski) signed a license deal with Edison Nation Medical in Charlotte.  Splitmo launched their second game, SnakeLife, and Leaselytics, Cellbreaker, and Medlio all had the initial release of their products.

All told, following their Groundwork experience, 15 of our companies have raised $1.4 million in equity funding and been awarded $1.1 million in grants.  Nice milestones along the way, but these are not our ultimate objectives – we will be measuring those in the years to come.

Groundwork is always on the lookout for startups at all stages who are looking for a collaborative community in which they can test their idea and reach their next goal.  Give us a shout if you think you are interested.

What’s holding you back from applying to Groundwork Labs?

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I spoke with an entrepreneur this week who had recently relocated to the area and asked why she hadn’t applied to Groundwork.  She said she didn’t think it was a  fit because she had been through an accelerator in another town.  I said, ARRGH – we’re not getting our message out – you’d be a great fit!

We are not an accelerator – we don’t make an investment and we don’t take an equity stake.  Our only objective is to help startups in North Carolina.  Like an accelerator we do provide mentoring, help, networking, but we are a community where we tune our program to what you need to make your next step.

So who are good candidates?

  • Relocated entrepreneurs who need some help settling in– we’ve helped several of them – Rob Witman at Splitmo is one
  • Entrepreneurs who have been in another accelerator but could still use some advice and connections –  David Brooks and Lori Mehen at Medlio had been through Dreamit in Philadelphia
  • Experienced folks who are contemplating their next big idea – Brian Dally at Groundfloor and Phil Verghis at Klever are two great examples.  In their time at Groundwork they helped the other teams as much as we helped them, but Groundwork provided critical help where they needed it – and both companies have since raised seed rounds.
  • The first time entrepreneur who you most associate with a program like ours
  • Sole founders who are looking for a co-founder – the Lab is a great platform from which you can find the right person
  • Entrepreneurs trying to decide whether or not they can take the leap.  Several of our companies have had consulting gigs or day jobs to pay the bills and were half-time in Groundwork – Fokus Labs and Adada, among others.
  • Companies who are planning on applying for an NC IDEA grant – five of our alumni have won NC IDEA grants, 12 have been finalists, and 17 semi-finalists – all much higher percentages than the overall applicant pool.
  • Companies that want to bootstrap – we aren’t going to take equity

The general guideline is your company needs to have a technology component, a scaleable business idea, a desire to do a lean startup and customer discovery, and a clear need that Groundwork can help you address.  We have “rolling admissions” – we review applications every month and  1-4 teams start each month.

Have a look and see if Groundwork can help your startup.

iFanKind looks to raise $50,000 from IndieGoGo Campaign

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Breaking News!  iFanKind’s “More than 6″ IndieGoGo Campaign is now live!

Did you know that just 6% of all giving is done by corporations?  iFanKind’s goal is to raise this amount to $32 billion by 2020.  Here’s how it works:

By registering with iFanKind users are able to earn points through activities they are already used to doing like online gaming, recycling, or even simply getting coffee.

These points are accumulated and can then be redeemed for prizes like autographed memorabilia, concert tickets and even meetings with your favorite celebrities.

Companies and brands sponsor iFanKind and 100% of the sponsorship dollars that they spend on iFanKind are donated to charity.

There are 18 days left to help iFanKind reach their $50,000 goal through their IndieGoGo Campaign.  Sign up on their website and share it with your friends to help them reach their goal!

Proxy Army – work or play?

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Tristan and Allen  claim they aren’t goofing off – this is “work” – getting ready to demo at Escapist Expo next week…


Groundwork Teams Demo @ CED Tech Venture

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Groundwork Labs was well represented among the demo companies at CED’s Tech Venture conference this week.  Eight of the approximately 50 teams were current Groundwork teams or alumni: Able Device, Dibs Rewards, FokusLabs, GROUNDFLOOR, Home Wellness, Klever, Leasalytics, and Pluribus Systems.


Brad Halferty and Hugh Butler show off Dibs’ customer loyalty solution


Phil Verghis talks about Klever’s Knowledge Management software


Rob Whitley from Leasalytics in the lightning round


Dibs Rewards’ Brad Halferty makes a point during the lightning round


Brian Dally from GROUNDFLOOR serves up some pie

New Groundwork Teams

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We’ve had four new teams start at Groundwork Labs this week:

MyGivingBook  – (Brian Baucom) MyGivingBook allows you to stay in touch with friends and family by sharing gifts and wishes, donating to a loved one’s favorite charity, or providing details to complete a shopping transaction with the push of a button.

Rompn   (David Sharek and Sam Christie) Rompn lets you notify your friends, so they can join you in your near-future activities, thereby removing the burden of the RSVP and eliminating the potential awkwardness in the invitation process.

Hostel Rocket  (Michelle McBryde)  Hostel Rocket is a hostel booking engine offering zero booking fees, social travel tools, and we explore space.

 ADADA  (David Chaboneau) ADADA provides a horizontally scalable relational and graph database technology with unparalleled query performance. If you’ve got a lot of data and not a lot of time, you need ADADAbase.


Welcome New Groundwork Teams

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Groundwork Labs is packed this summer – we have seven Underground Summer teams from the local universities, we have five companies nearing the end of their time in the Labs, and on Monday we welcomed four new teams:

All9s – (Arturo Fagundo, Beau Epperly, Ashwin Manekar) All9s is building a disaster-recovery workflow software product that recovers hosted-software applications and associated infrastructure across multiple cloud environments, including open-source environments.

Leasalytics – (Rob Whitley, Jack Wang, John Watlington) - Leasalytics is a SaaS company that provides leasing performance analytics. Leasalytics allows residential property management companies to track, place and retain leasing agents.

Neurospire (Jake Stauch) - Neurospire uses brain-imaging technology to do neuormarketing. Neurospire  just one an NC IDEA grant and one of the perks of winning a grant is a spot in Groundwork Labs. – (Melvin Hines, Alex Pritchett, Monique McNellie) – is an online tutoring marketplace that connects certified tutors around the world with high school students. We supplement this support with advanced metrics that help school administrators see and correct trends over time.

Underground Summer 2013

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On Monday we  kicked off  “Underground Summer” for seven companies who were selected from the business plan competitions at Duke, NCCU, NCSU, and UNC.  They will get be working alongside our current group of five companies and taking advantage of all of the Groundwork Labs mentoring and perks from now until August 9.

The teams selected for Underground Summer are:

Cellbreaker (Jon Colgan, Michael Burroughs; UNC) – Cellbreaker’s analytics software enables user to consistently control user-provider fit for TV, phone, and internet accounts.

CrowdTunes (Davis Gossage, Joe Bartell; Duke)- Crowdtunes is a platform that makes the jukebox social – crowds control music in bars through cumulative, collective song bids.

GoPhish (Winston Howes, Jordan Reeves; UNC) – GoPhish is browser-based anti-phishing software that offers the first user-friendly and proactive approach to phishing attacks.

Ideal Serendipity Devices (Dawda Janneh; NCCU) – Ideal Serendipity Devices develops merchandising devices that apply technology to time-consuming inventory problems faced by grocery stores.

Judith and James (Sara Adam; Duke) – Judith and James is an apparel company that turns a simple clothing purchase into a visible act of charity. We manufacture our clothing ethically, providing opportunity and stability to vulnerable women in Kenya.

Soutenu Dancewear  (Suzanne Matthews; North Carolina State) – Soutenu Dancewear is creating a line of dancewear that incorporates protective brace-like support while maintaining the look and feel of today’s dance tights.

New Groundwork Teams

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We’ve had five new teams start at Groundwork in the last few weeks:

Dibs Rewards

Dibs helps small businesses build their customer list, publish revenue-generating promotions and keep the cash. Merchants receive payment from their promotions immediately and directly, so they never have to run another daily deal.


FokusLabs is developing a small device to help increase the focus and attention of children and adults with Autism and ADHD.



SnapYeti is a fun, free place to win cash, prizes and awesome discounts on the things you love by participating in weekly photo contests.

NCCU’s team selected for Underground Summer

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The latest team to join our Underground Summer program is Ideal Serendipity Devices (Dawda Jennah) from North Carolina Central’s Eagles Venture Challenge.   Dawda has patent pending technology that dramatically improves the efficiency of inventory management at retail stores.

Underground Summer begins May 20 and will bring winning teams from Duke, North Carolina Central, North Carolina State, and UNC-Chapel Hill into the Groundwork Labs program alongside our current teams.

NCSU eGames Summer Underground Winners

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IMG_20130429_162408_244Yesterday at North Carolina State’s eGames competition we announced the two latest teams who will be joining our Summer Underground Program – Wolf Reflex (John Baker, Evan Connell, and Kyle Lunsford) and Soutenu Dancewear (Suzanne Matthews).  Wolf Reflex is building an ultrasonic proximity system that will make motorcycling safer.  Soutenu is creating a new line of dancewear that incorporates ankle support into the fabric.

Summer Underground begins May 20 and will bring winning teams from Duke, North Carolina Central, North Carolina State, and UNC-Chapel Hill into the Groundwork Labs program alongside of our current teams.



Three Winners at Carolina Challenge

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstead of selecting just one team from the Carolina Challenge for Summer Underground, we wound up picking two.  You can say I’m indecisivve or you can say it was just because I’m a UNC guy, but there were some great teams in the competition and if we wind up being a little crowded this summer, well, the more the merrier.  The two winning teams are GoPhish (Winston Howes, Ian Howes, Jackson Reeves, Jordan Reeves, and Ben Clark) and Cellbreaker (Jon Colgan, Christy Colgan, and Mike Burroughs).

We’ll be picking teams from Duke, NCCU, and NCSU in the coming weeks.

photo 1

And, to top it off, one of our current Groundwork Labs teams, Jobbertunity (Amy Vaduthalakuzh, Ameya Kulkarni, and Michael Schmidt ) took home the third prize of $1,000 in the Faculty/Staff/Alumni category.
Congratulations to all!

Underground Summer 2013 – First Pick Tonight

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cc gl ticketUnderground Summer is an opportunity for student-led entrepreneurial teams to get the full Groundwork Labs experience this summer.  We are selecting teams from the business plan competitions at Duke, UNC, NCCU, and NCSU.

We will be making our first selection tonight at UNC’s Carolina Challenge.

Spinouts from Groundwork Labs

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Not every idea and team that come through Groundwork Labs is successful, but sometimes even those outcomes wind up with happy endings that add to the Triangle’s startup ecosystem.

I had a conversation yesterday with Mark Kelly, co-founder of Taggs, one of the new Triangle Startup Factory companies, and I asked him to share his story…

A Story of Startups Spinning out of Groundwork Labs

Mark Kelley


In April 2012, the Wanderful mobile app team found its way to Groundwork Labs after a successful finish at Triangle Startup Weekend. The Wanderful mobile app project ultimately fizzled when we couldn’t identify a clear path to revenue, but Groundwork Labs gave us the opportunity to build, test, and validate. Though we eventually abandoned the project, Groundwork Labs was the catalyst that brought five local entrepreneurs together and created lasting relationships that led to successful startup spinoffs.

The Back Story

Wanderful built a mobile application and website that aggregates historical data from local sources like OpenDurham and TriangleWiki. The app presents the data to mobile users who can freely explore the Durham history and architecture around them.

Working with the Durham Arts Council, OpenDurham, and the Museum of Durham History, the team officially launched the mobile application as a sponsor of Durham’s 38th Centerfest Arts Festival. The launch was successful in that the technology was solid. A couple hundred people at Centerfest downloaded and used the application for the weekend event. But the team realized there wasn’t a clear path to revenue. We couldn’t engineer a compelling pivot, so we decided to move on.

New Startups Formed

Through our experience working together in Groundwork Labs, the teammates of Wanderful went on to form or accelerate other startups with greater economic potential than Wanderful.

  • Mark Kelley and Norm Santos teamed up to accelerate Taggs Social Image Analytics (, which is currently in Triangle Startup Factory.
  • Todd Mosier and Aaron Averill joined forces to grow, which successfully serves tens of thousands of fitness buffs worldwide with Sporttracks.
  • Carl Licata left his full-time job to become a freelance developer under his own entity the Friendly Pixel Co.

The former Wanderful team continues to keep close contact. It was Groundwork Labs that gave us the space, time, and ability to come together and form relationships that led us to build or grow companies in the Triangle.

Just your average day in the Labs

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After starting the day with some hard work, we enjoyed a couple diversions around lunchtime…

First, we take a little BP over at the DBAP


John leads off…


Rob up next


Kristian bats third

Then, a little poker – we are testing Splitmo’s new Poker Night app for Rob and Phil…


And after lunch, we get back to being serious – Idea Fund Partners’ Lister Delgado talks about lessons learned while fund raising…


New Groundwork Teams

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Once again, we have been tardy updating the blog and welcoming the new teams who have joined in the last couple months…

Dancing E

The goal of Dancing E is to create a knowledge sharing culture within an organization, and to make it stick.

We are building a technology-agnostic platform around a set of knowledge sharing best practices used by 1,000 high-tech service companies. Our goal is to simplify this, open source the content, and make it available and accessible to other organizations.


Kiynetic is a cloud-based service management, collaboration, messaging and e-commerce platform for the watch industry. It allows the customer, jewelry store, manufacturers and Watchmaker/technician to collaborate in real time.


Jobbertunity is a complete job search management toolkit – think of it as your own personal assistant for all things related to job–search. From prioritizing target companies, to tracking contacts and jobs, to reminding you about follow–ups, Jobbertunity helps you get organized, and land that dream job.

Context Clarity

ContextClarity is a software platform targeted at increasing the fundraising efficiency of university development offices. We provide these offices with a mechanism to monetize both previously unsolicited wealthy individuals and a broader portion of the school’s alumni donor base.


Synstreamms builds applications based on powerful “pattern-of-life” technologies.  These technologies learn targeted behaviors and detect changes in those behaviors indicative of specific events.  The first application is for a mobile app that can be used to prevent texting while driving.


TimeGrab is the Nike+ for productivity. We help individuals and teams achieve more, faster.


Catching up With Gema Touch

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Gema Touch was one of the very early Groundwork Labs teams back in March of 2012.  Gema Touch enables mobile communication capabilities with any printed surface via a proprietary touch sensitive RFID tag.  Gema Touch revolutionizes mobile connectivity with nearly any surface in an easy to use and affordable format.Shortly after joining Groundwork they won an NC IDEA grant which enabled them to produce their first prototypes and are now gaining momentum as they demonstrate their product to brands. In the second of a series of posts about Groundwork Labs alumni, co-founders Joanna Rogerson and Brent Fagg talked about where Gema Touch is today.

GL: Tell us something about your background before you co-founded Gema Touch.

We met in graduate school at NCSU and after graduation both went to work at RTI in the area of technology commercialization.   Our third team member, Jon Guida joined us after meeting Joanna while playing competitive beach volleyball

GL: How did you come up with the idea for Gema Touch?

All through grad school we were bouncing one idea after another off of each other. The idea around Gema Touch was poised to impact fields that we had been working in for the past few years together, so it was something we were very interested in and more importantly, at the time, could afford to build ourselves.

GL: What’s your ambition for NewCo?  Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

In 5 years, we want to extend digital communication to everything we touch. It’s a big goal, but we think the mobile internet is bigger than the devices that fit in our pockets. Brands talk so much about cross-platform activity – from web, to mobile – well we want to extend that even further to physical in point of sale and point of service to really make an impact.

GL: What keeps you up at night?

Thinking about our answers for blog posts :)

GL: Tell us about your Groundwork Labs experience.  What has had the biggest impact on Gema Touch?

Groundworks Labs was the first big win for the company. No, there was no money changing hands but it was such an important validation point and it gave us a cohort to have some accountability to. I remember going to tell John Austin about the idea, after we had vetted it a bit, and he telling us we could join the lab. As he walked out to get a couple of keys for us, we literally hi-fived behind his back. (Yes, John, we did that). Now that we are ex-pats we can say that the biggest impact for us were two things: The first was John Austin – and no we are not just saying that because he asked us to respond to these questions. This is a people game and he was an awesome first connector. The second was the location, at a certain point entrepreneurs need to get out of their “garage” and be around other entrepreneurs. There was no better place than Groundworks and the Underground at ATC.

GL: What’s next for Gema Touch?

We have successfully built a beta version of the product, so now we can begin testing with customers. And of course fundraising!

Welcome New Groundworkers…

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We have had a tremendous amount of help from members of the Triangle startup community  - mentors, speakers, advisors, and interns – and we are delighted to welcome a couple folks who are hanging around the Labs and providing more-than-the-average-share-of-advice to our companies…

Brian Dally is contemplating his next big idea and while doing that is helping startups in the Triangle.  He was most recently a GM at, where he created Republic Wireless, launching the brand onto a trajectory to become a $100+ million business.

Scott Moody recently re-located to the Triangle.  He founded AuthenTec in Melbourne, FL in 1998, took the company public, and then was acquired by Apple.  He has now founded First Talent Ventures and is advising startups throughout the Southeast and Rwanda.

Catching Up With SyncHear

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SyncHear finished up at Groundwork Labs in September. We got an update from co-founders Kevin Szogas and Steve Friedman when they dropped by the Labs this week.

GL: Let’s start with your elevator pitch…

Steve: SyncHear makes and sells a Bluetooth device that enables customers of establishments with multiple TV screens to listen to the audio on their Smartphone.  Patrons of sports bars, restaurants, health clubs or airports can now enjoy audio from whichever screen they choose. Through the mobile app, ads are served to the users which provides revenue that is shared between SyncHear and the owner of the establishment.

GL: Tell us something about your backgrounds and history before you founded SyncHear

Kevin: Both Steve and I are serial entrepreneurs. Steve has started and exited successfully two business’s. I started and ran a marketing company for 11 years, joined a dotcom venture at early stages, and ran a small web/data integration company.  My current company is Group 31 Communications.  Steve is a life long Giant fan and I am a life long Patriot fan which has led to some difficult SuperBowls as of late.

GL: How did you come up with the idea for SyncHear?

Kevin: I was watching a Jets game when I really wanted to watch a Patriots game.  I realized I was walking around with a speaker in my pocket and there must be a way to make the TV transmit audio to those speakers.

GL: What’s your ambition for SyncHear?  Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Steve: 5 year plans didn’t work for the Russians so I am not going to hazard a guess. I believe when implementing a disruptive technology the market/audience and competitor reaction will play a larger factor in our timeline than my expectations. With that being said, optimally we would like to build a brand as quickly as possible, utilizing large partner deals (think Buffalo Wild Wings).  Our platform will change how owners interact with their customers.  Once we have those customers and that brand, ultimately we would like to license the technology to TV manufacturers and have them include in the TV sets.

GL: What keeps you up at night?

Kevin: On a good night my girlfriend! (sorry I always wanted to use that line). But with regards to the business, the million dollar question: will users continually use SyncHear like they do Google MAPS or banking programs. Will the service be easy and compelling enough that they continue to come back?. Will they come back?.

GL: Tell us about your Groundwork Labs experience.  What has had the biggest impact on SyncHear?

Steve: Our experience was fantastic! The guidance, exposure, sense of community and energy were an integral part of getting us to the point we are at today. When we become successful we will certainly point to the Underground as having played a large part in our success.

GL: What’s next for SyncHear?

Steve: We are about to close our first round on financing.  Our prototype will be delivered in January and we will begin trials immediately. In store marketing is underway and we are finalizing our rollout strategy and metrics to measure success.

GL: Anything else?

Kevin: No one builds a company in a silo and no founder is the sole reason that a new venture is successful. I believe Durham is putting into place a formula that will lead to many success stories and companies rising from the ashes. However, my concern is the somewhat limited amount of available capital. Many people kick the tires but collectively we all need to attract more investors and build a success story that will bring the true risk takers into the community.

Groundwork Labs Partners with Universities for Underground Summer 2013

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We are really excited to announce Underground Summer 2013, a special program beginning in May for a select group of entrepreneurs at five North Carolina universities.  A team from each school will be chosen to participate in the Groundwork Labs program, enabling the student teams to work alongside the other companies in Groundwork Labs.

Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest University each will select a team from their business plan competitions to join Groundwork Labs.

The selected teams will receive the same mentoring, marketing, legal, financial, and business plan advice from industry experts, and free office space that is offered to companies selected for Groundwork Labs.

Student entrepreneurs should contact their respective schools regarding participation.

Welcome New Groundworkers

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We have been remiss in not updating our blog in a looong time, six teams have recently joined Groundwork Labs:


Evitca seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle by providing a unified environment, flexible toolset, and advanced analytics for all fitness stakeholders. Whether it is peers, professionals, or organizations, our service leverages web and mobile technologies to make it convenient for users to build knowledge, track progress, and connect with motivators.

Global Oasis Technologies

Burgeoning populations and global urbanization are driving an ever-greater demand for safe, centralized water supplies, but the diversity of key pollutants requires that water quality be monitored using a vast array of techniques—a costly, labor intensive, and time consuming endeavor. Global Oasis Technologies addresses this issue by combining advances in medical diagnostics with the use of microbes as bioindicators, enabling rapid and comprehensive water quality assessment on a single platform.

Home Wellness

HomeWellness is a comprehensive platform helping homeowners with energy efficient and sustainable home renovation offered as a corporate benefit. As an employee, they get access to unbiased information, interactive tools, and access to discounts and incentives regarding sustainable home renovation.


iFanKind enables you and everything you do each day to matter more. Register on the site or mobile app for unique celebrity experiences and fan-related rewards earned by completing actions you already enjoy. The site’s ad revenue is shared with the worthy causes you care about, creating a fun way to make your lasting, ‘social good’ impact for free.


MyEasyBNB is a platform for small Bed and Breakfasts to easily create a web presence complete with reservation and bookings.


Splitmo creates mobile apps that leverage dual screen technology, allowing users to share media in a whole new way. Its first app, Air Show lets consumers and business professionals spontaneously share their iPhone/iPad presentations and photos wirelessly on an HDTV screen while using the mobile device as an on-the-fly preview and editing screen. Splitmo is focused on developing game-changing products for consumers and businesses, leveraging mobile devices and home entertainment systems like HDTVs, game consoles and set-top-boxes.

Interview with AIP

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Artificial Intelligence Patents finished up their last week in Groundwork Labs and I caught up with CEO Liat Belinson to share what she has been working on. AIP is developing a patent search engine that uses context rather than only text.

What has your company been working on recently?

We have been extensively working on business development while forming new strategic relationships with world-leading innovating companies. To support and enhance our business development efforts we are also engaged in advancing our patent search engine, and add novel features as raised by our existing and potential new clients.

What has been the most difficult part so far?

The most difficult part has been to find the right balance between business and technology development. This has been especially challenging in light of our tight financial and human resources.

How has your time at Groundwork Labs been?

Groundwork had a tremendous impact on AIP, on both technical and business side. On the technical side, Groundwork put us in touch with its vast network of developers. This helped use speed up our technology development. In addition to helping access the comprehensive network of technical experts we greatly benefited from a close supervision by the Grounwork’s heads (most notably, John Austin). The weekly meeting and the “open door” policy allowed us to identify and focus on the optimal market segment, as well as contact us with leading business people in the most relevant space where our offering is mostly valuable.

What’s next?
The next stage in AIP development is to sign at least four long-term contracts with large clients we have been talking to in the past few month. We are hoping that signing these contracts would put AIP on the right path of growth.

Groundwork goes to the Ball Park

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Work hard and play hard is the mentality of groundworkers. Last week we headed to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to watch the Durham Bulls take on the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the game from the comfort of the Goodmon Suite and take a break from the summer heat between innings.

Groundwork labs focuses on working with teams to improve their business and provide direction with a range of resources. More importantly, it is building the community of entrepreneurs through events like going to see the Durham Bulls and spending time outside the office. Perks like these are what makes teams in Groundwork Labs successful and the expereience great.

But seriously though, who can turn down free food and beverages while watching the Durham Bulls?

New Additions to Groundwork Labs

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Three new teams have recently started their time at Groundwork Labs, here is more about them:

Able Device

Able Device is dedicated to fueling the growth of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications by reducing the cost, complexity, and risk associated with developing embedded wireless applications. With SIMbae™, the company’s patented technology and powerful toolkit; M2M applications can be embedded and executed on a mobile operator’s SIM card rather than an external CPU. This approach revolutionizes the wireless architecture of purpose-built machines such as utility meters and security systems resulting in cost savings, ease of development, and future-proofing of the M2M application.

SIMbae, distributed by M2M communication service providers and mobile operators, is used by application developers to power M2M solutions that range from remote monitoring, point-of-sale, security, and more.


iMedia Revenue

iMedia Revenue brokers the powerful ecosystem between local news providers, advertisers, and consumers. Our cloud-based SaaS solutions manage both new media news publishing and the local digital advertising marketplace, transforming today’s struggling news agencies into digital media publishers and returning them to their historic role as the primary source for local business advertising.


Pluribus Systems

Pluribus Systems makes e-commerce safer and easier for everyone by generating single-use credit/debit card numbers directly from the consumer’s computer or mobile device. These numbers work through the existing payment system requiring no changes by the merchant.

Pluribus builds a bridge to the payment system everyone wants: something easy to use, easy to manage, and cryptographically secure.