10 Startups to Watch in 2017


This week Upstate Business Journal is highlighting 10 startups to watch in 2017. Some are staffed by reformed hackers. Others by university researchers. But all are a part of the Upstate startup community.

It’s not an all-inclusive list by any means, but it is one that outlines how these companies started, what they do, and some of the names behind them.


Keep your eye on these enterprises in the coming year as they carve out their space in the Upstate and beyond.



Online Education | Greenville

In 2011, twin brothers Paul and Mark Johnson founded Pathwright. The former hackers have created a simple content management system that allows educators to create, distribute, and sell online education courses.

According to Paul Johnson, the goal of Pathwright is to provide educators with access to students across the world. The content management system should allow educators to earn their salary without institutions.

Pathwright users can create a single course or build an entire online school as well as train employees and customers. Each course comes with a built-in social network for every student, allowing them to share notes and discuss questions.

The brothers have decided to forgo fundraising; instead they are relying on their own personal finances to grow Pathwright. Their team has grown to about 12 employees, and Pathwright is used by more than 200,000 people across the world.



Worker Safety | Clemson

Modjoul was started last year to address the fact that workplace injuries cost U.S. companies $62 billion per year, according to the company’s CEO Jen Thorson.

The startup has created a wearable belt that uses sensors and controls to track the safety and performance of employees in the construction, manufacturing, and health care industries. The sensors, which transmit encrypted data to the cloud, were created by Clemson University professor Goutam Koley.

Modjoul, which has 10 employees, has attracted a strong leadership team. Eric Martinez Jr. joined the company as president and CEO last year. He was formerly the global head of claims and operations at American Insurance Group Inc., a multinational insurance corporation with a market cap of about $69 million.

The company expects production to begin in March or April of this year.

VRM Labs


Bioengineering | Clemson

VRM Labs, which was founded in 2013 at Clemson University, has created technology to produce a new natural antioxidant called Prot-X, which is a cost-effective substitute for synthetic preservatives used in the pet and animal feed industries.

The antioxidant has been proven to safely extend the shelf life of pet and animal feed by at least nine years, according to co-founder Alexey Vertegel, a professor of bioengineering at Clemson University.

Vertegel founded VRM Labs with co-worker Vladimir Reukov. Both professors specialize in oxidative stress, enzyme- and protein-based antioxidants, and natural antioxidant-based therapeutics.

VRM Labs is now seeking to raise $1.9 million in Series A funding for a full-scale production. In December, VRM Labs received a $200,000 investment from SC Launch to “scale their manufacturing process, gain regulatory approval, and begin pilot sales” of a substitute for synthetic preservatives, according to a news release.

Really Good Emails


Marketing | Greenville

Matthew Smith, founder of design agency Fathom and Draft, has started and sold several businesses, worked as the chief creative director for various startups, and led projects for clients like The Gates Foundation.

In 2014, Smith founded Really Good Emails, a gallery of more than 1,500 email designs divided into about 100 categories. Smith and three other designers have been collecting and curating the gallery based on design quality, mobile responsiveness, and more. The gallery has become popular among designers and email marketers.

“Our goal is to become the center of everything email, and we are becoming that,” said Smith. “We will become the answer to the questions: Where do I go to find the best resources for email, the best templates? How do I choose a provider? How do I learn how to use email better to sell our product?”

A self-funded company, Really Good Emails hasn’t accepted any investments to date. However, Smith said the startup would be open to outside funding in the future.

Ellipsis Technologies


Cybersecurity | Greenville

Ellipsis Technologies has developed web-security technology called The Human Presence. The software can tell the difference between a human and botnet traffic in milliseconds, reducing the need for captchas — those annoying human-detection tests used to deter “bots” from accessing websites.

Instead of the user having to enter anything to tell the website he’s human, Ellipsis uses data it can track around the site. In a passive way, the technology uses algorithms to determine what looks like a human and what looks like a bot.

Ellipsis was founded in 2014 by Matt Dunbar, who is also the managing director of the Upstate Carolina Angel Network; Bill West, a managing partner at The Atlantic Partners; Gnoso Inc. founder and CEO Peter Waldschmidt; and ProActive Technology founder Andrew Kurtz as CTO.

The Human Presence is already being used by ScanSource and other companies across South Carolina.

Package InSight


Packaging | Clemson

In 2009, a group of university researchers began development of an immersive consumer laboratory to quantify packaging design.

Package InSight is a Clemson University startup and partner that licenses the methodology, technology, and state-of-the-art retail environment to provide clients with quality data concerning package performance. The company performs shelf impact studies to determine how well a product stands out in a particular product category. Package InSight also offers performance studies to show how a company’s products and materials affect the bottom line.

All studies are reviewed by university faculty, tested according to established methods and protocols, and use the latest technology in biometric devices such as mobile eye tracking.

The company partners with Clemson’s consumer experience laboratory at the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics.

Greenville entrepreneur Andrew Hurley and his team also built The Packaging School, an online education platform based on short videos, quizzes, and modules.



Construction | Greenville

Greenville-based GoCorp aims to help owners of concrete construction companies succeed with software that determines exactly what job costs are for every project. Employees enter information in real time on the time spent on each project, which can then be measured against project estimates. The data collected through GoCorp’s PayCrew software can be used to plan, make mid-project adjustments, and reward productive behavior.

The company is developing SkillWorks, designed to work with PayCrew. SkillWorks standardizes skills required to complete each cost code and defines a company standard for training required.

During the daily time approval process, each supervisor uses the SkillWorks rating system to evaluate each employee’s ability to complete the tasks they worked on and then approve the time worked. The results of the evaluation can be viewed daily by everyone to create conversation that accelerates training.

Steve Garber, with more than 25 years of strategic planning experience, co-founded PayCrew with Lee Clark. Both had worked at Garber Bros. Precision Concrete, which Garber founded in 1984 and where Clark managed the company’s financial responsibilities.



Communication | Greenville

TipHive is a cloud-based software platform that facilitates communication and knowledge sharing via “hives” that store and share information on any topic. Users create TipCards, filled with information that needs to be shared with a team. The cards are then organized into hives — collections of cards about a specific topic. A TipCard can be sorted into multiple hives, helping to personalize the flow of information within a team.

The company says TipHive “is used however you want to: at work, at home, at school, or wherever life takes you.”

The company relocated to Greenville as a startup in The Iron Yard’s 2013 accelerator and attracted attention from local investors as well as SC Launch.

TipHive founder Joost Wentink recently announced that based on TipHive’s success in the U.S., they will be expanding abroad.



Health Care | Spartanburg

ThoroughCare is a health care software company developed in the Iron Yard’s health technology accelerator designed to quickly identify the riskiest patients. Instead of long forms and questionnaires, ThoroughCare uses a TurboTax-style interview to quickly and efficiently capture important information about the patient, while risk stratification and interventions are identified behind the scenes. The company says its solution helps hospitals and community health groups better identify and engage “at-risk” populations.

ThoroughCare is modifying its product so that it could be used in the patient discharge process as well, reducing the need for tedious forms. That included identifying patients who are likely to be readmitted.

Now, the company also touts its chronic care management (CCM) program for medical practices to they can use their own secure, HIPAA-compliant software portal with unlimited users and patients, a live dashboard showing current CCM minutes, care-plan reports for patient and other providers, and integration with annual wellness visit software.

Dan Godla is the founder and CEO. He is an information technology professional with more than 10 years experience in creating various innovative technical solutions across several different industries and more than seven years exclusively in health care information technology.



Heavy Equipment | Greenville

Josh Lewis, CEO and co-founder of DirtJockey, said that over a few years working with heavy equipment dealers he kept seeing the same problems surface: They didn’t have the technology to meet the unique demands of their job.

In 2013, DirtJockey was born to solve those challenges. It provides a platform built around the unique workflow of heavy equipment dealers, while its software helps dealers all over the world sell more iron.

The company says DirtJockey can keep track of contact information, activity, and inventory for current and potential customers.

In addition, the company allows users to organize customers, vendors, and other contacts they do business with; search and filter by location, communication, and inventory for sale; and see all emails, call activity, and other information between everyone on their team.


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