Cool tech you might not have heard of in the Upstate
There’s a lot of innovation going on in the Upstate, much of which you’ve read about in UBJ and some of which may be new to you. Here’s a look at four up-and-coming tech companies that might be under your radar.
Increasingly advanced, connected cars mean new security challenges
Using advanced analytics to ensure security standards with some of the world’s premier automakers
How it happened
For years, auto manufacturers knew how to build safe cars. With the rise of the Internet, connected vehicles and car-to-car communication – not to mention self-driving vehicles – manufacturers are rising to the challenge, often with the help of Greenville-based kVa. The 15-person team works with six of the top 10 automakers and five of the top 10 auto suppliers worldwide, with the aim of helping companies meet and exceed increasing security standards and troubleshoot potentially dangerous conditions, says Bill Taylor, managing partner.
“We built as much expertise as we could as early as we could, betting on this… and that’s really paid off,” he says, noting that auto complexity as it relates to security could multiply tenfold in the next decade. “Sometimes I get asked, ‘Would you put your family in that vehicle?’ which is a very serious question. We want to always say when we walk away that we would absolutely do that.”
kVa offers consulting, technical services, software and training, which in a way seeds its own competition in the name of safety, says Taylor. Driverless vehicles mean new questions about liability, ownership, insurance, safety and cybersecurity, he says, but ultimately will drastically reduce the mortality rate for car accidents overall.
“Our mission really is to spread the ideas and techniques for safety,” he says. “We see an autonomous future, and that’s what drives us.”
Scattered, disjointed programs to deliver mental health resources
One technology platform for mental health content tailored to specific users using artificial intelligence
How it happened
Schools, cities, state agencies, hospitals, nonprofits and corporations have a plethora of programs to get mental health resources into the right hands. The problem, say Tim Farrell and Robyn Hussa Farrell, is these programs are disjointed and offer few options for tracking and customization.
Their patent is still pending, but this summer they plan to release their mobile and desktop platform that delivers mental health resources specific to the user, location and situation. Students, for example, may have a button for resources on handling stress. Professional therapists can point patients to resources between visits. Parents can get educated on childhood depression. Pediatricians can press a button for an on-demand mental health specialist.
“There’s a lot of good work going on out there,” says Tim Farrell. “Bringing that all together and making it more effective and efficient is saving something really precious.”
The pair plans to incorporate artificial intelligence to help improve resource delivery and customize each user’s suggested content. The project is funded so far by advertising revenue on existing tests in a handful of schools and medical organizations, but larger organizations have already expressed interest in purchasing a white-label version, they say.
“These agencies and organizations only have so many resources, and we want to make sure they’re optimizing them,” he says.
App development is infamously expensive and arduous for startups
A la carte app development
How it happened
Building apps can bankrupt startups before they begin, says Keith Shields, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Greenville-based Designli builds apps specifically for startups, counting up the hours required for each module that lets entrepreneurs add or subtract elements based on their budgets.
While Designli works on projects individually today, co-founder and CEO Shields says the next phase is an OpenDesk-like matchmaker program, Codesuite.co, where entrepreneurs post projects and are paired with vetted developers and designers best suited for the project. Designli then acts as a moderator through the built-in project management platform, where the company can ensure project rates don’t change from initial estimates, customers are always 100 percent satisfied and developers have a fair market for their services, he says.
“Our platform helps the developer break that project down into different features… so they can realistically price the project,” says Shields, who says Designli is self-funding development based on its ongoing projects.
Designli’s work spans numerous industries and sizes, he says, from an app that lets gas station owners order new gasoline from oil companies to Greenville-based memory-saving platform Arkivr.
“A client comes to us with their needs, and we’ll basically form a team around that project,” says Shields. “We’re going to be evolving into something of a product offering.”
Booklet fatigue – it’s harder and harder to make impressions with print advertising
Customizable video screens and speakers built into traditional media
How it happened:
In the world of advertising, it’s all about standing out. Tom Whitesell of Greenville-based TopSpin marketing calls it “the recall factor.”
“People are going to pay a lot more attention to video than text,” says Whitesell, who launched his venture Video Smartbooks about a year ago. The concept is simple, he says. Combine three powerful mediums – text, video and physical – by embedding a high-definition screen and speakers into a print product, and customers are guaranteed to keep it around.
“They’re impressed by it. They’re going to remember it. They’re going to share it with their colleagues,” says Whitesell, who started his career at Disney where he helped bring VHS tapes mainstream through innovative customer education tactics. “It’s a way to almost guarantee that you’re not going to end up in the wrong file.”
Whitesall can make sizes ranging from 2-by-3.5-inch video business cards ($25 apiece) to high-resolution 10-foot diagonal screens ($70 each). Other features include quality speakers, headphone jacks, interactive buttons and a mini USB port to charge and change the device’s files. The largest device – 8GB – can hold hours of movies, another aspect that encourages users to keep it around much longer than a booklet.
“In this case, they can’t resist opening it and watching it,” he says. “This is going to pick up in the next three years, from 99 percent unaware to 70 percent unaware in the target market.”