When I accepted my current position at Blackbaud, I was entirely unaware that the Holy City had even the slightest reputation for an emerging technology sector. I had moved from San Francisco back to South Carolina to be back closer to my roots, my family. It was only a few months after relocating and beginning work that I started to hear the term “Silicon Harbor”. The two software companies that I was previously aware of were Blackbaud and Benefitfocus, both right next to each other on Daniel Island, and that was only because I had seen job listings on LinkedIn and Glassdoor. These two public companies have by far the largest physical presence in the Silicon Harbor, but I was very pleased to learn about the many smaller firms that have sprouted up in the past 10 years. These include PeopleMatter, CreateSpace (an Amazon acquisition), BiblioLabs, BlueAcorn, BoomTown, SPARC, ROK, and more than 100 others.
There are a few massive multinational companies with a respectable presence in the area including Boeing, and very soon, Volvo. Google houses a massive datacenter in North Charleston. In Google’s words, “Berkeley County has the right combination of energy infrastructure, developable land, and available workforce for the data center.” But these conglomerates are largely here for balance sheet relief as much as the human capital here in Charleston.
Looking a bit deeper though, you begin to discover other elements that are key to a healthy, growing technology ecosystem. Hugely important for local entrepreneurs, the rise of venture capital firms, such as Silicon Harbor Ventures and Cap A Partners, are a great incentive for aspiring entrepreneurs to remain in the vicinity. Likewise, idea incubators and shared work spaces at The Flagship are another critical piece in the ecosystem (and also remind me very much about what I helped build in Kathmandu). And for after hours, there are social events like TechAfter5 to help people in this new sector shake hands, share experiences and ideas, and discuss the future. We even have local tech blogging personalities like Shrimp And Bits.
There is still quite a bit to learn. I haven’t even been here for a year yet. But it was a very welcome revelation to learn how inspired and growing the tech ecosystem is down here in the lowcountry. I’m excited for the future in the Silicon Harbor.
Sources: http://www.charlestonworks.com/ http://charlestonmag.com/features/the_rise_of_silicon_harbor