Just look at the list of cities that are hosting IBM’s SmartCamp this year: Austin, Dubai, Mexico City, Riyadh, Sydney. That’s an auspicious group. Global. Urban. Connected. Then, down at the very bottom of the list, weighing in at ninety-eight pounds, our own scrappy, Wilmington, NC for the Southeast US!

On November 11, 2016, Wilmington technology incubator tekMountain hosted the Southeastern US’s IBM SmartCamp, drawing entrepreneurs from South Carolina, RTP, and further afield to be mentored by and to pitch to an eminent group of entrepreneurial pros and technologists at a fun, Shark-Tank-like event.



One of the teams pulled out of our SmartCamp abruptly when, just two days before, they discovered the event was to be held in Wilmington, North Carolina and not Wilmington, Delaware, closer to where they lived! These are the petty indignities and identity crises we are forced to bear in our lesser-known historic, southern, beach town on the Cape Fear. We don’t mind. Wilmington is a thriving, innovative, coastal, university city, right down the road from the state capital and the Research Triangle Park. A city where filmmakers, mayors, coders, and real estate agents all paddle-board, fish and play music together. Where Dennis Hopper, charmed by the thick southern air and wide river, along with the centuries-old houses and friendly, calm Carolinians, bought a downtown loft-compound back when the movie Fire Starter and virtually every other big Hollywood movie was being filmed here.

IBM SmartCamp is a global pitch competition that gathers early phase start-ups in major international cities, winnowing them down at local events into an international pitch competition in San Francisco. Finalists are flown to the Bay area where Launch CEO Jason Calacanis awaits.


Smartcamp is part of IBM’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP), which connects startups with IBM’s cloud platform solutions and offers members and partners all sorts of cloud development bootstrapping: tons of cloud credits for hosting and development, expert advice from IBM solution architects, a global start-up community, social marketing, and more.

tekMountain, where I am a loiterer and tech mentor, is a tireless evangelist for technology, culture, progress, and the entrepreneurial spirit in our city. Once they secured the credentials and connections to host the IBM SmartCamp, they quickly embedded it right into Cucalorus, an annual, internationally-renown independent film festival that draws as many as 15,000 film-lovers from all over the US to Cape Fear for four days of films in various venues.

Ed Hall and his company Petrics were last night’s Wilmington SmartCamp winners. And for good reason. During the SmartCamp mentoring sessions Hall described Petrics’ IoT-based pet-care strategy and early successes. It was as if he’d drawn a Venn diagram on the whiteboard of the perfect, massive, eager recession-proof consumer market on the one hand—pets!–and the hottest, bigger-than-the-Web start-up infrastructure ever, the Internet of Things. And he knows his IoT! Along with his analytics and his manufacturing processes. Local investors from WIN were scheduling follow-ups with him over post-pitch beers (In addition to co-working and business acceleration, tekMountain has also become a brewery!) With its smart pet feeders and IoT pet ecosystem, Petrics is really going places and will be, with luck, a great ambassador for our region on the big stage in San Francisco.

Ed Hall from Petrics with judge, Michael Cain
Ed Hall from Petrics with judge, Michael Cain


Other Wilmington SmartCamp finalists included:

  • Lithios, who materialized in tekMountain’s offices as a small, friendly crowd of hipster-founders from Raleigh making apps for optimizing co-working spaces
  • Voterheads, a company in the “civic hacking” space I’m really excited about, who do alerts on upcoming issues you care about in local government, both for individuals and for non-profits and larger companies that want a dashboard view of issues as they come up in cities and municipalities
  • FaithHealthNet, a company already co-working at tekMountain who’ve created a platform for volunteer management among faith-based groups, which turns out to be the dominant segment for volunteering
  • BidLAN, Inc., which has built only the SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) and bid management tool that brings more qualified contracting opportunities to the DBEs (Disadvantaged Businesses Enterprise) that can fulfill them, and the only platform that exists to raise the business acumen of DBEs

All in all a fantastic turn-out for our region and a set of innovators with whom we’re hoping to learn and share more.


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