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CHARLOTTE…A new venture fund called Lighthouse Capital plans to open offices in Charlotte, the Research Triangle and Atlanta focusing on information technology and communication investments, says Daniel Friel, managing director.

“I’ve heard the RTP called ‘Silicon East,’ and Atlanta is just an amazing market,” Friel told Local Tech Wire at the North Carolina Electronics and Information Association’s “Top Tech” event in Charlotte Tuesday.

Friel says there is a shortfall of “resident” capital in those areas and they want to follow the “feet on the street model” with offices in each area. David Blivin, a former partner with Southeast Technology Funds and well known in the Triangle, is also involved with the project.

He said the fund is still in the formative stages and wasn’t ready to discuss its size or when they plan to open their doors.

“We’re making good progress,” Friel says.

RTP tech law

John P. McNeill tells LTW that Raleigh’s Smith Debnam Narron Wyche Saintsing & Myers has started a technology practice. McNeill, who spent 20 years in the Coast Guard in electronics and computers, says he brings a hands-on familiarity with tech to the table.

“I’ve pulled wire, cut code, designed circuits,” he says. Myers, who studied law while still in the service, worked for Womble Carlye for three and a half years prior to joining Smith Debnam to head up its tech practice two months ago.

Gastonia incubator

Funded by $300,000 Rep. Sue Myrick helped Gaston County land to study economic development opportunities, a resulting report issued five recommendations.

One, says William B. Seabrook, is to start an incubator. Seabrook, retired owner of Seabrook Inc., which had four factories in North and South Carolina making machine components, says an entrepreneurial incubator group is exploring the possibility.

The group plans to meet with incubator directors and Terry Thorson, head of Charlotte’s Business, Information and Growth Council, among others to discuss feasibility, Seabrook says. The Gastonia area, heavily geared toward manufacturing, lost 7,000 jobs in the last three years.

Back from the dead

Trevor Lohrbeer, chief technology officer of Asheville and New Orleans-based Lab Escape, tells LTW the company is a revival of a social networking site called TruePeers. It was the second such site to open after 6th Degree in 1999. Similar social networking sites such as Friendster are very popular now. But TruePeers raised half a million and spent in a year and a half then died.

But a year later, a company approached former TruePeers people and wanted to buy its tree map, a version of a technology developed at the University of Maryland. It integrates data from disparate sources into both an overview and detail so users can see the relationships between different measures.

Lohrbeer says the company has two developers in Asheville and a sales person in New Orleans. He says it may hire another developer sometime later in the year. Currently, the company is funded by revenue from selling its product.

It sells its open source version of the tree maps for $5,000 to $10,000, undercutting the $20,000 to $30,000 price of competitors, he says.

Lab Escape: www.labescape.com

Smith Debnam: www.smithdebnamlaw.com

Lighthouse VC: www.lighthouseventurepartners.com