Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – From its conception to launch and over a 10-year history, entrepreneurship and the search for the next great idea has been at the heart of the mission for Tech Wire.

Through two sets of owners and some name changes, Local Tech Wire in 2002 (launched 10 years ago on Jan. 25) and WRAL Tech Wire include many similarities.

But let’s also be clear that Tech Wire is shifting gears a bit to bring more attention back to the startup world because as we have written in recent months the level of entrepreneurship is as intense  – if not more so– at as during the “dot com” boom.

Yes, the Tech Wire mission has expanded greatly over time. In recognition of the fact that high-tech and life science entrepreneurs operated in what is now called an “eco system,” Tech Wire expanded its coverage to include larger companies and global firms – such as IBM, Quintiles and GlaxoSmithKline – from which many startups emerged.

That thinking certainly was reinforced by the release Thursday of a comprehensive report about the growth of startup companies across the Triangle and North Carolina by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, UNC-Chapel Hill and the First Flight Venture Center. Assembling and analyzing 20 years of data from 1992 as the Internet boom began to build steam through 2011, the researchers drew strong connections between larger companies as well as universities and the entrepreneurs who started more than 1,800 companies while creating 40,000 jobs.

Popular Terms, Popular Companies

A quick review of Tech Wire’s own 10-year archive reveals some interesting facts about its mission.

First, here’s a quiz. See if you can answer some questions based on the mission as described above.

• What are some of the most popular terms or expressions?

The answers:

• Entrepreneurship (just barely)

• (over) Venture capital

• (followed closely by) Startups

Now when it comes to company coverage, the commitment to that “eco system” required a lot of attention to be paid to the “big guys” – IBM, Cisco, GSK, etc. You know the players in the Triangle. A lot of people who have left those companies over the years have gone on to launch their own firms. Several startups have been acquired by those same giants. Cisco’s buy of Inlet Technologies and IBM’s buy of Relativity spring to mind.

But don’t assume that the giants have ruled our coverage.

Of course, news at IBM is big news as well because of the huge work force across the state. While that has steadily shrunk by some 40 percent over the years to around 10,000, Big Blue is still big news.

Cisco, GSK and Nortel (the saddest story of the decade, no doubt) drove lots of headlines.

The Top Ten

So in terms of most popular companies in the archive, they are:

1. IBM (by far)

2. Google (which has operations in North Carolina)

3. Cisco

4. Apple

Number 5? Why, it’s a home-grown giant.

Red Hat

No. 6 is Nortel

And No. 7 is another home-grown success: SAS.

GSK comes in at No. 8

But here’s more data to support our mission’s focus:

Venture capital firm Intersouth ranks ninth.

The CED and AT&T are battling for 10th each day.

No. 11 is the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

And No. 12?

Why, MCNC, builder and operator of the North Carolina Research and Education network.

Next: Quintiles.

More home-grown successes follow: Cree, Epic Games and RTI International.

Not far behind are Motricity/Appia, ChannelAdvisor, SciQuest,, NC IDEA, Pappas Ventures, Noro-Moseley and several other startups.

As for the most popular people and organizations – well, let’s save that for another day.

We plan to take a look at more archive data in coming days. Please be sure to check back. I think you will find some of the information very interesting.

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