John Austin is the Director of Groundwork Labs, a Durham community for selected entrepreneurs to test their idea and reach their next goal

February marks Groundwork Labs’ second anniversary and it’s a great time to acknowledge the major achievements of our companies during the last year.

Our mission is the same as NC IDEA, the non-profit organization who funds us: helping technology startups in North Carolina. Unlike an accelerator, we don’t make an investment or take an equity stake in the companies we help. So we measure our success by the revenue and number of jobs created by the entrepreneurs (not the companies) who have been in Groundwork.

It’s too soon for either of those metrics to be meaningful, and so in the short term we are measuring the steps along the way: Seed investments, grants, and acceptance into accelerators.

We don’t expect every company that comes through Groundwork to succeed. We have helped 48 companies along with seven university teams who participated in our 2013 summer Underground program. About a quarter of those companies have ceased operating and another quarter are struggling. The other half range from “too soon to tell” to “making great progress,” with about 10 of those achieving some significant milestones this year.

Seed Rounds

Two companies made significant progress in 2013. Klever (Phil Verghis) joined Groundwork in February, raised a seed round of $350,000 in the summer, launched their knowledge sharing platform in September, and now have customers on four continents.

Groundfloor (Brian Dally and Nick Bhargava), a platform for crowdlending to commercial real estate developers raised a seed round of $165,000 and launched their first project in Atlanta. Both Phil and Brian are experienced guys who you don’t think of as your typical Groundwork entrepreneur and are awesome members of the Groundwork community. They both helped the other teams in Groundwork as much as we helped them, but while at Groundwork got some critical bits of advice and contacts.


Three companies were accepted into accelerators in 2013 (bringing our total to five). Home Wellness (Colby Swanson and Eric Calhoun) was selected for the fall 2013 Startup Factory class, and in addition, was a Cherokee Challenge winner.

Sqord, one of the first Groundwork companies back in 2012 was in the fall 2013 TechStars Chicago cohort (to be fair, we hardly knew what we were doing when Coleman Greene was in Groundwork, so we take very little credit for his success!).

Gema (Joanna Rogerson and Jon Guida) participated in the Fall 2013 Healthbox Nashville accelerator, having pivoted the use of their technology from consumer merchandising to medical.


Two companies won NC IDEA grants in 2013. FokusLabs (Rich Brancaccio) is developing a device to help ADHD and autistic kids stay on task. He will use the funds to build 100 prototypes and do a study of the effectiveness of the device.

SnapYeti (Justin Beard) has launched a phone contest platform that enables business to incentivize customers and promote their brand with something they are already doing today, snapping pictures.


On the product front GoGown (Ginny Porowski) signed a license deal with Edison Nation Medical in Charlotte. Splitmo launched their second game, SnakeLife, and Leaselytics, Cellbreaker, and Medlio all had the initial release of their products.

All told, following their Groundwork experience, 15 of our companies have raised $1.4 million in equity funding and been awarded $1.1 million in grants. Nice milestones along the way, but these are not our ultimate objectives—we will be measuring those in the years to come.

Groundwork is always on the lookout for startups at all stages who are looking for a collaborative community in which they can test their idea and reach their next goal. Give us a shout if you think you are interested.