RALEIGH — From Hurricane Dorian to the Red Hat-IBM mega merger, 2019 has proven to be a remarkable year for news — both in the Triangle tech and life science ecosystem and North Carolina as a whole.
In a series of articles beginning today, WRAL TechWire is taking a look back at the top stories that defined the year. These stories give us a snapshot of what kinds of trends are underway — from new tech such as 5G to venture and startup funding.
It’s also interesting to note that, even though the Triangle missed out on Apple and Amazon HQs, it didn’t dim our readers’ enthusiasm and hunger for all news tech. We’re proud to report that our readership levels soared to record levels with millions of page views and new readers. As always, we are grateful for your support.
On that note, let’s check out some of the most memorable stories from 2019:
Worst and Best places to work in the Triangle’s tech hub (60,646 page views).
On special assignment, TechWire’s ace reporter Mindy Hamlin did a deep dive into the best and worst companies to work for the Triangle — from big to small — in a series of articles. And our readers took note — with the first article garnering more than 60,000 page views. Topping the list for RTP companies with large operations: Pendo, the fast-growing cloud tech firm born right here in Raleigh. Its CEO Todd Olson got a 96 percent approval rating. Another perk: free lunch.
“Female Viagra” is certainly catchy, and it peaked readers interest with more than 50,000 page views. Raleigh-based Sprout Pharmaceuticals made the first such drug, Addyi, used to treat female sexual dysfunction, and it is known as the “female Viagra.” However, there’s a new drug on the market. Sold under the brand name Vyleesi by AMAG Pharmaceuticals, it is an injection to be taken before sex. It’s intended to treat women who are premenopausal and have hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Back in June, Epic Games, hit by an in-depth report that the video game and high-end graphical technology development firm was burning out its workforce where senior programmers can earn $157,000 a year. So it came up with a novel plan: give its entire team a two-week vacation. Epic’s team had been under tremendous strains for months on end with its mega-hit Fortnite drawing fans and players that number in the hundreds of millions. Such demand led to continuous updates in the game as well as technical issues such as server issues, based on updates from the company and monitoring by video game news sites.
In October, a Red Hat spokesperson confirmed that the open source giant dismissed its chief financial officer Eric Shander “without pay in connection with Red Hat’s workplace standards.” The news sent shockwaves through the Triangle community — especially given that his sudden departure came just three months after the company merged with tech giant IBM in a $34 billion deal. Since the announcement, Red Hat has gone quiet on the topic, with little else released to the public.
In a true sign of the changing times, Red Hat removed its red fedora logo on its 19-story downtown headquarters in Raleigh that had been a skyline eye magnet for nearly seven years. In its place, with much fanfare, the open source giant unveiled a new, more updated look that included an all-white fedora with “Red Hat” lettering against a vivid red background. The general consensus was positive, with several die-hard “Red Hatters” getting the new logo tattooed on their bodies.
It hadn’t even been a year since Hurricane Florence ravaged parts of North Carolina’s coastline. Then comes Hurricane Dorian, barreling towards the Carolinas as a Category 3. In the end, it didn’t prove to be another record-setting “precipitation event” as described by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers in a recent study. But one thing is certain: The frequency of such storms is very concerning, said Hans Paerl, a hurricane and water quality expert.
When a company makes a big round of layoffs, it usually makes big headlines — especially when it’s a firm the size of Lowe’s based right here in Charlotte. Lowe’s declined to say exactly how many workers were laid off back in August, but it obviously hurt. Lowe’s operates more than 1,700 stores in the United States. As of February 1, Lowe’s employed approximately 190,000 full-time and 110,000 part-time employees. Under CEO Marvin Ellison, who joined the company last year from JCPenney, Lowe’s has launched an ambitious turnaround plan to compete against Home Depot and other retailers.
When developers Dewitt Carolinas unveiled plans for a new $1 billion development in North Raleigh back in November, it sent a wave of excitement throughout the Triangle. Midtown Exchange will be a 40-acre mixed-use complex located along St. Albans Drive just east of North Hills, west of Wake Forest Road and north of the I-440 Beltline. The project is to include what Dewitt calls a “premier convention center” and nearly 800,000 square feet of office space. Also planned are a hotel, shops and restaurants as well as townhomes and condominiums. The development is the latest in a series of projects that are transforming much of Raleigh, especially downtown and across North Hills.
When Epic Games brought season 10 of its global mega hit Fortnite to a big bang of a close over the weekend, it disappeared into a black hole after an explosion. Its Twitter and Instagram pages also went dark. The abrupt end to the game triggered worries worldwide that Fortnite was indeed over. Turns out it was a marketing ploy – widely praised. Fortnite Chapter 2 arrived 36 hours later. Additions included a new island with 13 locations as well as “water game play.”
Despite the US economy adding jobs in October and with unemployment rates low across the Triangle, not everyone is immune. In October, four firms filed notices with the NC Department of Commerce as indicated on its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Report. They included Oakwood World Wide, nThrive, FDY and Marvell Semiconductor The firm with the most layoffs is nThrive, a revenue cycle management company, which reported 839 permanent layoffs on Oct. 30. The layoffs begin Dec. 31.