This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.

In a way, it’s befitting that a company named Green Stream would find a home in a town called Wake Forest.

More serendipitous still, is the unique environment Wake Forest provides and how well-suited it is for Internet of Things companies like Green Stream. Green Stream Technologies, an environmental IoT startup, moved its operations to Wake Forest’s Wireless Research Center in January 2020.

“Green Stream advises when the water rises,” as COO and co-founder Karen Lindquist simply put it.

Green Stream’s automated flood sensor IoT network alerts customers when roads are flooded along with location information, and data about the depth of water and when it recedes. A WRC press release explained, “state and local government customers, including emergency and stormwater management, as well as smart city IT departments, use the sensor data to improve response during flood events, and to make better decisions and predictions about localized flooding.”

The company’s IoT systems include remote sensors, real-time data transmission, distributed power, cloud computing and data science. These IoT capabilities and the overall potential of Green Stream made the startup a perfect fit for the WRC in Wake Forest, a town that continues to prove itself as one of the most educated populations in the region. Additionally, Wake Forest and the WRC are uniquely positioned to support IoT companies through a wealth of data resources and the presence of IoT thought leaders and changemakers who call Wake Forest home.

“The team at Green Stream is setting the standard for the startups moving to and launching from Wake Forest,” said Jason Cannon, president of the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership. “We’ve known for a while that the quickly growing tech ecosystem here is an asset to IoT companies and we look forward to leveraging all that we can to help entrepreneurs not just start in our community, but thrive in our community.”

The new decade promises to bring new growth for Green Stream, which got its start in Norfolk, Va., before relocating to the Triangle in 2019.

Lindquist and Green Steam co-founder and CEO Jim Gray knew seeing their vision come to fruition meant the company needed to move. North Carolina and the tech-rich Triangle were at the top of their list.

This became particularly relevant when they stumbled upon N.C. RIoT, a WRC economic development initiative that represents a network of technologists, engineers, business leaders, academics, policymakers and entrepreneurs, all of whom have a stake in the Internet of Things industry. For RIoT, the partnership with the WRC was a no-brainer — it provides one-of-kind tools and resources for applied research, engineering and certified testing that can only be found in Wake Forest, proving itself as a regional and global asset for IoT work

“We knew that if we wanted to grow as a tech business that we would need to relocate to a more active business and tech community. At first, we considered northern Virginia, but it was expensive, so we started to research other possibilities, which included the Triangle,” Lindquist said. “The Triangle kept popping up at the top of ‘best places to live’ lists and the business community is super dynamic. It’s also close enough to Virginia to be culturally similar and is also affordable, so your start-up dollars go a lot further.”

When Lindquist and Gray discovered that RIoT was calling for submissions for its annual RIoT Accelerator Program, they jumped at the opportunity to apply.

Tom Snyder, executive director of RIoT, said when going through the 2019 RAP cohort applications, Green Stream stood out for a lot of reasons.

“They were addressing a really important problem. Without question, there are a lot of use cases for environmental sensing and monitoring — but the use case of understanding flood events from a public safety point of view and being able to report that in real-time and eventually become predictive — that’s going to save lives,” Snyder said. “And maybe even more important than that, we really love the team. We want to work with people that are passionate about what they do, but who also recognize that all business requires leveraging a professional network and working in partnership with others and using those relationships to help other people.”

The first few weeks of RAP are spent doing market research and figuring out where a startup fits into the industry landscape. Entrepreneurs spend time doing customer analysis and creating solutions to a problem that needs solving. The middle of the program is focused on product or service development and refining the business model, and the final part of the program is developing a market strategy.

“Before RAP we had started talking to our existing customers and had an idea of who they were. We already had a business plan and had even won an MIT Solve grant, though our product was in a prototype phase,” said Lindquist, who emphasized that RAP helped them reinforce what they already knew to be true — Green Stream is a viable business, especially in a region that experiences a lot of rainfall and flooding.

RAP culminates in a pitch contest where all startups in the cohort present in front a panel of judges. Green Stream’s participation in RAP paid off — they ended up winning the Pitch Night competition and a subsequent $50,000 N.C. IDEA seed grant, which they are going to use to finalize their product and get it ready for mass marketing. Green Stream was also recently named one of the N.C. Technology Association’s Top 10 startups to watch.

“I think they were able to make a great connection with the audience and explain what they’re doing and the value of it. They were able to demonstrate that not only is their mission good and meaningful, but it’s also really smart business,” said Snyder.

RAP served as a launching pad for where Green Stream is now making a home — at the WRC.

“We were working out of the HQ Raleigh space as part of RIoT. We wanted to stay in North Carolina and knew of the WRC because of its partnership with RIoT,” Lindquist said. “The WRC had always been in touch with us and gave us lots of free, helpful advice. They’re very smart people who don’t make a lot of noise about themselves — but these are very bright people. They mentioned to us that they were getting some extra space with offices that they were going to rent out. It was attractive to us because we knew that we would also get to rub shoulders with people who were working directly in our industry.”

Lindquist said she is excited about Green Stream’s new home in Wake Forest and said while leaving their previous spot in HQ Raleigh was bittersweet, being at the WRC is a great opportunity for IoT development. As an independent, private nonprofit research center dedicated to applied research and engineering, the WRC is a globally recognized hub of wireless technology innovation and will take Green Stream’s tech to the next level.

The WRC is providing Green Stream with assistance in technology development, access to testing equipment and prototype production operation space, as well as collisions within the technology development community — and they’re loving it. Lindquist said that town leaders have done a great job of being strategic and intentional about making Wake Forest into more than a bedroom community as it invests in more businesses and paves a way for companies to thrive.

Snyder noted that the WRC is a place that has supported several startups and Green Stream will be part of its next generation of success stories. He said Green Stream is not the first to relocate into the Triangle ecosystem, particularly in Wake Forest, and it won’t be the last.

Looking ahead, Green Stream hopes to develop its sensors for larger marketing and wants to get the data tracking in apps like Waze. Currently, the company provides real-time flood monitoring solutions for state, county and municipal agencies, including the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

“I had a few friends during hurricanes who drove around for hours trying to find a safe route — there was no way to know. So this kind of tech could be really useful,” said Lindquist.

For both co-founders, RIoT was a path to a new professional and personal home — Lindquist and Gray recently purchased a house in Wake Forest and are already leveraging the advantages of being headquartered in a place like the WRC.

“We moved into the WRC on Jan. 1 of this year and we’re already benefiting,” Lindquist said. “We’re really excited and really happy to be here. We’re looking forward to developing a relationship with Wake Forest and hopefully helping them attract other businesses here.”

This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.