Editor’s note: This article is part of a multimedia series called “Tomorrow’s Unicorns: A look inside Raleigh’s $1B startup pipeline,” produced in conjunction with Innovate Raleigh. The series aims to spotlight some of the region’s homegrown startups tipped to hit the $1-billion valuation mark, thus becoming a so-called “unicorn” in the language of investors, in the not-so-distant future.

RALEIGHEDJX CEO and co-founder John Cowan doesn’t hold back when he talks about his startup’s prospects for its edge-computing platform. In a time of increasing demand to reduce or virtually eliminate latency – response time – for networks and devices, EDJX is setting a fast pace in development and deployment.

“We could far exceed Pendo,” he told WRAL TechWire.

He is, of course, referring to that other well-known Raleigh startup founded by Todd Olson that recently hit $1-billion status.

“It’s not hyperbole,” Cowan added. “It’s not a stretch to see EDJX at about $1 billion of enterprise value within the next 12 to 18 months.”

He has a few reasons to be so confident.

Computing on the ‘edge’: Q&A with EDJX’s co-founder John Cowan

Just last week, the two-year-old Raleigh-born startup (pronounced Edge-X) announced that it’s partnering with Cubic Corporation to unveil what it calls the “the world’s first Internet of Military Things Edge Platform.”

The platform – which promises to bring real-time, low-latency computing to the battlefields — is being launched from the Autonomy Institute Alpha Lab at Texas Military Department’s Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. It’s part of the institute’s Public Infrastructure Network Node (PINN) rollout announced earlier this year that relies on EDJX for its main infrastructure.

And that’s just one vertical.

Founded in 2019, Cowan said EDJX is also working with the US Department of Transportation to enable intelligent traffic systems and racking up some big-name clients, like Cyxtera and IT Renew, after its platform went live in June. It’s running in over 20 markets globally, “soon to be 32 markets globally,” he said.

“I can’t comment on revenue as a private company, but our rate of growth is about double every six months, give or take,” Cowan said.

“We contractually have more work than we can fulfil. There will be a raft of other verticals that follow, like healthcare and industrial manufacturing.”

One person who isn’t surprised by EDJX’s early success is Tom Snyder, executive director of NC RIoT, a user group focused on research and commercialization surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications, also headquartered in the Oak City.

EDJX’s rise is further proof, he said, that Raleigh is the hub for all things edge computing and IoT.

“We had the Information Age that was driven by Silicon Valley. Now we have the ‘Data Age,’” he said. “[It’s] being driven here in North Carolina, and companies like EDJX help validate that.”

Edge computing

Global edge computing is expected to hit $17.8 billion by 2026.

The word “edge,” in the context of computers, means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing is computing that’s done at or near the source of the data, instead of relying on the centralized “public cloud” at one of a dozen data centers to do all the work.

The biggest uptake: it’s a lot faster to process a data byte roundtrip — with latency thresholds around 10 milliseconds versus cloud computing’s 50 to 150 milliseconds. It’s also less expensive, more reliable and secure.

This is especially critical for 5G cellular technologies delivering massive bandwidths to support a wide array of devices, including smartphones, autonomous vehicles as well as large-scale IoT projects for “smart cities.”

“That creates a significant architectural problem, and that’s what EDJX has solved,” Cowan said.

While it’s certainly not the only company working in this space, but Cowan said its “decentralized distributed model” has given them an early advantage.

Another secret to their quick ascent? Timing, Cowan said.

“We made the right bet on the right market at the right time. That’s the reason why we will be the unicorn,” he said.

“It’s also the experience of the team. This isn’t our first rodeo. We know how to build a startup, how to bootstrap, how to be capital efficient with investor dollars and survive until that inflection point where the market catches up to you, and the way that you’re innovating.”

Source: EDJX

A Raleigh transplant

EDJX is a spinout of 6Fusion, an IT- metering software company that he co-founded back in 2005 when he was living in the Cayman Islands.

At the time, Cowan, a Canadian expat who left his home country in the late 90s, went on a “VC tour” of the East Coast for his first startup.

“My business partner and I made the decision that wherever we raised institutional money would be the place that we put a flag in the sand,” Cowan recalled.

In the end, they raised $3 million from Intersouth Partners in Durham in 2010; and moved to Raleigh that same year.

Cowan said EDJX initially started as a research project when he and his team became “enthralled” with the idea of decentralized applications. They started building prototypes, eventually taking them “on the road” to show some of their partners.

One was James Thomason, then chief technology officer of Dell Cloud and EDJX’s chief technology officer. He said they saw “eye-to-eye” on what the future was going to be, and how the pendulum was going to swing back from “centralized computing to decentralized computing.”

Edge computing and what it enables – the IoT economy – will “dwarf everything that came before,” Cowan said.

“It’s going to be bigger than cloud computing, mobile computing, e-commerce; it will be bigger than all of it.”

EDJX’s John Cowan with RIoT’s Tom Snyder.

Scaling quickly

To date, EDJX has raised around $12 million, including an investment by the North Carolina State Wolfpack alumni network.

Cowan, meanwhile, is bullish as he looks ahead.

He’d like to double his team by the end of the year – it currently stands at 32 employees – but said the current tight labor market is causing some issues. At the moment, EDJX is operating out of an office on Six Forks Road, though most of the team is still working remotely because of the pandemic.

“We may consider getting there by making a few acquisitions,” he said.

Another big raise could also be on the cards sometime early next year.

In the meantime, Cowan said he’s determined to see Raleigh become the hub for edge computing and IoT development – what he said remains “uncharted territory” for a region to lay claim.

“We’re going to make that happen. You have to be early, and that’s what groups like RIoT represent,” he said. “They’re the testament to time. They’ve got an amazing nucleus. If we start sprinkling in live innovation labs, and creating that gravitational pull for talent, research money, and all those things that make markets, the Triangle will be the hub edge computing and IoT.”

This editorial package was produced with funding support from Innovate Raleigh and other partners. WRAL TechWire retains full editorial control of all content. 

Note: WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam will hold a LinkedIn Live chat with EDJX’s John Cowan on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 1pm.

Raleigh’s EDJX is bringing edge computing to the battlefields