DURHAM – The Linux command for “grep” is an instruction to find a string in a source file. The term “beat” refers to the news areas of interest. In combination, you get GrepBeat, a site for the latest on tech startups, and the team behind Thursday’s Grep-a-palooza event.

Grep-a-palooza is a full-day conference with a focus on early-stage tech startups in the Triangle. I spoke with Joe Colopy, Bronto founder which he sold for a LOT of money ($200 million) and the “Godfather” of GrepBeat, about the GrepBeat concept and the eventual evolution into an event.

“We really wanted a conference that was very founder-centric, that was also very Triangle-centric to really put in real life all the things that we were writing for our website,” Colopy told me on our call.

Podcast: Entrepreneur and investor Joe Colopy recalls the trek to $200M exit of Bronto

The Creation of the Beat

Colopy opened the tale with a minor understatement: “So way back in the day I bootstrapped a company called Bronto Software and it became pretty successful.”

While things worked out well for Colopy and Bronto co-founder Chaz Felix, it wasn’t without its challenges.

“It’s really, really hard to be starting something and particularly before it’s big and successful,” Colopy recalled. “When you’re big and successful, people give you lots of awards, but when you’re really small, you’re just trying to justify to your parents why you’re not working a real job. And it’s emotionally very difficult. And so our goal is to support and validate the earliest of tech startups when they most needed.”

Colopy exited Bronto in 2016, and in early 2017 started Colopy Ventures to support and invest in Triangle tech entrepreneurs and their startups. GrepBeat was started in the summer of 2018.

“I started my career out of college as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was a teacher, and I really enjoyed that process. And then I spent many years as an entrepreneur myself, and now I’m kind of back on the other side of it. I’m not a teacher, but I’m an investor. I’m a supporter of the local ecosystem and I really enjoy that.”

The Edge of Tech

Colopy enjoys being on the cutting edge of technology and, these days, that means AI. A recent Pitchbook VC tech survey showed that investors expect AI to be “highly” or “moderately disruptive”, with a potential wave of “AI unicorns” on the horizon. I asked Colopy how he felt about the emergence of AI in recent months.

“So I’m very bullish on AI. I think how it’s affected particularly the creative fields in writing and art is just kind of absolutely amazing. And I think we’re going to see a lot more exciting things in the next five years, and I think it’s ultimately a good thing.”

Next big wave in tech investing? Watch out for AI ‘technology unicorns’

The second annual Grep-a-palooza is taking place Thursday at the Durham Convention Center. The opening keynote begins at 9:15 am and sessions run until 4:00 pm, with an after-party at Bull McCabe’s. Tickets are still available on the GrepBeat website.

Colopy will be there helping with MC tasks and taking in the general air of start-up excitement.

“We like to help make random connections between people. That might be some founder’s next angel investor or angel investor’s next investment. And the opportunity to get everyone together from the Triangle Tech scene lets that happen.”