When an entrepreneur reaches the point in his career where he can deliberately select where to launch his next venture, many things go into choosing that location. What type of business support exists? Will my product fit the landscape? Will my family enjoy relocating there?
Charleston may not yet top the list of startup cities in the US for many entrepreneurs, but for serial entrepreneur Matthew Gough, it was the perfect location to launch his new startup Echovate. He and his family recently relocated here from New York State. Silicon Harbor Magazine caught up with Gough to learn about his entrepreneurial journey, why he chose Charleston, and discuss his latest venture.
Echovate is the fourth venture for Gough, who has over 15 years of leadership experience in startups. He is being very deliberate in choosing how to build his latest business. One key element to that process is where he wants to call home and headquarters for Echovate. Gough says, “I always sort of had this thirst for innovation and entrepreneurship. My approach to life is not a dress rehearsal. Be very deliberate.”
Gough spent considerable time researching startup cities such as New York, Boston, Raleigh, Charlotte and cities on the West Coast. He looked for a few key ingredients to meet the criteria for his selection. First, he needed an approachable town; meaning a city that wasn’t so unbelievably large such as San Francisco or New York City that you could get lost in it. The city also needed to understand the value of a robust startup ecosystem and be really invested in the knowledge workers of that community. Also important to him were quality of life and the lifestyle his family would live as he launched his company.
When Gough researched potential cities and discovered the startup community emerging in Charleston he reached out to key people in the area and became impressed with the city: “Charleston kept bubbling to the top. So I started to dig in. I was doing research back in New York reading all these great things. I reached out to Ernest Andrade at the Charleston Digital Corridor. I also talked to investors and CEOs, and could sense where the community was moving towards and that there was this coordinated effort built around building a startup ecosystem in Charleston. The city overall and the Charleston Digital Corridor have done a fantastic job at sort of building this brand around what Charleston is and migrating towards.”
Adding to the allure of Charleston was his participation at the second annual Dig South interactive festival where he was part of a panel. He came away impressed by the event. “For the level of content and people that were there, and how everything came together for that event for being in only its second year was really impressive. They’re just getting going and wait until that thing really cranks. It’s going to be unbelievable.”
Another major factor that Gough loved about Charleston was the quality of life. “It’s a fantastic place to live and raise a family. I believe in a holistic approach to life where work and personal are woven together, this all makes for healthy companies. Not having an hour-long commute allows you to be present at work and be present at home when you want or need to be.
As he envisions growing his new business and potentially bringing in new talent from other major metro areas like New York, Boston and Silicon Valley, Gough considered Charleston itself as an asset for attracting talent for all of those reasons – great place to live, quality of life and a great startup ecosystem.
On top of everything else, Gough had to think about his technology team and resources in developing and growing his product Echovate from the ground up.
Echovate is a data-driven, cloud-based platform developed to leverage workforce science, predictive analytics and data in empowering small businesses with talent selection insights to hire the best fit employees for their organizations.
In real time, Echovate generates a score on a scale of 1-100 based on a series of structured questions. This score represents a person’s potential to perform and succeed in a specific position.
Gough had worked with programmers and software engineer teams on the development of past projects, while outsourcing much of it offshore. However with Echovate he was seeking a different client-vendor relationship. He teamed up with Charleston-based SPARC, one of American’s fastest growing software companies. “With Echovate I wanted to do it differently and focus on the product-to-market alignment. My goal was to find a technology partner in the truest sense of partnership. I looked at four different companies and SPARC kept coming up on my radar. It was exciting for me that they happened to be in Charleston.”
Gough says SPARC did a fantastic job in recently completing the initial prototype for Echovate.
Now that he and his family have made the move, he is excited to have a place that Echovate can call home. Gough also looks forward to contributing and giving back to Charleston’s startup community with his time and experience:
“A part of what really excites me is being able to contribute back to the community. I’ve done mentorship for companies and tech startups in Boston. I’m bringing some of my own experience coming from New York. At the same time, Charleston has its own soul and I want to maintain the integrity in that. This is a long term vision for myself, my family and Echovate.”