2016 was undoubtedly the year of co-working, Snapchat, online retail, and digital sports. But the year also laid the foundation for new developments in industries that find much of their economic and innovation base in the south. This year, we’re looking ahead to explosive growth in financial technology, meal kit delivery and the Internet of Things.
Internet of Things
If you’ve every spoken to ‘Alexa,’ you know the Internet of Things is a young but rapidly-growing industry. It’s predicted we’ll see 24 billion devices by 2020, or about four IoT-connected devices for every person on the planet. Beyond connected homes and wearables, IoT innovation is transforming manufacturing, transit, energy, and civic infrastructure, a lot of which is happening in the South.
At innovation hubs located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, IBM is set to invest $3 billion to bring their Watson cognitive computing to IoT, and Cisco recently purchased IoT vendor Jasper for $1.4 billion. Aside form the corporate giants, Raleigh-based startup K4 Connect secured nearly $10 million in venture capital for its connected solutions for senior citizens and the disabled. North Carolina is also home to NC RIoT, a statewide network of nearly 3500 technologists, policy makers, and entrepreneurs working to make the state a hub for IoT innovation.
As a growing manufacturing tech hub, it’s no surprise that Charleston is also gaining ground in IoT. Zubie, a connected car startup, has raised nearly $26 million, and IoT toy company Dynepic won the inaugural Charleston Angel Conference in 2016.
With the rise of new payment apps, accounting software, and even new currencies, financial technology is one of the fastest-growing industries around the world, and Southern metros are leading the way. Georgia FinTech companies generate annual revenues exceeding $72 billion, placing the state third in the nation. Over 100 FinTech companies are headquartered or have major offices in Georgia, including startup success stories like BitPay and Kabbage. The latter was valued at $1 billion last year and expect to more than double the size of its business in 2017.
Charlotte is quickly emerging as a FinTech hub as well. 20 organizations including Bank of America, the Charlotte Chamber, the City of Charlotte, and UNC-Charlotte have joined forces to create the forthcoming Charlotte FinTech Initiative, an effort to grow the city as a financial technology capital. The nationally recognized QC FinTech accelerator is now entering its sixth year in Charlotte. And local startups are quickly gaining ground: residential solar loan provider Sunlight Financial has grown from three employees to 20 (with expectations to be at 60 by fall), and has raised $450 million. DealCloud has raised over $5.3 million and tripled their team.
The meal kit delivery industry has grown over 500% since 2014 — there are now over 170 meal kit companies competing in the $1.5 billion market. Many of those quickly gaining traction are located here in the South.
Atlanta-based PeachDish offers Southern-inspired meals made from regional ingredients. The bootstrapped startup — which ships nationally — has been featured in TechCrunch, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur. Charlotte-based The Good Kitchen provides fully prepared, microwavable meals made with seasonal, gluten-free, organic ingredients. It aims to triple its number of meal deliveries across the US this year.
Image via BitPay. Inline images via Zubi and PeachDish.