Several months ago, Derek Holt
joined the crew of Washington D.C. investors and entrepreneurs who swept through the Southeast on a bus for the third Rise of the Rest Tour
The stop in Raleigh was particularly memorable for the man. It was a chance to visit the region he'd adopted as an IBM employee and graduate student at Duke University as well as a person he'd befriended while working for the Startup America Partnership. That guy was Scott Moody
, the founder of K4Connect
whose last startup AuthenTec sold to Apple for $356 million in 2012.
It wasn't long before Holt and Moody began negotiations to make the former man president of the latter's fast-moving connected home startup serving senior and disabled populations.
Says Moody: "It's like finding someone like Jordan Spieth is available to join your golf team and you say you don't have an opening right now. You find an opening,"
Momentum has built in recent months as Moody recovered from brain surgery and announced the company's first product called K4Life, a hardware device that connects all the various technology-enabled products with a mobile app that gives elderly or disabled people better control over their homes. A month ago, K4 also announced its first major contract—a $1.4 million deal to install its devices in 10 senior living communities in Pennsylvania.
In an email this week, Moody wrote, "We have the technology and market opportunity, and with folks like Derek, we now have the team to execute."
He calls now "an excellent time for K4Connect to raise funds" and hopes to have an announcement on that matter soon.
In the meantime, Holt is gradually ramping up the company's sales, marketing and business development activities. He'll be responsible for targeting senior living communities, of which there are 22,000 around the U.S. with three million residents. Eventually, he'll lead the company into the consumer market—40 million seniors and people with disabilities are still living at home. He expects to use some creative strategies to get in front of those people and their caregivers. For now, it's a "classic enterprise sell" into communities and assisted living facilities, he says.
Moody continues to serve as the company's CEO and co-founder Jonathan Gould holds the reins as CTO.
Well-suited for the job
Leading a software and hardware startup makes sense for Holt. He's a former software engineer and IT specialist turned sales executive and MBA. After completing his MBA and a decade of work at IBM, he left the Triangle in 2011 for Washington D.C., where he secured sponsors and managed sponsor relationships for the White House-initiated Startup America Partnership. As the Partnership's director of business development, he worked directly with its CEO, former Priceline CTO Scott Case, and then advised the organization after it merged with UP Global in 2013.
For the last two years, he's worked with Case on a venture-backed startup in D.C. called Main Street Genome
. His various interests seem to align in his new role at K4Connect.
Holt and Moody met several years ago at a White House event. Moody was visiting with a handful of Triangle startup leaders to showcase some of the innovation and startup activity in our region. The two men stayed in touch ever since, talking quarterly about Startup America and the development of K4Connect.
Holt describes Moody as one "a handful of really interesting entrepreneurs" he met while working for Startup America. He'd long been intrigued by Moody's plans and liked K4Connect's mission to be successful and have a positive impact on the world. When he also met K4's team of nine earlier this year, he became equally impressed by the people building the technology and company.
The icing on the cake, Holt says, was the chance to move back to the Triangle and raise his kids here.
"I've been really inspired by the progress of the ecosystem and the companies in it," Holt says. "It's very clear to me that this region—and Steve Case mentioned it when he was here—is on the front end of the curve in terms of ecosystems and it's starting to make a name for itself nationally and globally."
Unique about the Triangle is the number of quality companies that actually measure up to the hype.
"We could probably use a little more of that hype energy because I do think we're delivering on the reality," Holt says.
He expects to contribute to that himself—one of his first community engagements is at his alma mater. He'll be in attendance at tonight's Duke Startup Challenge.
But the biggest way to boost the Triangle's image is to keep building successful companies, he says. And that's what he's committed to doing at K4Connect.