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As Pacific Box and Crate development fills in, Charleston's upper peninsula highlights tech sector's growth

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Pacific Box and Crate

Reverb Charleston yoga studio is part of Raven Cliff Co.'s tech-centric Pacific Box & Crate development on King Street Extension.  Leroy Burnell/Staff

One of the most visible signs yet of the growth of Charleston's technology sector is finally here.

The Pacific Box and Crate development on King Street Extension has moved in all of its big tenants, further cementing the upper peninsula's place as the center of the region's startup scene.

The new complex now plays host to scores of tech workers from the cybersecurity firm PhishLabs, which took occupancy of its new home this month. Twelve South, a laptop accessory designer, and Crowdreach, a social media marketing startup, have also moved in.

They join the real-estate software firm BoomTown, one of the region's largest startups, and the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, a startup incubator that hosts tech-minded events like 1 Million Cups at the site.

The development by Raven Cliff Co. will soon sport a food court of upstart restaurants and a new coffee shop, too. Those are expected to open later this month.

They're not the first wave of tech firms to move onto the upper peninsula, a distinction that goes to the e-commerce agency Blue Acorn and the efficiency consulting firm SIB. Those companies are headquartered just down the road on Morrison Drive's Half Mile North development.

But the tech campus is still fairly unique: It's one of the region's first construction projects built with tech in mind from the outset, anchored by companies that largely didn't exist a decade ago. BoomTown, the oldest of the bunch, was founded in 2006.

It won't be the last. Farther down Morrison, the Charleston Digital Corridor, a tech-focused economic-development group, is planning an office building on the upper peninsula to give new startups a place to work.

The Flagship 3 project hasn't yet broken ground because of financing delays, but director Ernest Andrade says an announcement is expected this spring. Andrade says the group is close to choosing a partner to help fund the project.

Top in tech

Mary Beth Westmoreland is one of the most powerful executives in Charleston's tech sector - so influential, in fact, that she landed a spot in a new ranking of the top women in tech anywhere.

The chief technology officer at Blackbaud Inc. — the region's biggest tech firm based on stock market value — was named alongside executives at Adobe, Airbnb and Apple on this year's Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology list. The ranking is put out by the National Diversity Council, a Texas-based nonprofit.

Westmoreland came to Daniel Island-based Blackbaud in 2008 from the Savannah River National Laboratory, and she was promoted to the c-suite in 2015.

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She's credited with managing the company's transition to the cloud — selling subscriptions to its software instead of one-off licenses. Blackbaud says the move has helped make its revenue stream more predictable - and its bottom line more robust.

"It's the work of our talented engineers, architects, designers and all of our staff that made this possible," Westmoreland said in a statement. "They challenge and inspire me every day, and I'm proud to share this recognition with them."

Booster reboot

Running a startup is all about knowing when to pivot. But then, sometimes founders don't have much choice.

Booster, a Charleston-based company formerly known as Crowdr TV, is in the latter camp.

The startup initially set out to build a video streaming service with a donations feature - first for politicians holding virtual rallies and later for nonprofits and anyone else seeking contributions. The idea won it some attention, including funding from S.C. Launch, the state-backed investment program for early-stage companies.

But Michael Stevens, Booster's CEO, says that concept didn't work out. When its app was submitted to Apple for review, word came back that the tech giant would take a bigger cut than anticipated. The numbers weren't going to work.

Hence the pivot.

Booster is now trying to blend online shopping with video streaming. The company now describes itself as "QVC for millennials" - a reference to one of cable's earliest home shopping channels.

That's not to say that Booster will be peddling cutlery sets any time soon. But it does mean the startup thinks it's got a new way for small retailers and artists to sell their wares.

Bands could broadcast their concerts and sell merchandise, Stevens figures, and artisans could demonstrate their craft while fans buy their work. The concept is as yet untested, but the company hopes it represents a niche in the fast-growing business of video streaming.

If nothing else, the company has chalked up at least one win: It was accepted on the App Store last week.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703 or on Twitter @thadmoore.

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