While South Carolina is noted for its manufacturing prowess, the Palmetto State is now being recognized as a player in “Big Tech”, from Silicon Harbor in Charleston to social media app creators in the Upstate.
Recently, South Carolina Manufacturing (SCMFG) had the opportunity to sit down with New Jersey native and app builder, Jeff Gentile. As a 25-year marketing and sales professional, Jeff is known for developing something from nothing.
His professional positions were strategically created to design territories and markets where they did not exist. He has successfully positioned thought-leaders in competitive markets and products, while creating customer awareness from the ground up.
(Gentile) I was working in the commercial flooring industry and was asked to take over the territory. Sales were dismal, with a goal of $1 million a year.
I built it to three times that amount. Having grown up in the Northeast, I knew there was a bigger world out there and wasn’t afraid of moving and trying to succeed in a new place.
(SCMFG) What about SC’s economic outlook made you want to become an entrepreneur here?
(Gentile) I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and believe we are the ones to change how things are done, just like Steve Jobs said in his “Crazy Ones” speech.
When I started building Grollow in Greenville, I was told “you live in the wrong area” and “you’ll never build that here.” Never accepting the word no, I pressed on.
I love Greenville and know we can build a cutting-edge social media app right here.
We have all the resources required to make this happen. Shipt was created in Birmingham, AL after they ignored the critics. Today, they have their name on the side of a building there. We can put the same building in Greenville.
(SCMFG) What is Grollow?
(Gentile) Very simply, it’s Twitter for groups. Grollow allows users to become flies-on-the-wall while listening in on their favorite peoples’ group chats. At the same time, users can interact with one another about the group.
Imagine that you and a group of friends are walking down a hallway and every door you pass is filled with your favorite groups of people who interest you (from sports teams/TV hosts to Hollywood stars to politics) and you’re able to listen in on their conversation.
(SCMFG) What makes you think the concept can work?
(Gentile) Everywhere you turn, “famous talking heads” are mentioning their group chats: teams, radio hosts, TV hosts, movie casts and more. Everyone would love to hear what is said in the group chats.
(Gentile) Grollow embraces groups over individuality. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allow individuals to talk “at” audiences while sharing who they are or their thoughts singularly.
It is time for the next generation of social media to reflect what we are all doing every day, and that is group chatting.
(SCMFG) With Charleston now referred to as “Silicon Harbor” are there organizations in South Carolina helping tech start-ups like Grollow?
(Gentile) Yes, South Carolina’s start-up community is thriving and ready for their Unicorn. Groups range from the SCRA who help startups with grants and state funding to the Next Innovation Center who provide startups a collaborative environment and an annual pitch competition that provides seminars and an ending pitch competition as well.
(SCMFG) If you could identify a better method for state organizations to nurture like-minded companies, what would it be?
(Gentile) To help ease the process. But I wouldn’t limit it to just state organizations; I would expand this to venture capital and all early investors. As a tried-and-true startup, it is very difficult to find help.
I use an analogy from the movie, “National Treasure”, as being an entrepreneur today is much like a being a treasure hunter. Not that we are all searching for a treasure, but it seems at every turn, we only uncover another clue.
(SCMFG) Looking ahead three to five years, where do you see Grollow being used most?
(Gentile) The major sports world? Industry? Consumers? This is one of my favorite aspects of Grollow. I have my ideas of where it will be heading, but I cannot wait to see where our users take it organically.
Younger generations are influential and creative, and it’s always fun to watch the direction they take new apps.
I see the sports world utilizing our platform because every team communicates in a group chat that fans would love to eavesdrop on. I also see it taking some time for traction. Early adoption could be at local levels: higher education; multiple church campuses sharing weekly sermons; or even local governments sharing minutes with their constituents.