As the deadline looms for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to notify the Justice Department on whether or not he will enforce House Bill No. 2, more commonly known as the new bathroom or LGBT Law, the state and its residents find themselves in the midst of a very public high stakes maelstrom that could cost the state millions of dollars in federal education funding.
As a founder of a startup, I am keenly aware of the unpredictable nature of the myriad forces that are far removed from the daily business operations which can impact the growth of a company. When I visited the state's thriving startup hubs in the Triangle Area last year, I was impressed with the positive, supportive network among those I met.
I had the chance recently to catch up with Jim Zidar, one of the startup founders I met during my visit last year. Jim is CEO and one of four cofounders who, after a successful exit from a previous startup in 2012, together launched Stealz as an interactive customer engagement mobile application focused primarily on the restaurant industry and whose clients now include major brands like McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Applebee's, Anytime Fitness, Dave & Buster's, and Zaxby's.
"As a group of entrepreneurs who were mostly raised in North Carolina and have called this state home for most or all of our lives, it's definitely tough to see our state receiving so much negative press on a national level," says Zidar, adding that all of the cofounding team were raised in the state and attended colleges in North Carolina.
But so far, Zidar says that his company has been fortunate despite the public, political and economic backlash after the governor signed HB2 into law in March, 2016, and the resulting quadrupled economic losses in his state.
"Although we're aware of some of the severe negative impacts HB2 is having on North Carolina and the Triangle's economy specifically, we're fortunate in that we haven't really seen a direct impact on our business and our ability to generate revenue," says Zidar.
Zidar says business has remained strong for clients leveraging the company's platform for its real time customer engagement and customized feedback surveys.
He says the key for his team has been focus.
"It's discouraging to see how regional politics can negatively affect peoples' feelings or willingness to want to do business with companies in that state. As a startup, all you can do is continue to focus on being nimble, innovative, and continuing to move forward. Thankfully, the entrepreneurial community here is really tight-knit and concentrated on doing what we have to do to make North Carolina proud."
For companies like Stealz, the governor's response to the Justice Department, and whatever comes with it, has caused the team to become even more cohesive and laser-focused on the goals of their company, despite living in the middle of the global fishbowl that their state has become.