A Raleigh startup is relocating to a tower in North Hills after experiencing exponential growth during the COVID-19 pandemic that the company said has propelled its annual revenue into the tens of millions.
Software company Relay announced the move Tuesday, saying it saw its recurring revenue and customer base increase by 645% in the past year.
CEO Chris Chuang declined to say precisely how much the company was worth, but he noted they aim to hit the $100 million revenue mark in the next five years.
“It’s a pretty big, audacious goal that you know, not a lot of technology companies reach,” Chuang said. “But I think what gives us a little more confidence than the average company trying to go for it, is that we’ve done it before.”
From Bandwidth to NC State’s Centennial Campus
Relay is a cloud-based platform with companion hardware allowing workers to communicate and companies to track the location of their employees and equipment. It’s a vision the company zeroed in on in early 2020.
In the beginning, Relay was selling directly to families with young kids, marketing it as a smartphone alternative. In 2020, they went all-in on selling to businesses instead.
First it was hotels, a scary bet as the pandemic gripped the world, but one Chuang said proved the product’s value.
“It really is a product that you need in the leanest of times,” he said. “The importance of real-time communications and being able to track where your people are like, ‘Hey, I need to send the closest security guard or the closest housekeeper to address this guest issue,’ because, you know, I only have half the staff right now, so that efficiency is all the more important.”
Later, health care, warehousing and construction joined the hospitality industry in Relay’s portfolio.
“Really the pattern that we look for is any really large distributed space,” Chuang said. “We can map these massive locations and it has to do with our sort of proprietary location technologies that enables that.”
Relay’s software features include instant communications, real-time location tracking of both people and equipment, route optimization, workflow automation and safety solutions.
The company was founded by a group of former Bandwidth employees, spun off from a spin-off, Chuang recounted.
Bandwidth, a Raleigh-based tech company whose market cap currently sits over $500 million, created the Republic Wireless brand in 2011. Republic Wireless spun off from Bandwidth in 2016, growing to over $100 million in annual revenue before selling to DISH in 2021.
“To me, of all the $100 million revenue businesses I’ve been blessed to be part of, this one seems to have the clearest strategy and of path to get there. We are serving big markets that are like stuck using pre-Internet technology,” he said, pointing to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that showed a 40% productivity gap between information workers and front-line workers in the U.S. in 2020.
In North Hills, an effort to attract tech and life science companies
Relay was headquartered on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, but has outgrown the space as its staff has grown to 124 full-time employees.
In July, the company is taking over the entire 18th floor of Advance Auto Parts Tower, a 20-story building on Six Forks Road in the heart of North Hills.
“It’s cool to have those sweeping views to inspire you,” Chuang said.
Kane Realty Corp. marketing manager Hannah Smith said the tower, which opened in 2020, is fully leased aside from a vacant retail space on the ground floor.
It also houses Advance Auto Parts’ headquarters, as the name implies, as well as IAT Insurance Group, US Radiology Specialists and the American Board of Anesthesiology. Relay will be leasing over 31,000 square feet.
Kane is in the midst of developing a $1 billion “Innovation District” on 33 acres nearby to attract tech and life science companies to North Hills.
Chuang said North Hills was ideal for its central location and plentiful restaurants and other amenities.
“We looked at Fenton. We looked at numerous places in downtown Raleigh. We wanted to provide a location that would foster more easy connections with our team,” he said.
This story was originally published June 14, 2022 3:21 PM.
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