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Three Local Tech Start-ups

Edgy innovation and cool products.

Story by Ellen Linnemann + Photography by Mark Staff

With no sign of technology startups slowing down, South Carolina finds itself at the forefront of the booming business. Here at home, there’s no better indication than the Don Ryan Center for Innovation and at the Beaufort Digital Corridor.

According to the most recent Cyberstates report, released in April, more than 200 new tech firms launched in South Carolina last year, almost a 4 percent increase from the previous year and double the national average.

“Technology in the Lowcountry is thriving, and we’ve been thrilled to have helped a number of tech startups launch successful businesses while also contributing to the economic development of the region,” said David Nelems, executive director of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation.

The center, which focuses on nurturing and growing startup companies, has graduated 29 companies from its business incubator program in Bluffton.

“By providing startup and early-stage tech companies the resources they often need to take their ideas to the next level, we are not only able to help enhance the region’s overall economic development, but we are helping the Lowcountry take its place as a leader in the growing technology industry, all while helping great technology ideas become successful companies,” Nelems added.

Joe Friesen is an FAA certified UAS pilot and is co-founder of CrossFlight Sky Solutions.

CrossFlight Sky Solutions

Armed with a great idea and perfect timing, the two turned to the Don Ryan Center for Innovation’s business incubator program to help get their business off the ground. Now, as a graduate of the incubator program, they are meeting regularly with prospective clients, beginning to fly missions and offering innovative products such as 2D, 3D and elevation maps that truly make a website come alive.

“Recently we filmed a large school eclipse event and captured the whole thing from the air,” Joe Friesen said.

Another client hired CrossFlight Sky Solutions to document a lake it is building through an aerial time-lapsed record of the project from beginning to completion.

The company also is committed to bringing more high-tech innovation to the region, as it strives to partner with local school districts and tech/vocational colleges to grow their aviation programs.


Director’s Chair
Keith McElveen is president of Wave Sciences, an internationally recognized leader in audio and video forensics and C4ISR technology.

Wave Sciences

Wave Sciences also is making a big splash in the Lowcountry.

The company develops embedded and textile-based directional audio technology with applications in the hearing aid, human-machine interface, and health condition monitoring markets.

Wave Sciences Corporation already has been awarded four patents for its innovative technology and inventions – including a garment that pairs with an existing hearing aid to let the hearing impaired person hear better in noisy places.

The company has future plans to create machine-washable versions of the company’s hearing garment invention.

“Technology companies such as ours know that we are welcome here, thanks to the number of programs available to help us launch our ideas, also provide the resources it takes to grow a successful tech company,” said Keith McElveen, Wave Sciences founder/CTO. “Another major benefit of being a tech company in the Lowcountry is that the pool of technical talent is growing and if one needs to recruit from out of the area, the Lowcountry is seen as an incentive to employees and their spouses.”

David Nelems and his team at Don Ryan Center for Innovation provide plenty of nurturing.

“As the technology sector continues to grow here, there is no doubt that the area will continue to be home to countless new innovations and inventions, as well as continue to attract ‘techies’ from all over the country,” Nelems said.

For more information about launching a tech business in the Lowcountry, as well as business growth resources and services throughout all industries, visit


Bill Ruffner and his son, Andrew, are the faces behind TurboBid, a company that specializes in construction estimating software.


While many of today’s tech companies fall under the definition of startups, sometimes the launch of a great technological idea can stem from recognizing a need in an existing business model. Such is the case with TurboBid, which specializes in construction estimating software.

Its founders owned a contracting company and were not satisfied with the software that was on the market, so they created an application to help them accurately calculate project costs.

The software worked so well, they created a version they could market and sell to other contractors. Within a short period, they were able to move away from contracting and launch TurboBid as its own tech company.

“Our experience being a tech company in the Lowcountry has been nothing short of outstanding and the local resources offered here to help businesses such as ours succeed is absolutely second to none,” said Andrew Ruffner, vice president of sales and marketing at TurboBid.

Ruffner credits Don Ryan Center for Innovation for the company’s growth. He added there are plans to expand by moving into estimating software for additional industries such as HVAC, general contracting and landscaping, as well as a cloud mobile app created for service contractors.