After National Honor, One Local Tech Company Eyes the Future

Kopis makes Inc. 5000 List

Evan Smith
August 21, 2019 - 6:02 pm
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There’s a strange sort of relationship in up-and-coming cities that goes something like this:

The more tech start-ups there are in town, the more craft breweries open up – and vice versa.

“Don’t forget more beards and mustaches,” added Adam Drewes, the Chief Marketing Officer for Kopis, a software and all-around technological solutions company based out of Greenville.

Kopis, which was just listed on the Inc. 5000 list of the most successful companies in America, is just one of the companies driving a strong tech scene locally.

For his part, Drewes has been living and working in Greenville since 2005, so he’s had a front seat view to the tech business culture that’s been expanding ever since. The autumn of 2007 saw the opening of the NEXT Innovation Center, a hub for tech entrepreneurs and their companies that fosters a culture of community and collaboration. Located in a formerly vacant 60,000 square foot structure that once housed manufacturing, the building has now become a labyrinth of tastefully designed hallways – modern furniture, artfully exposed ceiling ducts, open concept gathering rooms, and walls adorned with objectively cool dry erase artwork done by students at the Governor’s School for the Arts. Housed inside this maze of plate glass and modern steel are some of the most innovative tech companies in Upstate South Carolina, Kopis among them.

The vibe within the innovation center is classic tech: a deliberate mixture of low-brow casual, with determinedly high-brow professionalism.

In other words, expect to see a lot of super focused people working in bean bag chairs or at standing desks.

“Oddly enough, one thing a tech company really needs the most are problems,” Drewes said. “Because you can bring in the best talent in the industry, but if you don’t have challenging problems on the table, they’re going to look elsewhere.”

Provided by Kopis

Drewes, who has been working at Kopis since before the company set up shop here inside the NEXT Innovation Center, said Greenville’s start-up culture offers exponential growth opportunities for other companies moving forward.

Which, yes, also means a lot more potential challenges for people to dig their teeth into.

“I think, generally speaking, just the fact of us all sharing our experiences and providing the infrastructure for others to start a company, and to make sure we can help them find the right people, is a main driver of that,” Drewes said.

The location helps too: Drewes sees the appeal of Greenville – a city that draws in both young singles and family-oriented folks alike – as a main factor in the local business community’s success.

“Take tech companies out of it,” Drewes said, “and with Greenville as a whole just being a great place to live, a great place to raise a family, that’s a driver right there. We have two people from Miami who moved here because they found a great place to foster a career, but also just because Greenville is just fantastic on its own.”

Kopis is currently one of fourteen tenants inside the NEXT innovation center, with another seven companies operating out of its sister location, NEXT On Main.

Founded about two decades ago by its current president and CEO Andrew Kurtz – “Andy” as his employees call him, who is fairly described as both a tech nerd and a history nerd – the company takes its name from the legend of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot.

The legend goes that a massive unsolvable knot had perplexed everyone who tried to untie it, until Alexander the Great rolled into town, wielding his kopis – a curved sword common of that era. Declaring that he could solve the knot, Alexander unsheathed his kopis and, with one clean slice, cut the knot in half.

The lesson of that story?

“Simplify,” Drewes said. “Because as engineers, sometimes we have a tendency to over-engineer things, so we have to remind ourselves that we need to make sure we are solving these complex problems in as simple a way as possible.”

He added, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing in simple terms, then you probably don’t understand it.”

In the simplest of terms, then, Kopis (the company, not the sword) aims to create software that solves problems for other companies. Their software usually falls into two main categories: software that helps a company become more efficient internally, and software that aids in the creation or adaption of a product.

Both categories open themselves up to a wide range of nuances, so no two situation are alike.

On the efficiency side, a goal might be to speed up the company’s system of integrated applications that manage the business and automate functions – which sounds complex, but really it’s all just another way of saying it allows companies to stop wasting money and time on busy work that everyone hates doing anyway. That’s just one example, of course.

On the product-side, it might involve developing software that allows a product to send data back to a company so that it knows how to make the product better moving forward, or can adapt the product to better suit the goals of the business. All of this is done on an enterprise level, mind you, which means security and scalability are key.

Each year, technological capabilities expand, as do risks, which means complacency is all but a mortal sin in Drewes’ field.

Still, when it comes to the constantly evolving nature of tech, Drewes said it’s both tough and exciting.

“The new tech is enabling, so it helps us develop more complex things faster,” he said. “But keep in mind, it really is about planning. We have to look at ourselves and ask: Is this software going to continue solving our needs? Yes, sure. Are there security risks? No. But are there some difficulties in maintaining it? Yes, there are. So – that’s when we realize it may be the trigger time to look at modernizing.”

How often does this happen?

“Pretty much consistently,” Drewes said.

And yet, despite having been enmeshed in the tech field for well over a decade, Drewes still thinks it’s all “really cool” – his words.

And no, that’s not just because there are draughts of local craft beer in the office – although, like any good tech company, they have that too.

Kopis was named one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. Read more about the Inc. 5000 list here.

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