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NC Biz Wire, PACES team, Google Fiber advocate land WRAL TechWire Editor's Choice Awards

Apr, 25 2017, 8:30 PM

A UNC-Chapel Hill team of aspiring business journalists led by a veteran reporter and editor, three of the people who are among the major reasons why crowdfunding is now the law in North Carolina, and a point man for Google Fiber's efforts to bring broadband to underserved communities are the recipients of WRAL TechWire Editor's Choice Awards.

The winners:

[More coverage: WRAL TechWire honors six individuals, six companies and inducts five leaders to its new Hall of Fame.]

North Carolina Business News Wire

Let's talk first about North Carolina Business News Wire.

Chris Roush, Walter E. Hussman Sr. Distinguished Scholar in business journalism, and Director of the Carolina Business News Initiative, and his team at the North Carolina Business News Wire have in just over a year created a valuable news source for media outlets across our state.

In fact, the service, in which students write a growing variety of news stories about public companies and startups, has been so successful that Roush has expanded it to Maryland.

WRAL TechWire was among the early embracers of Roush's concept and has used scores of stories every month.

The UNC students mine securities filings and press releases for news that often went unreported as media outlets across the state - especially newspapers - have pared back business coverage. In fact, Chris has pitched in as a writer on occasion. And he's almost always working. I often receive email updates from him at all hours - even on weekends.

It's safe for me as the editor of TechWire to say: "Thank you, Chris, to you and your team for an invaluable service in keeping North Carolinians informed about what's happening in business."

Doug Speight, community outreach

‚ÄčEntrepreneur Doug Speight earned a entrepreneur-in-residence fellowship with the CODE2040 program, which is a collaborative effort supported in part by Google Fiber with the aim of boosting diversity and inclusion efforts around the U.S.

Google Fiber remains committed to growing its presence in the Triangle area even as it has scaled back efforts elsewhere. In and a recent update the company said ht had touched some 500,000 people across the region. Google Fiber also recently expanded its network to include North Hills as well as Brier Creek and Morrisville.

Speight is part of efforts to also make sure that the advantages of broadband are made available - and used by - communities that long have been overlooked for high-speed Internet and related services.

He also is an entrepreneur, a tradition started by his family dating back to the 1930s.

The NC PACES Act team

‚ÄčSerial investor and entrepreneur Mark Easley teamed with lawyers Benji Jones and Jim Verdonik to lobby for passage of crowdfunding legislation - and the campaign was neither fast nor easy.

Well behind moves made in Congress and in other states, North Carolina only passed the law last year. And final rules were put in place just a few weeks ago.

The three along with others created a web site, first for the NC JOBS Act then NC PACES Act, or Providing Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs and Small business.

Thank goodness for acronyms!

Their site quickly became a go-to-source for all things crowdfunding - and it still is.

Jones joined Smith Anderson after graduating with honors from Columbia University Law School and is now a partner. She recently was involved in one of the first N.C. crowdfunding-related deals.

Jones also is a regulator contributor to WRAL TechWire, offering keen insights into rules and regulations that could make laymen weep.

Verdonik is a securities attorney and small business advisor at Ward and Smith, P.A. A Fordham College graduate, Verdonik also stays busy as an author and columnist.

What's more, he is one of the better-known lawyers in the area for having worked with many startups.

Over the years, Verdonik also has contributed columns to WRAL TechWire.

Easley is a very busy angel investor who relocated to the Triangle from Silicon Valley. He also spent some two decades in high-tech, working fin engineering, sales, marketing, and executive VP management positions in the semiconductor industry at PLX Technology, Adaptec, Intel, and HP.

Suffice it to say, Easley writes for TechWire as well. He will send me notes, saying "Have you seen this?"

I respond: "Please write it up! Better you than me."

Oh, by the way, Mark also is a guitarist. Via YouTube, he offers more than 100 guitar lesson videos for the music of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver, and other favorites of the 60s and 70s.