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Statewide: Triangle region, September 2015

Smoke break

""If Raleigh startup Nicotrax’s hunch is right, its smart device and corresponding mobile app could make it easier for the world’s 1 billion smokers to quit the habit. To kickstart its ambitious goal, the company launched an online fundraising campaign in August, raising about $7,200 of its $50,000 target in the first two weeks.Supporters who pledge at least $70 will receive a smart cigarette case that links to an app designed to motivate smokers to quit. The case would track how many cigarettes are consumed and alert them just before their usual 5 p.m. smoke with a motivation to not light up, such as a picture of a loved one or a message from a counselor. “We focus on being as simple for the user as possible. People might not always know what their specific habits are,” CEO Kyle Linton (pictured right) says.

The company is the brainchild of an N.C. State University entrepreneurship program. Four undergraduates were devising an idea for a business, when they noticed one team member kept leaving for smoke breaks. Nicotrax founder and Chief Technology Officer Suraaj Doshi, 22 and a native of Gujarat, India, stuck with the project after graduation. Linton, 23, joined after earning a degree in business administration.

Their market opportunity is huge, with 18% of U.S. adults — or 42 million people — smoking, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At any given time, 7 of 10 smokers are trying to quit, the CDC says. Nicotrax seeks to provide an alternative to nicotine patches and counseling. “There’s a lot of noise around smoking cessation,” Linton says.

By raising money through the Indiegogo website, Nicotrax is building brand awareness, says Linton, who grew up in Black Mountain. The company also wants to raise $100,000 to help start making the devices. Linton envisions Nicotrax partnering with corporate wellness programs to help encourage workers to quit smoking. “Companies have massive costs for lost time spent smoking or insurance premiums.” For now, Linton and Doshi are refining the technology and recruiting partners to help prove the concept works. N.C. State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative provided them with a stipend to get off the ground. “It’s not much, but as an entrepreneur you take a lot of risks.”


MORRISVILLELenovo will lay off about 230 of 3,200 local employees as part of a global cost-cutting effort. The Beijing-based company, which has its North American headquarters here, plans to cut about 5% of its global workforce — about 3,200 people — amid a declining market for PCs and integration of its business units following recent acquisitions of Motorola Mobility and IBM’s x86 server unit. None of approximately 300 workers at the company’s Whitsett assembly plant were affected by the cuts.

MORRISVILLE — Mark Cook will become chief financial officer of ChannelAdvisor. He succeeds John Baule, who resigned after about three years in the position. Cook was vice president of finance at Raleigh-based software company Red Hat since 2007. It’s the second leadership change at the e-commerce business based here in the last four months; David Spitz replaced Scot Wingo as CEO in May.

DURHAMBaebies, a technology company based here, raised $13 million in a financing that includes Raleigh-based Rex Health Ventures and DUMAC, investment manager for Duke University. Baebies provides a platform for health screenings for newborn babies. Co-founders Vamsee Pamula and Richard West started Baebies in 2014. Pamula was co-founder and West was CEO of Duke spinout Advanced Liquid Logic, which was sold in 2013 to San Diego-based Illumina for $96 million.

HENDERSONPhilips-Optimum will close its local plant, idling all 50 employees by January. Previously Optimum Lighting, the company makes fluorescent light fixtures and was acquired by Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics in 2011.

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