Meet Todd Buelow, Principal of Dualboot Partners, a Charlotte software development firm that recently made Raleigh its second headquarters. Todd and his partners Ben Gilman and Daniel DelaCruz are now helping Triangle entrepreneurs and businesses build great software, and they brought on Triangle vets Tina Cochrane and Wade Minter to help them do just that. Dualboot Partners provides on-demand product design and engineering and has the dexterity to start small or scale fast. Clients include tech and non-tech founders as well as the Fortune 500. [Full disclosure: Dualboot is a GrepBeat Supporter.]
Todd, a Penn State graduate, has over 20 years of experience managing digital products and was a founding member of Elogex, Bella Tunno, Cloud Logistics, and Castle Digital Partners. Todd was successful at finding good development talent even before Dualboot Partners. With $2 million in funding, Todd and two others started Cloud Logistics in Charlotte. They built a pipeline of tech talent in Russia and successfully integrated the teams and cultures together. This was the genesis of Dualboot Partners, which launched a little over two years ago.
The Dualboot magic is to embrace Agile development to make internal and external projects more manageable and to manage-up. Todd encourages 90+ employees to learn, respect, and invest in other cultures. He motivates employees to spot opportunities for improvement, to anticipate problems or hang-ups, and identify potential solutions. He wants Dualboot to be known for a culture “that helps someone else with a helping hand.” Todd shares: “I enjoy being the hand that takes someone from point A to B and being that bridge. I find it fascinating to hear someone’s story and understand their obstacle and then getting them to the next phase.”
But Todd Buelow is more than just a financial success story. Todd is the real deal when it comes to community and philanthropy. He is committed to helping children and is a volunteer basketball and soccer coach with the YMCA, serves on the boards of Speedway Children’s Charity, American Football without Barriers, and Bounce Out the Stigma, which provides basketball camps to children with autism, ADHD, epilepsy, and other physical and mental challenges. He supports the Dottie Rose Foundation, which tackles the gap for females in the field of tech and helps kids learn to code. “I’m passionate about getting kids to the starting line,” he explains.
You’ll notice another theme in his dedication that was born from a family tragedy. Todd lost his 30-year-old brother-in-law, Matt Tunno, to drug and alcohol addiction. He and his wife, Michelle Tunno Buelow, wanted to honor Matt and set out to raise funding that would complete Matt’s research project at the University of Montana. They started Bella Tunno, a purposely fun baby and parent accessory brand that took off and allowed them to fund and complete Matt’s project and then some. After research revealed that children who were hungry are more likely to develop addictive behaviors, they started a program in 2014 that donated a meal to a child for every product sold. Today, the program has provided more than 4.2 million meals. Today, with Michelle as CEO, Bella Tunno has two fully owned brands that are sold in over 3,000 independent boutiques and numerous mass retail outlets including Nordstrom, Target, and Buy Buy Baby.
Todd and Michelle’s passion for mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation efforts led them to be founding members of the Endowment Board of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. The facility provides a 120-day free rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol addiction. With the help of their two daughters and others, the facility now has one of the highest success rates in the country.
The Buelow family has given back in so many ways and has turned a tragedy into hope for others. God works in mysterious ways and you have to wonder… What if Todd took the job for Coke in New Jersey after graduation instead of following the Charlotte Hornets to his first tech job? What if Matt Tunno survived?
Todd lives in Charlotte with his wife Michelle and daughters Riley and Ella, and a Zoom-addicted cat. In his spare time, you might find this former rugby player fishing for redfish or large-mouthed bass or re-reading Toxic Charity. He might even brush up on his rusty French and entertain learning another language.
Learn who Todd would most like to meet and how he once saved someone’s life in our Q&A below.
Q. Now that Raleigh is a second HQ for Dualboot, what do you hope to accomplish this next year?
We are LPs in Idea Fund Partners and through that relationship plus attending CED over the years, we have seen an amazing atmosphere here in Raleigh. We are hoping to continue to help entrepreneurs and businesses build great software as well as be a lending hand to help them get from Point A to B. Additionally, we are excited to get involved in the non-profit community with the goal of being a “change agent” in the Raleigh community.
Q. What do you think the greatest challenge(s) is/are for high-growth tech companies in NC?
I think our education system is still lacking behind the world in STEM education, which leads to a lack of U.S.-based tech talent. Currently, there are about 30,000 open IT positions in NC alone. I have a daughter in 9th grade and this was the first year she truly started doing STEM work. It amazes me to see other countries that are starting STEM as early as 3rd grade. I think we need to continue to re-think our education system and train future generations where the new jobs are going to be.
Also, we have been getting some great VC/PE support as companies are growing; however, there is still a gap for those starting-out companies. Unless you grew up in a household that might have had wealthy friends/family it is really hard to get that “seed” investment. There are programs like NC IDEA and Charlotte is Creative with their HUG Micro-Grants that are helping, but there still isn’t enough capital to help people launch companies.
Q. What have been the challenges of transitioning to working from home?
Luckily I have been fortunate to work the past few years at home so I have had a great office setup. However, the biggest challenge is having the kids around during the day. Previously they were at school so there was quiet during the day. However, now I have to remind them that I am on phone calls and/or I can’t step out in the middle of the day to hang out with them. It’s been a learning lesson in patience, but everyone has adapted well.
Q. What has surprised you about the process?
Honestly, the biggest thing for me is I am super-extroverted and it’s been really hard for me not being able to go out to events. I miss going to different events, meeting new people, and helping in the non-profit community.
The biggest benefit though is it is much easier to get calls with people that were hard to reach pre-Covid. No events after work, kids sports, etc., have given people a lot more time in their schedule so they are now open for calls.
Q. You are involved in The Charlotte Rescue Mission, Speedway Children’s Charities, American Football Without Barriers, Bounce Out the Stigma, and Together We Feed. Your community involvement is off the charts. Can you share what drives this tremendous giveback?
I really enjoy being a helping hand to help people get to life’s “Starting Line.” I feel like if we can help people get to the “Starting Line” we can all run this race called “life.” The “Starting Line” is different for all people. For a person fighting addiction, it might be an introduction to a job after they leave rehab. For an entrepreneur who grew up in a lower-income area, it could be an introduction to your investor network. And for a child with special needs it might be just showing up to show that they matter and are loved.
Q. How does your passion and leadership for your community translate to the company culture of Dualboot Partners?
Pre-Covid we did a lot of events that tied business networking with serving at non-profits. Covid has disrupted these opportunities but we hope to continue them in the future. This is a great way to introduce a large number of people to a non-profit, network with your business partners and customers outside their traditional work environment, and hopefully inspire others to give back.
Culturally we hope that people “feel” our desire to be helping hand—whether it be to a fellow entrepreneur and/or to a non-profit—and this inspires them to be a helping hand for others they encounter.
Q. Share a “Fun Fact” about you.
Not sure if it’s necessarily a “Fun Fact” but it seems timely because we are now in the summer months. I am a big proponent of people being CPR-certified and being observant around pools. A few years back I witnessed a child drown in a pool but thank goodness a friend and I were able to bring the child back to life after 3 ½ minutes of CPR. Growing up we were required to learn CPR back in my high school in New Jersey and I thank the people that instituted that rule because I was able to help save a life. You can read a little more here.
If that’s too serious I was the Brown M&M Mascot in college one year and walked tennis star Steffi Graf out to the center court. The crowning achievement in my short-lived mascot career.
Q. Who would you most like to meet?
I would say, Oprah Winfrey. I have two daughters and I love to introduce them to people, especially women who are changing the world. Plus I love how Oprah uses her platform to inspire all those she encounters.
Q. Where have you traveled outside of the US?
I have been very fortunate. I am part of an organization called American Football without Barriers where we take NFL players to do free American Football camps. Through this experience, I have been able to visit Brazil, Hungary, Egypt, Germany, Finland, Portugal, and Turkey. Additionally, through my family’s love of travel and business, I have been to Holland, France, the UK, Thailand, Russia, Costa Rica, Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and Canada. This year my family plans on visiting Dubai.
Q. Name a talent you wish you had.
No doubt being an entertainer/singer. I have zero talent in singing and entertainment.