On the journey to success, ArchiveSocial Founder Anil Chawla was always using all of the resources the Triangle tech scene provided to him, whether it was NC IDEA grant applications, accelerator programs like The Startup Factory or connections made at a local bar over a beer. It’s only fitting, then, that ArchiveSocial and Chawla have claimed the inaugural Greppy Award for “Best Leveraging Of Triangle Ecosystem Resources.”
Chawla founded ArchiveSocial in 2011 to automate the record-keeping of social media content for government agencies, schools and other organizations with regulatory or business needs to keep track of past social media content. ArchiveSocial received a $53M growth equity investment from the private equity firm Level Equity in May, 2019, that provided a very nice return—or exit, if you prefer—for Chawla and his early investors. Five months later he stepped aside from running the company as the day-to-day CEO to become Executive Chairman.
He and his startup wouldn’t have gotten there without a lot of hustle.
“I’m very honored that GrepBeat would coin an award around the resourcefulness of a company,” Chawla said, “because I think that is essential to a company getting off the ground and figuring out its way in the early days.”
Early on in his startup days, Chawla joined The Startup Factory, a Durham-based entrepreneurship accelerator that ran in the early 2010s. [We wrote about The Startup Factory in 2019.] Chris Heivly, a Co-Founder of MapQuest, was at the helm of The Startup Factory (alongside Dave Neal) and remembers the resourcefulness Chawla displayed. Heivly said Chawla took advantage of the uniqueness of Durham and its vibrant, supportive tech community.
“That’s what made Anil a great entrepreneur is that if there wasn’t a Startup Factory, I’m sure he would have found some other way to get what he needed—mentorship, a little bit of money, whatever,” Heivly said. “And this is what the great entrepreneurs do.”
Chawla had long wanted to leave his day job at IBM to start his own company when he met Heivly and started pitching him his startup ideas. Initially, the timing didn’t seem right to join The Startup Factory, but after a conversation with his wife, Chawla had a change of heart.
“More than anything I think it gave me that accountability of being a ‘company,'” Chawla said. “I was no longer just a guy in my bedroom writing code. I was now this company in this program with a spotlight on us, and it gave me that accountability that I could let people down more than just myself.”
Early on, ArchiveSocial also received a $41,000 grant from NC IDEA in 2012. This grant provided validation that ArchiveSocial was generating enough waves of interest in the community that they could attract funding and hires and get off the ground, Chawla said.
Despite being a shy kid, Chawla said he always took advantage of any entrepreneurship networking events.
Attracting local angel investors
David Gardner, the Founder of Cary-based VC fund Cofounders Capital, met Chawla when he was first getting involved in local investing. Gardner quickly felt Chawla would be a successful entrepreneur because he always took advice from mentors and came back for more. Gardner became an early angel investor of ArchiveSocial.
“Anil was the full package,” Gardner said. “He could code, he could sell, he was articulate, and most importantly, he seemed very coachable.”
Chawla said ArchiveSocial’s early investments gave him confidence moving forward and the ability to make the first critical hires. Durham startup community American Underground and a San Francisco-based program called Code For America were also instrumental in Chawla moving his startup from its infancy to a successful exit.
Many would-be entrepreneurs believe they should keep their ideas close to the vest, but Chawla said he did the opposite. He had no hesitation and would always talk about what he was working on at every community event. He even landed on his core market for ArchiveSocial because he had a beer at Lonerider Brewery with someone who mentioned their colleague’s pain point: record-keeping of social media content.
Chawla said it’s been a privilege to build a company in the Triangle because the amount of collaborative support is incredible.
Now, Chawla spends much of his time giving back to the community, sharing what he’s learned on his entrepreneurial journey to budding startup founders.
“If I can help an entrepreneur make a real step forward based on what I know and what I’ve experienced,” Chawla said, “then that’s incredibly fulfilling for me.”