Chip Andrews is the Managing Member of Andrews Ventures. Earlier in his career, Chip and his young partners joined Dr. Emol A. Fails, a professor at NC State, to help build FMI Corporation. Dr. Fails agreed to resign tenure to work with his mentees to grow the firm; Chip was formerly CEO and later served as Senior Chairman from 2009-14. Chip also serves on several other businesses’ boards of directors, as well as on many community civic boards including the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Council.
Chip is a graduate of North Carolina State and currently serves the university as a member of the NC State University Board of Trustees, NC State University Endowment Fund, NC State Investment Fund Member Board, Wolfpack Investor Network (WIN) Member Advisory Board and Steering Committee, NC State Acceleration Fund and The Andrews Launch Accelerator, which he established in 2015. (We wrote about the Andrews Launch Accelerator in June, 2019.) He was named NC State University Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2016.
- What is in your pockets?
I’ve got a back pocket with a wallet and my other back pocket has my iPhone, and there’s nothing in my front pockets. I used to carry cash.
- What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
Our organization is an investment company. We are either a 100% investor, or a relatively minor investor, in some 60 different entities. “Exciting” is whatever has happened recently that’s either good or bad.
One example is we are an investor in a company called SmartSky Networks, which is going to provide the next generation of air-to-ground digital communications for aircraft. All of us have been very frustrated about trying to use digital communications on an airplane. Just to check your emails sometimes is difficult. Watching a movie is difficult, and this new generation of communication is going to use ground-based communication systems with airplane receivers and transmitters, to be able to hand off locations all over the United States.
It’s been a seven- or eight-year research, innovation, creation, development process and just recently they were given governmental approval after a test facility was successful to develop a corridor between Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. As soon as that test is over, they will be ready to launch on a nationwide basis. It will be first in private aviation, and then later in commercial aviation, and you’re going to see a profound change in the ability to communicate from an airplane. So, we’re excited about that.
- What is your favorite coffee spot?
For the last three years it’s been Cafe Carolina in the Village District. I moved from Starbucks over to Cafe Carolina and I have really enjoyed it. Good people, good coffee, and the spacing is quite well done to ensure that you can have a pleasant, open, but still private conversation.
- What keeps you up at night?
Well, actually the simple answer to that is nothing; I sleep quite well. But the metaphorical answer would be the current conundrum between the 10-year (treasury) rate and the S&P’s phenomenal success. I’m not one of those folks who believes inflation is gone forever and that the inflation that we’re now having is purely transitory. I think we’re going to increase inflation pretty substantially sometime in the next 12 to 24 months, and I just hope that the Fed is able to deal with that phase as well as they dealt with the beginning of the pandemic.
- What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
Well, the restaurant is not very well known by an awful lot of people in town, and that’s the Saint Jaques restaurant in the [North Ridge] shopping center out in the North Raleigh area. It’s fantastic French food.
- What is next for you or your organization?
A good portion of my invested time today is in the public sector, and particularly in NC State. So, at NC State, there are several ‘what’s next’ that are on our radar that we’re quite excited about. The Andrews Launch Accelerator, which we started five years ago, has now had our fifth cohort of teams to go through the grant and accelerator process. We’re getting better and better applicants. We’re getting more and more applicants. We’re getting what we think are more successful ventures being formed. We’re learning how our counsel and coaching matter in developing these teams.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’m on the Board of Trustees and Vice Chair of the endowment, and Centennial Campus has been a huge success as everybody knows. The Hunt Library is the touchstone of the fiscal success, as well as the academic success, that we have over there. But in the last year we’ve opened up a new state-of-the-art, hands-on, research and teaching engineering building. The new plant sciences building will open this year with one of the most advanced rooftop gardens.
We’re doing some amazing things internally on Centennial at NC State, but frankly, my biggest excitement for the future is what we’re doing as joint venture partners in a public/private partnership with companies that join us on Centennial Campus. That’s been the launch of many highly successful companies. It’s been an extension of proven companies that want to find ways to stimulate their innovation. Red Hat started there. IBM has got a huge new investment there.
The things that are going on now—and that have been going on for the last couple of decades—are going to be continued, but it’s going to enter a new phase in the next decade. There’s going to be more and more partnerships and interactions with professors, staff, students, companies, and company-to-company relationships, where the companies want to be there because five other companies that are similar to them, that are pursuing similar objectives, are there. So, we can see the future—and the future is going to be really bright for Centennial Campus.