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Ship Repair Startup Forging Its Way to Market

What if an app could get more U.S. Navy ships back to sea sooner?

The co-founder of startup company Washington’s Hammer knows just how hard it can be to get an aircraft carrier, battleship or destroyer back in sailing shape. That’s why the NC State University College of Education grad decided to launch a tech company dedicated to developing a maritime collaboration platform.

The startup’s software solution — Keelblok — seeks to streamline naval ship repair by making it easier for mechanics to make decisions, track progress and communicate updates. Keelblok was commissioned for beta testing on a naval aircraft carrier in 2023.

“It all started with NC State,” says Valeni Felton, who co-founded Washington’s Hammer with his wife Chana Ruiz-Felton while earning his master’s of education in training and development at NC State.

The husband-and-wife team launched Washington’s Hammer in 2021, shortly after completing the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps training program at NC State. The NSF I-Corps program, managed at NC State by the Office of Research Commercialization, aims to help researchers transition their ideas and inventions into the marketplace through customer discovery and market research.