RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — I kept searching for a word to describe the remarkable atmosphere of the more than 100 executives gathered for a networking event Monday night.

Enthusiastic? Yes. Determination? Yes. Positive? Most certainly. Friendly? Absolutely.

But only one word captured everything.


I know I am biased toward entrepreneurs — their willingness to take risks, their desire to develop new technology and ideas, their grit in the face of obstacles no matter how formidable. But, by golly, entrepreneurs are what make this country great.

And the entrepreneurial spirit in all its resiliency was manifested over and over in the faces, conversations and actions of those who gathered for the latest TechExec, hosted at the sparkling North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

  • The CEO who is determined to turn around a struggling biotech firm — and is succeeding. He smiled at every conversation, and stayed until the very end when people left only because the caterers carted away the food and drink.

  • The lawyer who brought many other members of her hard-working firm who said they had been working so hard — because business is booming — that they needed a chance to unwind.

  • The serial entrepreneur who admitted one venture is closing, but he already is hard at work on another.

  • Another entrepreneur who recently acquired a startup and can’t contain his enthusiasm for products now being used all over the world. The pipeline is full — to the tune of $10 million, three times what he estimated the year would bring.

  • The venture capitalist who is searching for more deals, due in large part because he just made a 3-for-1 return on investment in a recent transaction.

  • The female executive who started her own business on a shoestring five years ago who recently hired a high-flying Wall Street and “dot com” exec to help take the business to more success.
  • I could go on and on, but hopefully the snapshot of what occurred is clear.

    Choice: Funk or fight

    These people chose to fight rather than succumb to the funk of the past four years.

    If you want to send yourself into a psychological tailspin for a day or week, just sit down and make a list of what all has happened to the United States since the “dot com”, stock market and telecom implosions took place four years ago.

    The meltdowns of overactive stocks triggered a recession.

    The search for scapegoats and reasons why uncovered massive corporate fraud — and the imposition of the well-meaning but expensive and strangling Sarbanes-Oxley.

    Many venture capitalists retreated to their bunkers to mourn their losses, triage their “dot com” gambles, raise more money and subsist on management fees rather than making deals.

    Then came that horrific day of 9-11-01.

    Just a year ago, we went to war in Iraq as a sequel to the war in Afghanistan.

    Now, we’re trapped in the middle of a divisive political campaign where anything seems to go when it comes to attacks.

    Today, we’re all still dealing with the hangover of these collective events — and Osama bin Laden’s hydra beats as Al Qeada clings to life in the mountains of Afghanistan while striking with venomous attacks.

    Yet look at the bright side.

    The latest Manpower survey indicates hiring is beginning to pick up.

    The Nasdaq and Dow Jones have been hit hard by revived terrorism fears, but the markets are still much higher than just a year ago.

    Interest rates remain at record lows.

    Some venture deals have actually closed of late.

    The economy is simply in remarkable shape despite all that has gone wrong. Unemployment remains well under 6 percent. And life goes on.

    So take, heart, my friends, that the sun will continue to rise; right will prevail in this war against terror; and the economy isn’t nearly as bad as some politicians and especially the mainstream press would have you believe.

    Entrepreneurs are alive, well, and cooking — ready to make this country an even better place to live.

    Editor’s note: The TechExec, a quarterly networking event, is a partnership between ClearImage and Local Tech Wire. Sponsors include SAS, Peak 10, WindChannel, Cisco, Grant Thornton, Mobile Reach Technologies, Staubach and Southern Capitol Ventures.

    Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.