Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia and a co-founder of Nextel Communications, will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference.

The SEVC is set for Jan 31 and Feb. 1 at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary.

Warner, who also is a former venture capitalist, will speak on Jan. 31. His topic will be the importance of entrepreneurial growth in the U.S. He has much to share from his own career experiences.

After co-founding Nextel, which is now part of Sprint Nextel, Warner helped launch Columbia Capital, a venture capital firm based in Virginia. He has helped launch more than 70 information technology and telecommunications companies.

"The real issues our nation faces are no longer right versus left or conservative versus liberal. They’re about past versus future," Warner said. "We have to embrace and lead the future. Supporting and growing emerging companies – like those participating in SEVC – and providing an environment to foster their development is fundamental to our country’s success."

While governor from January of 2002 to January of 2006, he launched the Virginia High-Tech Partnership. Warner recently decided not to seek the presidency in 2008.

Warner is one of several high-profile speakers scheduled to take part in the venture conference. Also participating are Jim Goodnight, founder and chief executive officer of SAS, and Ryan Wuerch, founder and chief executive officer of Motricity.

"We believe that Governor Warner understands the business and fundraising issues that many of our presenting and attending companies face,” said Eric Gregg, executive director of the conference. “His technology industry and venture capital experience, proven track record and energy around empowering business should provide a captivating learning opportunity for SEVC attendees.”

Sixteen companies from around the southeast are already scheduled to present at the SEVC. Others will be announced in the near future.