Editor’s Note: Since 1986, Monica Doss has served as President of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), a non-profit organization founded in 1984 to stimulate the creation and expansion of high-growth entrepreneurial businesses in North Carolina. Doss is responsible for spearheading the direction, operation and overall management of the organization. During her 20-year tenure, CED has grown to become the largest entrepreneurial support organization in the United States, with 4000+ members representing 1100 member companies, and an annual budget of $2 million. Doss has received both local and national recognition as an industry leader.

This is the second of a two-part interview that is part of The Entrepreneurial Spirit series done in partnership between the CED and WRAL Local Tech Wire.

What are some of the key issues that the Triangle still needs to address to continue to foster the region’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit?

The first issue the region is going to face is growth. I think the Triangle is going to be okay for a while. However, many of the area’s entrepreneurs relocate from places that are more densely populated than the Triangle. We are sensing that there is a lot of influx from Boston and the Northeast, for example. They are coming here and they are saying, “This is a much easier place to live.” We have to remember what it takes to be an easy place to live.

If we allow the Triangle to become a difficult place to live, there is really no advantage then to having your company here over somewhere else. We saw this issue coming, during the Technology Boom and we were just on the cusp of being in trouble when the bust happened and slowed the region’s growth. Some work was done to prepare for growth during the boom, in terms of infrastructure and roads, but we need to keep our eye the issue.

Capital also remains an important issue to address. We have little seed capital in North Carolina. NC IDEA is a great source for seed capital, but the organization’s resources are limited. We are not going to meet the demand of growth without other sources of seed capital. The supply of and demand for capital is off balance and continues to worsen every year. Even when we look at our venture data and pat ourselves on the back, if we reflect that off the demand metrics that we have, we are making no headway; we are just barely holding ground.

You can ask entrepreneurs and investors in the Triangle if there is enough capital in the area and receive the full range of answers on any given day. Venture capitalists always say, “all great deals get done.” And that may be true, but do all good deals get done? I don’t know. According to CED’s 2007 Entrepreneurial Satisfaction Survey Report the Triangle does not have enough seed capital or expansion rounds from an entrepreneur’s perspective. We are also hearing from other sources, as well, that the amount of expansion capital here is insufficient.

As we look elsewhere we see that companies that are receiving private equity money, and earlier companies going public on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market, or the Toronto Exchange. Which companies get funded in the area depends heavily on how well they fit the industry. All funds have certain industries that they prefer to invest in. They choose those industries and build their partnerships around them. That is natural. If your company does not fit into one of the industries, then you are going to have a harder time securing funding. It is almost logical that, as new industries get formed, it’s going to be less likely that they are going to line up perfectly.

The venture funds in North Carolina are very successful and see a tremendous amount of deal flow. But their goal is to satisfy their limited partners. They are in the business, and that is their job. As long as they are satisfying their limited partners, they are doing a good job. It is not wise for them to be out looking for companies to invest in simply to invest. However, I would also say that they have really grown a lot of these industries. If you look at the portfolio of the local venture firms, you will see many disruptive technologies represented.

To help fund early stage companies, I really believe that we need a public infusion. There are fewer local angel investors now than there used to be. The angels that are in the area are not as well organized as they once were. Angels typically invest only when the stock market is good and they have lots of liquid capital to devote. When the stock market takes a turn for the worse, they retrench. It is during stock market recessions that many entrepreneurs with great ideas do not receive the necessary seed capital. If we really want to see this area boom the way it can, we must smooth out the peaks and valleys in seed capital.

What do you envision for the future of the Research Triangle over the next 20 years?

One of the great things about the Triangle region is the diversity of the community; the ability to choose your lifestyle. You can live on a farm, in a suburb, or in a downtown area. You can visit an art museum, a theater, or a sports arena. I believe these recreational activities greatly improve our quality of life and will help the area to continue to attract plenty of intelligent, innovative business people.

I think, again, the most important thing is to start being very global in our thinking to help our entrepreneurs constantly look externally. Sometimes in the state, we tend to like to navel-gaze a lot. It’s important to know what’s going on in the state, but it’s equally important, if not more so, to know what’s going on everywhere. I think that that push is on, and between CED and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and the Research Triangle Foundation, we are all talking about globalization.

We are also seeing the establishment of institutions like, the Hamner Institute for Health Science which I believe will continue to assist the region in developing global, cutting- edge innovations and attracting the best and the brightest from our own universities and around the world. I think the Hamner Institute is a good bellwether of the next generation.

The Research Triangle Foundation also has a plan to radically change the face of what RTP is. Everything that makes the park not a very conducive place for entrepreneurial small companies are the things being addressed. RTF hopes to make the park a community, not just 35,000 people driving in and out every day. It will still be a research park, but it will also be more of an innovation center. I am really excited to see the upcoming changes and I believe that we have the resources to sustain the Triangle as a global leader in innovation.