Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s darn well time to quit talking and get moving.
That’s the one refrain constantly heard at Raleigh’s “Innovation Summit” on Wednesday.
With city and corporate leaders and N.C. State acting as catalysts, private and public sector leaders along with some entrepreneurs gathered at the Convention Center to talk about ways to turn Raleigh into a hub for development of new companies and to help emerging firms find success.
In other words, how can Raleigh catch up to the trail-blazing for these same companies that’s quickly established Durham as the go-to hub for startups – and the jobs that come with them.
Leader after leader conceded that the executives of smart in the Capital City have talked a good game over the years. But where’s a new Innovation Center?
Where’s an American Underground like at Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District?
Where’s a community-supported effort to host and launch firms like the Durham Chamber’s Startup Stampede?
Having seen Durham take the issue of startups by the horns, Raleigh City Councilman Mary-Ann Baldwin – a veteran marketer in private life – and NC State’s Terri Lomax – who heads up NCSU’s Springboard entrepreneurship program – hatched the idea for the Innovation Summit. Various other groups joined in.
The result was a crowd of 175 people – 50 more than expected. Lomax conceded that when she and fellow “instigator” Baldwin first talked about the idea they thought they might get 30 or so people to take part.
But with Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) moving its headquarters downtown and the opportunity that means for related high-tech startups to come along, too, finally ignited a fire that blazed into the Summit.
The summit produced reports from four committees that had actually been meeting long before the official meeting. After brainstorming sessions at which each group solicited more ideas, a lengthy list of suggestions was presented to the entire group in a 90-minute wrap-up session.
Organizers promise to deliver a report by Feb. 13 and a follow-up meeting likely will take place on Feb. 15, according to Lomax.
Ideas included how to better brand Raleigh as a “sexy” or “edgy” city, in the words of marketing executive Billy Warden.
Brooks Bell, another marketer, said her committee liked the idea of economic development tax funds being funneled into the creation of a physical “Innovation Center.”
Joan Siefert Rose, president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development – one of the largest such organizations in the country – said the committee focused on entrepreneurs agreed on one significant point: Any effort going forward has to be built around what entrepreneurs want and need.
The capital group, led by Bill Houghteling of NCSU, said a “nexus” of information needed to be created about venture and capital funding sources. The committee wants the “rich guys” of the Triangle involved, and they would like to see the so-called “mafias” of entrepreneurs who have struck it rich through companies such as Red Hat investing in new companies.
So what’s next? Well, the talk has at least moved beyond day dreams and brainstorming to the shaping of a plan. Action comes next.
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