The CED has found an “angel” investor, just like many of the startups that belong to the organization come to CED to learn how to do the same thing.

Proof of the organization’s necessity came this week when startup Digitalsmiths in Durham was sold to TiVo for $135 million. Co-founder Ben Weinberger first introduced the company and the technology to the Triangle at a CED tech conference in 2006 and moved the company to the Triangle the next January. Other entrepreneurs have hailed the CED’s importance when they cashed out. Among them were iContact’s founders who delivered cash to CED after they sold their company.

Yes, indeed, the CED is a tremendous resource.

But money never sleeps, and the CED always needs more as it looks to reboot – or “pivot” – while changing with the times – just as every member of the organization must do.

Now they have some. And it’s time to “Start Something,” as its motto declares.

The question now is: How will the largest such organization in the southeast cash in on the new investment? They are promising a “new approach,” says Dave Rizzo, the head of NC IDEA, which is providing the cash infusion.

Like any non-profit organization, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development faces a never-ending need to raise money from donors and sponsors.

Capital drives for this.

Fund raising drives for that.

Board meetings usually have one consistent, big item: Raising money.

“Angel” Dave Rizzo

However, the $250,000 grant from NC IDEA announced on Thursday is a huge shot-in-the-arm of cash that gives CED leaders a chance to spend less time raising money and more time fueling further growth of the Triangle’s resurgent tech community.

Rizzo, a former entrepreneur from Charlotte and a tech executive who once led MCNC, also leads venture firm IDEA Fund Partners. Now he’s the “angel” for the CED.

And have no doubt: This is a HUGE commitment for the economic development group, which twice a year over the past six years has handed out up to $250,000 in non-dilutive grants to help fuel startups.

Andrea Cook of NC IDEA and IDEA Fund Partners confirmed to WRALtechWire’s Jason parker today that the grant is the largest NC IDEA has awarded.

In other words, NC IDEA has chosen to invest one of its grant rounds in one organization hoping that the money fuels more CED efforts to help create new businesses and mentor existing ones toward success. It has handed out more than $3 million in grants to 82 companies since 2006 following the latest grants announced in December.

The CED launched its 30th year as an organization on Thursday night at the headquarters of another emerging Triangle success story – Bronto – which recently expanded into office space at The American Tobacco Historic District. The NC IDEA grant was formally announced at the meeting.

CED President Joan Siefert Rose said some of the funds will be directed toward the creation of an “information bank” of companies, mentors and investors with the goal of tracking connections and progress “efficiently.” This project is building off a large interactive data map project designed to help promote the region’s tech and life science industries as well as to help companies and entrepreneurs communicate better.

Maybe the project will help bring more attention to the Triangle.

CED’S Challenges

However, it would be a good idea for the CED to look for ways to broaden its reach WITHIN the Triangle and the state.

Anyone who attends CED events knows what one complaint is:

Same people.

Same service providers swarming for business.

Not enough new startups, new entrepreneurs.

Too expensive.

And the CED also is facing increased competition.

Networking events occur almost regularly. Rival venture conference events – especially the Southeast Venture Conference from Tech Media in the Triangle – draw away sponsors, speakers, and media attention. Every month, it seems, some organization is putting on an event to help entrepreneurs better learn how to navigate their way to success.

The CED puts on a variety of events and conferences each year. Its next one is the annual Life Science event in February. CED also puts on a large venture capital conference each year.

CED Competition Increasing

In announcing the grant, Rizzo made clear that the CED is responding to competition. 

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen a virtual explosion of organizations in the Triangle and throughout North Carolina, many created to help very early stage companies,” Rizzo said.

“As CED began outlining its new approach to help companies not only start but, more importantly scale and grow, it became clear that a partnership would help us both achieve our goals. We’re bullish on the plans that have taken shape as a result.”

The Triangle area has seen a tremendous increase in entrepreneurial growth in the last several years, especially since the 2008-2009 recession. The launching of several new business accelerators, incubators and shared office space suites has helped unleash a strong wave of new business growth not seen since the Internet go-go days of 1996-2000.

“Exits” by companies such as Digitalsmiths, Medfusion, Sharefile and iContact plus the successful IPO of ChannelAdvisor and several biotechs have helped stoke the fires of entrepreneurs who see the promise of big returns and building successful businesses.

The CED has plans for a “new approach” to drive more growth, and NC IDEA is providing cash to help.

Now the CED must deliver.