I’m running a few minutes late to the event so I quickly grab a name tag and head into the tightly packed room of onlookers, ready to hear more on the topic of discussion, Audacity Factory. Joe Schmidt, the founder of the factory and a well-known Triangle entrepreneur, is a dreamer and that is exactly who he wants to join the factory’s inaugural batch of founders.
Joe Schmidt's Next Audacious Act
The Audacity Factory is a new incubator on NC State’s Centennial campus aimed to help companies and nonprofits solving under-served humanitarian issues while disrupting the status quo along the way. Schmidt’s ambition is big—within 10 years, he hopes the factory will have a positive impact on the lives of 10 million people around the world.
It all starts with an annual eight-month program in which the participants, both students and non-students alike, will be paired with mentors to accomplish a set of goals aimed to launch or propel social impact startups. Organizations will be guided through topics like marketing, business development, sales, product sourcing, legal structures, storytelling and media and more.
They’ll get to pick the brains of a diverse group of mentors, also known as Schmidt’s “brain trust”, including Ronald McDonald House strategist and operations advisor Oie Osterkamp, CNN International journalist and editor Leif Coorlim, the Singapore-based founder of Crowdsourcing Week Epi Ludvig Nekaj and Eric Montross, former NBA player and the factory’s fundraising/leadership advisor.
Audacity Factory isn’t the first of its kind in this region—UNC operates The CUBE social innovation incubator inside its Campus Y program and Duke has a Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator. Bull City Forward has a 13-month fellowship program in Durham for social entrepreneurs to work on ventures surrounded by peer support, leadership training, media help and a sponsor. But this is the first true incubator open to the broader community of entrepreneurs. Social incubators are growing in number across the United States; check out this Google map of the trend.
The Audacity Factory hopes to serve as a point of inspiration for other entrepreneurs, a place where members are free to think expansively, a community of individuals with a sense of self and purpose. While the factory is beginning at NC State, Schmidt hasn’t ruled out the idea of expanding the concept. Schmidt will measure its success by how many early stage ideas become scalable and by determining the role Audacity Factory played in providing the resources necessary to make that possible.
The Factory’s goals of fostering the next generation of world changers might be an audacious one, but it is one that Schmidt and team are sacrificing their own personal safety to make happen.