This post is part of Scot’s Guide to the Triangle Startup Ecosystem. One key component of the ecosystem is ‘Community, Content and Events’ (CCE for short). 

Today I’m starting coverage of the CCE at the only logical starting point—the longest-running and largest part of our ecosystem—the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, or what we all locally call the CED. 
The CED was founded as a non-profit 501c3 in 1984 to support the local community of Triangle entrepreneurs. Today, CED is the nation’s largest organization of its kind with over 4,000 active members—companies which have raised a cumulative $8.5 billion in venture capital over the last > 30 years. 
I’ve been a member of the CED since 1995 and owe much of my early startup career connections, vendors, support network and investments to the network and programs provided by the CED. I also work with and sit next to David Spitz (ChannelAdvisor’s CEO) who also has chaired the board @CED for the last two years, so I get to hear a lot about what they are up to these days. 

What IS the CED? 

The CED is many things and hard to compare to anything else, so here are some highlights. It’s…
• A large local network of Triangle startup entrepreneurs, investors, angels and ecosystem partners. 
• A pollination-point for outside investors interested in the Triangle.
• A tenant of the American Underground on the American Tobacco Campus located in the Strickland Building, 334 Blackwell St., Suite B012, Durham, NC 27701 
• A scorekeeper and promoter of North Carolina’s entrepreneurial activity. The CED publishes a biannual report called the Innovators Reportwhich details the region’s funding activity. 
• All of the above is curated and nurtured by an excellent group of ~10 professionals led by CED President Joan Seifert Rose.

What can the CED do for me? 

The CED has a variety of programs oriented towards helping entrepreneurs realize their startup dreams, including: 
• Startup/mentor matching—The CED calls this VMS (Venture Mentoring Service). VMS allows selected entrepreneurs to fill out a form with the CED and get matched with a local mentor who has relevant skills and experience. Need help growing the sales team, marketing your product or with the legal formation of your company, the CED probably has a mentor available who has ‘been there and done that’ at scale. To learn more, check out the details here
• Pitch Scrub—On a monthly basis, CED runs a program that lets entrepreneurs hone their venture pitches with a panel of local CED members. Each pitches for 15 minutes and then gets 45 minutes of high-quality feedback. This is like pitching to a VC without any of the risk and I strongly recommend it for anyone who is starting the process of raising a seed/angel round or has aspirations to raise an institutional venture round. Details are here.
• Life Science Conference—I’m a software guy so I don’t know much about this side of the CED, but the team there essentially gets all the local cool life science companies together with investors that focus on that segment and deals commence to happen. Here’s the link for the event that happens every February.
• Other opportunities—CED also acts as a great convener of the community—hosting Member Meet-ups, receptions, workshops, and other events to bring everyone together. They track these and many of the other important events throughout the region on this calendar
My personal favorite event that the CED puts on is the Tech Venture Conference. It is the one ‘must attend’ event for everyone in the community each year. 

Must attend: CED’s Tech Venture Conference 

In the past, this show has been called Venture and InfoTech, but CED settled in on Tech Venture in the last couple of years. This year, Tech Venture is taking place September 15-16 at the Raleigh Convention Center. 
Why is this a must attend? There are four reasons why you should go to Tech Venture: 
  1. Entrepreneur-oriented content—CED hasn’t released the full agenda for 2015, but so far, you can count on a keynote address from Sequoia Capital’s Jim Goetz, who ranked tops on the Forbes Midas List the last two years, and a top executive at Cisco. There’s a panel on growth equity including the CEOs of Dude Solutions and Automated Insights and a workshop on crowd finance by the CEO of Crowdnetic. Typically you’ll see content for startups at all stages. The best known local serial entrepreneurs tell stories of exits, raising money, scaling up, etc. Last year, we had a great workshop for Tweeners focused on exit strategies. VCs both nationally (hence Goetz’s visit) and locally take the stage to let you know what they are looking for in investments. 
  2. Investors!—Last year, 65 venture funds and > 50 angels attended Tech Venture. That’s a lot of potential investors waiting to learn more about your company.  
  3. Networking—Looking for a technical co-founder? Looking for a business-oriented co-founder? Looking for a mentor, accountant, lawyer, real estate pro or coach? They are all at CED and they speak startup. 
  4. Pitch—The application for pitching on stage this year is closed, but there are typically two opportunities to pitch. Some companies are selected to present on the big stage as showcase companies. Another group is invited to represent in the Innovation Demo Room. An added bonus is that you can simply attend the conference, watch the pitches and take some notes on what you like about how other folks pitch. 
In my last two ventures (AuctionRover and ChannelAdvisor), we raised ~$95 million and presenting/attending Tech Venture played a key role in doing that. We pitched in 2001 and 2002 (pre-Series A, getting the pitch honed) and then in 2007 post series B/pre C. 
In short, no matter where your startup is in its lifecycle (idea to exit), Tech Venture is well worth the two-day investment and will arm you with the information, content, connections and maybe even the investment to help move your business forward. As an added bonus, CED offers a discounted admission rate for entrepreneurs. 

How do I connect with the CED?  

Heck, you can always just swing by the CED’s office over at ATC. If you are more virtual, the CED’s website is the main gateway to everything I’ve talked about. What you’ll find pretty quickly is that it pays to be a member and CED offers a ‘startup/entrepreneur’ tier that is wallet-friendly at $195/year. 
The CED is active on social media too: 
Finally, CED publishes a Tuesday newsletter called Entrelinks which gives a great rundown on everything going on in the Triangle startup community. You can sign up here.