Editor’s note: Jim R. Roberts, who is covering the Dig South conference for WRAL TechWire, is a professional connector that has started several Entrepreneur Support Organizations in North Carolina. He is currently the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) in Wilmington, North Carolina. He tweets at @RedSpireUSNC
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Since moving from Raleigh to Wilmington, I have worked very hard to create what I call the Coastal Corridor. The Coastal Corridor is the parade of tech, life sciences executives or investors I have asked to make the short trip from the Triangle to the beach to make a short speech, be on a panel or a Riverside Chat.
Keep in mind, Wilmington is just as close or may even further away from the innovation assets of the Triangle as any other major city in North Carolina, but we have a beach and these executives tend to have access to a beach house.
This impressive list of executives started with NC Technology Association, NC IDEA and John Hardin of the NC Board of Science and Technology and his Innovation Index and next month when on May 19 as our Life Sciences event will include:
- Karen LeVert of Southeast TechInventures
- Anita Watkins of Rex Health Ventures
- Preston Linn of RTP Capital
- David Kroll of Forbes Magazine
(Event info: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/four-different-ways-to-raise-capital-and-writer-for-forbes-magazine-may-19-event-tickets-24676239296 )
When I was recruited by the university to run the accelerator in Wilmington, countless people from across the state told me,” I have never understood why Wilmington has not been able to create a startup and tech cluster”. Well I now know some answers to that, but I will continue to work to overcome those issues.
One way is to now learn from another coastal port city and tourism destination, Charleston, South Carolina. This week I am traveling with one of our startups @mypetrics and a local renaissance man, Devon Scott, to the Dig South Conference that has done a ton of digital marketing in the North Carolina markets.
Now I have some history and background with Charleston. When I ran the entrepreneur org and angel network in Asheville, we had communications with their angel groups for regional meetups I was actively recruiting entrepreneur Eric Dobson to come back to the mountains with his startup at the time. Eric is now back in the mountains and is an executive in Tennessee with the Angel Capital Group.
I know about BenefitFocus and a few others who have gone from startup to IPO and other exit events that Wilmington has not had…yet. That history of the Silicon Harbor can be found here.http://charlestonmag.com/features/the_rise_of_silicon_harbor
I was impressed when Charleston landed a tour spot with the Steve Case Rise of the Rest Tour last year with Richmond, Raleigh/ Durham, Atlanta and New Orleans. Ok I was jealous.
In April 2014, Ernest Andrade of the Charleston Digital Corridor spoke at the university’s WITX conference, Wilmington Information Technology Exchange. He gave a list of ten things Wilmington needed to do to be more like Charleston. He received some bad information before speaking because my organization was already doing nine out of the ten. (Not his fault.) And I think the tenth was something that was for a more mature city to even dream of. Remember my previous mention of learning why Wilmington had not yet built a tech and startup cluster…yet.
What am I looking forward to in Charleston for the Dig South event…?
I have heard the great stories of why Paul Singh was spending so much time in Charleston. ( He is a friend of the Triangle too.) He is speaking with Captain Squishy, AKA Chris Heivly of Startup Factory, to start the Dig South Conference.
I have several scheduled meetings with South Carolina investors to try to stir up some interest in our Wilmington startups.
I am working on scheduling a social outing pairing Wilmington entrepreneurs with Charleston startups.
I look forward to hearing the pure buzz around the start of any Gary Vaynerchuk speech.
Food and friends
Wilmington has avoided the Silicon Beach label and I avoid at all costs any comparisons to being the next Silicon Valley, when we neither have density of startups or multiple exit events…yet. Durham and Raleigh were just labeled the second most important economy in US by Jim Goetz of Sequoia Capital. If anyone has earned the right to be the next Carolina version of Silicon Valley, Durham / Triangle has with an unfair stack of advantages with college talent, cycles of generations of entrepreneurs who are now also investors and much more.
Raleigh-Durham have a thirty year head start with CED and other innovation assets. Charleston has a 12-year head start on Wilmington. Our goal is to be the second best place in North Carolina to be an entrepreneur. (And we have a beach.) The work is never done and we don’t have it all figured out …yet.
If you are curious about the Wilmington startup scene or to attend our events, you can Like our Facebook page or continue to read my writings for WRALTechWire.
About the author:
Jim R. Roberts is a professional connector that has started several Entrepreneur Support Organizations in North Carolina. He is currently the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) in Wilmington, North Carolina. He tweets at @RedSpireUSNC