When a new grant program kicks off in the coming months to help Raleigh startups and small businesses upfit their offices, it’ll be a special win for the city’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager Derrick Minor.
Raleigh’s Middle Man Between Entrepreneurs & Government Builds on Role
Through his role in the Office of Economic Development, it’s Minor’s job to connect entrepreneurs to resources both in and outside of the government, and to help city leaders understand how they can support entrepreneurs without getting in the way of their success. He plays one of the most important roles in Raleigh’s plan to become a top city for innovation and entrepreneurship nationally.
Critical to his success over the past four years is his ability to operate in the world of entrepreneurs rather than government officials. Though Minor’s formal office is located on the seventh floor of One Exchange Plaza in downtown Raleigh, he spends much of his time in what he calls “the field,” working from various spaces throughout the city like HQ Raleigh, The Nest and Loading Dock, and even talking about his job before crowds at the June VergeNC event.
Upheld by an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of philosophy, Minor’s daily practice of immersing himself in the local startup scene has reaped rewards. Since undertaking the position nearly four years ago, he has connected hundreds of early stage startups to the resources they need. He engaged with 170 companies just last year.
While exuding pride about his accomplishments, Minor is sure to direct attribution to the startups themselves, some of which are now high-growth companies.
Minor introduced K4Connect CEO Scott Moody to Jonathan Gould, who is now co-founder of the fast-moving connected home startup. He also paired Groundfloor CEO Brian Dally to the investor who eventually led the real estate crowdfunding startup’s first large seed round.
When he’s not meeting with entrepreneurs, Minor curates a regional calendar of startup events, which is emailed out to about 1,000 targeted founders, investors, startup employees and community leaders every two weeks.
He also manages an interactive map that showcases startups and growth companies throughout the city of Raleigh. The map has two new buttons, so visitors can see which startups are hiring and which are raising money. Minor says companies are still being added to the map, but it’s available for people to use in the meantime.
In addition to providing behind-the-scenes assistance for entrepreneurs, Minor works with the government to provide financial assistance to businesses in Raleigh.
In 2014 and 2015, the Office of Economic Development partnered with the Raleigh Innovators Program to help fund office space for two cohorts of graduates so they could remain in Raleigh after the program.
The biggest upcoming initiative coming from the City of Raleigh is the Building Upfit Grant, a $500,000 program approved by City Council as part of a new budget cycle that began July 1. The grant is for any improvements, renovations and/or additions to interior spaces owned by small businesses and startups. Minor says it lowers the costs of building out a space by funding things like plumbing, flooring or lighting which “can be costly for anyone, but especially a smaller company.”
Businesses can apply for up to $100,000 from the city, but it must be matched by their own investment. The minimum grant request is $5,000. Application details are coming soon.
Minor and the economic development office also want to help more companies grow through a partnership with the North Carolina State University Technology Incubator. In 2014, the office started a $15,000 annual contribution to help offset costs related to wet lab incubator space. Minor continues looks for ways to support the 25 or so companies there.
Minor’s job is all about introducing entrepreneurs to the resources they need to succeed. He says a lot of times, that process is reactive rather than proactive because people are always referring talented individuals to him.
Ultimately, Minor stresses that Raleigh’s entrepreneurial success comes from the community itself.
“I just connect the dots,” he says.