The growing depth and breadth of North Carolina’s entrepreneurship “ecosystem” is clearly shown by the nine winners of the first Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Partner grants from the NC IDEA Foundation.

Will these programs help ignite the next wave of entrepreneurship across the state?

“I don’t know … yet,” Thom Ruhe, CEO of NC IDEA, tells The Skinny. “We have to see what comes from this effort, what other activities it may inspire at other organizations and if/how policy makers react to support entrepreneurship.”

While tech and life science startups have grown steadily over the past 20 years as economic drivers, the surge in startups has exploded since the 2009 recession, driven in part by an increasing array of efforts focused on startups from groups like the Blackstone Entrepreneurial Network to continuing, growing efforts by the CED, the launch of shared office spaces (American Underground, HQ Raleigh, more), The Startup factory accelerator, Groundwork Labs, and many more. An active, growing angel investment community has also helped by providing seed capital.

But another wave seems to be building – with new technology, new hubs, and new programs – that will build off a continuing flow of talented people from NC’s universities to entrepreneurs striking out on their own from larger companies to the in-flow of people choosing to live in NC rather than crowded, expensive high-tech hubs such as the Valley, New York and Boston.

The IoT boom

Perhaps the exploding growth of startups is best exemplified by RIoT, the Regional Internet of Things organization which recently changed its name from NC RIoT because it’s growing so fast (closing in on 3,000 members) and looking to grow beyond state borders.

RIoT will receive $100,000 for Internet of Things training and events.

Driving for dollars

Funding also is a priority.

For example, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development gets $150,000 to expand its Connections to Capital program in which the CED strives to link startups and emerging companies with potential investors.

And NC IDEA also will pour $150,000 into the formation of Triangle Venture Alliance, which is an emerging network of Angel Networks at UNC CH, NC State and Duke University.

Spreading growth

But entrepreneurship, while still dominated by the Triangle with nearly 260 startups alone at The American Underground, continues to spread across the state.

For example, the largest grant ($250,000) went to the Greensboro Partnership Entrepreneurs Connection.

The west (Catawba County) also produced a winner as did Charlotte.

While no one from Down East or Wilmington landed a grant, the startup scene on the beach is growing rapidly as well while Wilson and Greenville have their own emerging business efforts to tout.

Some highlights

Let’s take a quick look at the other winners. (Details about each program will emerge now that the grants have been announced.)

  • The AU wants to launch an effort called STAMPEDE, the focus of which will be consumer product companies.
  • Catawba Valley Community College wants to expand beyond an “Innovation Fund” to include talent development and to build an entrepreneurship in residence program.
  • First Flight Venture Center in RTP lands $100,000 for LiftOff, “a non-dilutive funding support program for innovation-based companies”
  • HQ Raleigh, which continues to expand to other cities, gets $100,000 for what it calls “HQ BAM, a multi-faceted incubation effort for entrepreneurs across the state”
  • Ventureprise at UNC Charlotte receives $75,000 for what it calls “Ventureprise Launch,” which will focus on “customer discovery, business model generation, and related lean start-up methodologies”
  • The big winner, Greensboro Partnership Entrepreneurs Connection, lands $250,000 for what NC IDEA sums up as “a multifaceted (multi-partner) start-up company pipeline development and a seed stage funding mechanism.”

Yes, indeed, the stage seems set for another startup boon.