Since last Spring, local serial entrepreneur Doug Speight has spent his time propelling growth and diversity within Durham’s startup community. This task is paired with a prominent position in the tech scene, as the city’s second CODE2040 entrepreneur-in-residence—part of a San Francisco-headquartered nonprofit that expanded to Durham’s American Underground in 2015. The program empowers black and latino entrepreneurs to boost diversity in their tech communities, while also continuing to grow their companies with help from a $40,000 grant.
This was a benefit for Speight and his current startup Cathedral Leasing, B2B online marketplace for equipment leasing. But he also grasped opportunity to champion the growth and support of Durham’s minority-led startups.
Speight’s residency in 2016 continued the legacy of Talib Graves-Manns, the first to hold the CODE2040 EIR position in Durham. His efforts in 2015 included opening access to opportunities for local HBCU students to pursue tech careers and education, and launching an event called Black Wall Street Homecoming, which celebrates the historic financial district that served to expand and flourish Durham’s black communities, while simultaneously boosting Durham’s economic growth to a whole new level.
As the 2016 EIR, Speight continued this momentum. And throughout the year, he continually witnessed how diversity within Durham’s companies, industries and universities is an asset that contributes to the city’s growth.
In his residency, Speight created and implemented programs designed to engage women and minority entrepreneurs, connecting them to resources, introducing them to opportunities and championing their success within the community. He passes the torch to Juan Porras, who was selected to succeed Speight in March. Porras is the founder and CEO of Factivate, a local data analytics startup with software that converts spreadsheets into marketing analysis reports.
Part of Speight’s role as entrepreneur-in-residence is to communicate to folks outside of the local tech scene that Durham’s startup community is inclusive to all areas of the city’s population.
Entrepreneurship is certainly a staple of Speight’s life. In addition to his most recent startup Cathedral Leasing, Speight has launched and grown several startups since the very early 2000s, spanning industries from fintech to consumer products. Before that, he held innovation and technology leadership positions at NASA, and served executive roles at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, working in outreach, economic development and technology transfer programs.
And Speight’s business savvy is a natural component to his life, raised in a family long involved in owning and operating companies in Durham since the 1930s.
So it’s fitting that the EIR position is just the latest in Speight’s contribution to Durham, and it’s one that will likely prepare and propel his future, as well as growth of the city’s startup community.
As his residency comes to a close, Speight makes a few predictions for the next year in Durham’s startup scene:
Videos by Anna Hammill, ExitEvent videographer.