Venture Asheville, an Asheville Chamber program that helps support the launch and growth of Western North Carolina startups, is bringing on local startup founder Jeff Kaplan as its new director of entrepreneurship.
He will officially start on Aug. 6, taking the place of former director Josh Dorfman, who left Venture Asheville earlier this year to step into a leadership position at Asheville climate innovation hub The Collider.
Kaplan comes to the position from being directly embedded in the Asheville startup community—serving as product owner and consultant for Asheville-based Anthroware, a software development firm, and helping Hatch AVL Foundation plan programs and events for the Asheville startup community, including last year’s Asheville Entrepreneurship Week and Hatch This!.
Kaplan was also the founder and CEO of now-acquired pet tech startup Dogphrendly, an app that provided a comprehensive guide to local venues, events and restaurants with a dog-friendly policy. Dogphrendly also had an active YouTube channel that mostly covered pet products and services. A few years ago, the startup participated in NC IDEA’s seed accelerator Groundwork Labs (now rebranded to NC IDEA LABS).
Earlier, Kaplan served as director of partner relations for Charlotte edtech startup ProctorFree and as program associate and head teachers assistant of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Florida, his alma mater.
His career experience is also rooted in media and edtech—he created and taught a middle school media course on Apple’s iLife suite at NSU University School, a college preparatory school in Florida. Kaplan also worked on a grant-supported research project at the Indiana University of Bloomington to study the use of Twitter in rural secondary education settings.
“We are excited to welcome Jeffrey on board to lead Venture Asheville,” said Asheville Chamber President and CEO Kit Cramer in a press release. “His experience and enthusiasm lend themselves to capitalizing on the early successes of Venture Asheville as well as innovating new programs that respond to the growth and momentum of Western North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Venture Asheville backstory
Venture Asheville, an entrepreneurship initiative formed out of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, serves as a connector and resource for Western North Carolina startups, fostering collaboration among members of the ecosystem and working to further Asheville’s position as a leader in sustainability and clean energy innovations.
It is the host of Elevate, a mentorship program that first launched in 2016. It guides entrepreneurs through the early stages of developing, marketing and raising financing for their companies. There are 25 startups currently in the program. It has consistently scaled and expanded since its start, later landing an NC IDEA Ecosystem Partner grant in 2017.
Venture Asheville’s investor network, Asheville Angels, has invested more than $1 million in startups in North Carolina and beyond. Active portfolio companies are Durham-based Baebies, Greensboro’s Sensory Analytics, Asheville’s Plum Print and BrightField Transportation Solutions, South Carolina-based ActivEd Inc., PharmRight and Atlas Organics and Atlanta’s Emrgy and GoPivot (which also has an office in Raleigh).
Kaplan will officially assume his new role at Venture Asheville early next month. Stay tuned for more coverage and a Q&A with TechWire.