RALEIGH – Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, will keynote Innovate Raleigh Friday at the Raleigh Conventions Center.

Hamilton, a gay woman without a college degree or previous venture capital experience,  will share candid insights from her inspiring journey to success. In three years, Hamilton went from being broke and homeless to running a venture capital fund that has invested nearly $5 million in more than 100 companies founded by under represented entrepreneurs.

Innovate Raleigh

Bridget Harrington, executive director of Innovate Raleigh, tells WRAL TechWire, “Bringing her in is a challenge to our community to think boldly and look for opportunities in under-looked places. She has an inspiring message of inclusivity and the importance of vision. We want to bring her message to our community.”

This is the first year the Innovate Raleigh event has a full day of session, Harrington said. Sessions focus on “The things that matter most to our community, talent and funding. We want to understand where the gaps are for our community and what it takes to become a top center for innovation.”

She added, “Our goal is to bring everyone together to explore actionable insights relevant to the future of  Innovate Raleigh and our community.”

Earlier this year at the Black Wall Street event in Durham, Hamilton said that If she has a “secret sauce,” it is “authenticity.”

Last year, she said, the Innovate Raleigh event identified the need for a co-working space that led to creation of HQ Raleigh. “This year we hope to recreate that magic and identify what we need to do to make things happen.”

Attendees choose between these two initial breakout sessions at 10:30 a.m.:

Future of Funding:

Entrepreneur and former investment banker Jon Hayes will lead a conversation with NC House Representative Cynthia Ball and top Local Funder David Gardner in identifying the challenges and potential solutions for making more local funding available to our entrepreneurs. Evan Engstrom, executive director of Engine Advocacy, will join the conversation to discuss best practices from other communities and perspectives on policy opportunities at the federal level.

Future of Place:

How will major development in our community impact the innovation ecosystem?  Leah Burton, director of Centennial Campus Partnership Office & Industry Alliances and Kate Pearce, planning supervisor for The City of Raleigh will present the latest on their respective projects.

Entrepreneur Leigh-Kathryn Bonner of Bee Downtown will then lead a discussion regarding the opportunity and potential provided by the Centennial Campus and Dix projects and how each will shape our community for decades to come.

At 11:30, two more breakout sessions are offered.

Innovating The Talent Pipeline:

How are we ensuring our current and future talent pipeline is built for our innovative future?

Educator and Entrepreneur Karl Rectanus, founder and CEO of LearnPlatform, a local edtech platform,  will lead a discussion with Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard, Geoff Coltrane, senior education advisor to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and Richard Boyd, Wake Technical Community College board member and AI entrepreneur, to explore challenges and opportunities in preparing the next generation for jobs that do not yet exist.

The State of Our Innovation Ecosystem:

What are community-building best practices and how do we compare?

Chris Heivly, serial entrepreneur, investor and entrepreneur-in-residence at Techstars has been helping cities around the world accelerate the growth of their innovation ecosystems.  After spending the last nine years leading our regional efforts, Heivly joined forces with Techstars and Brad Feld (author of Startup Communities) to help other areas.

For the last 18 months, Heivly has worked with cities from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Lima, Peru. He will share those experiences, as well as offer observations about our region and possible next steps to continue our growth. Heivly then will be joined by Wake County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chair Sig Hutchinson for a discussion on the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in Wake County.

Following a networking lunch, Jason Widen, founding partner of HQ and Innovate Raleigh board member will discuss the future of Innovate Raleigh.

Afternoon collaboration sessions follow.

Attendees can attend one  of three working strategy sessions to collaboratively explore strategies to answer these questions.  Rooted in a Design Thinking approach, these ideation sessions will enable attendees to share their voice, perspective, and leadership in shaping the Raleigh innovation community.

Sessions will be supported by facilitators and subject matter experts, such as Brooks Bell and Scot Wingo.  It is billed as an opportunity to help inform Innovate Raleigh’s work and build alignment within the innovation community in establishing our vision, goals, and tactics.

Todd Olson, CEO and founder of Pendo, will provide the closing keynote, followed by Harrington’s closing remarks.

Full agenda.

Previously on WRAL TechWire

From homeless to VC: Arlan Hamilton shares her remarkable journey at Black Wall Street