WILSON – Raleigh-based Internet of Things organization RIoT is expanding its 12-week startup accelerator to Wilson come February 2020.
Seeing promise in the leadership, broadband achievements, economic growth and rural market opportunity the city of Wilson brings, the RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP) is ready to help cultivate the next generation of technology startups east of the Triangle.
The free program will be hosted at Gig East Exchange (pictured above), an incubator and resource hub for startups in the Wilson area. Applications are due Monday, December 16 at 5 p.m. EST. The program will begin in February and conclude in May.
Though the spring 2020 RAP program will be held in Wilson, RIoT still urges startups spanning the Triangle, down I-95 to the coast to apply. RAP is open to all business owners and prospective companies, regardless of location.
RIoT Executive Director Tom Snyder says he expects startups will commute into Wilson to participate in the free accelerator or in hopes of receiving the $1,000 stipend each team receives.
“Experience has shown that many smart entrepreneurs are not able to relocate to Raleigh or Charlotte, so RIoT is making an effort to get closer to them,” Snyder adds.
City of Wilson Innovation Hub Manager Darren Smith, who also leads Gig East Exchange, said RAP Wilson will be “a core program to provide support to startups and existing small businesses, both locally and regionally.”
“The interest continues to grow regarding the RAP program as potential applicants learn of its tremendous success in the Triangle,” Smith added. “We believe our community-owned broadband infrastructure, our Gig East Exchange collaboration space, and our proven business development programming through RAP are the key ingredients needed for continued economic development in Wilson and points East.”
When asked why RIoT chose Wilson, Snyder cited the city’s leadership and history of being “visionary and forward acting,” adding that Wilson’s Gig East’s Exchange project is just the latest example of its investment in job creation and economic growth.
Wilson has set itself apart for its broadband initiatives. Its Greenlight fiber network is North Carolina’s first community-owned fiber-to-home system.
City leaders are continually ramping up education and development opportunities to help boost the broadband industry. Just last month, Wilson launched its first Fiber Boot Camp, a workforce training program run by Greenlight, Wilson Community College and Gig East Exchange.
Rural market opportunity was also a major factor in moving RAP’s presence to Wilson. Speaking about the lack of support resources outside of urban hubs, Snyder said, “If we, as economic developers, are to really ‘walk the talk’ about inclusive and diverse participation, then it is important to bring programs to where people are, rather than expect everyone to have the possibility to come to you.”
Long-term, RIoT sees the Wilson expansion as a key move in its mission to make North Carolina a hub for innovation in the data economy. This opportunity, Snyder says, is far greater than Raleigh or the Triangle region.
“It is critical to enable statewide (and beyond) participation,” Snyder added. “Like they have proven time and time again, Wilson is recognizing this sooner than other cities—and they are taking bold action to seize that opportunity. RIoT is happy to play a part.”