Editor’s note: Startup Spotlight is a regular feature in WRAL TechWire and is part of our Startup Monday lineup which includes commentary from Joe Procopio. updates and features as part of our exclusive Startup Guide, calendars of events, our weekly Meetups list and our Startup Rewind – a recap of last week’s headlines.
WILMINGTON – What are you doing for the next three months to find the fuel your startup needs to grow in uncertain times in the economy?
It is time to go to the beach.
No, not for your end-of-summer vacation now that the kids are back in school, but to meet venture capital sources.
Yes, the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) has arranged for investors representing $500,000,000 in venture capital funds to speak at the beach in September, October, and November.
WHAT IS THE COASTAL CORRIDOR?
The Coastal Corridor is the two way flow of entrepreneurs driving to the Triangle to network and find resources and Triangle based investors traveling and speaking at the coast. Since Wilmington has proven to be conservative to invest in our own startups, we invite our investor friends in the region to visit their beach houses in Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and we invite the Raleigh tech executives building dream beach estates at Topsail Beach. (Yes, we are watching the unicorn CEO’s)
In October, we will have invited and welcomed over 90 North Carolina and regional investors to speak to our entrepreneurs. We are clever enough to have our events on Thursday evenings so the investors can make it a weekend at the beach house with their families. We have been turned down by exactly ONE investor over the years. He has been booted off the Holiday card list.
Have you seen the high number of $1 million plus houses being sold at the beach region of Southeastern North Carolina?
Before you laugh it off as, “ Of course the beach has an innovation based economy….”
- the ocean has always been at the eastern end of North Carolina as a magnet to attract people but it was really the last decade of success of Live Oak Bank (nCino and Apiture) and the George Taylor family of companies that helped put the spotlight on the coast.
- And I-40 expanded to Wilmington in 1989 and the local economy did not have a focus on startups until 2013.
- And Wilmington NC is the same distance from the Triangle investor resources as Charlotte and other parts of the state… Yes , 2 ½ hours of travel is a commitment.
- NEW receives not one penny of city, county or state funds to build and grow the Wilmington startup ecosystem
OK BUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
Why does it matter that these investors speak in Wilmington?
Well because they have invested real dollars in Wilmington region startups.
First, Cofounders Capital invested in EasyVote Solutions and both of them are smiling with the growth of the company with a steady stream of out of state sales to help city, county and states with their election process.
Next, Jurassic Capital invested in Performance Culture, now called Work Dove. Ok, I took some ribbing at a recent conference when the Work Dove staff moved to the Triangle especially from Scot Wingo, who also has a beach house and a new Spiffy franchise at the beach.
There have also been several Angel investor deals done by speakers but they choose to keep those more private. (And there is a new VC deal on the table I am itching to discuss but you will have to stay tuned for details.)
SO WHAT IS NEXT?
As Wilmington moves up the innovation economy ladder with exciting startups like OpiAid, Lapetus Solutions, Telios, Star NA and others we need to engage with a more sophisticated level of venture capital.
On September 29th, we have invited Good Growth Capital from Charleston to speak at our next event. They announced a new $102 million fund to invest in Boston and North Carolina based companies in the Deep Sciences / Deep Tech sectors. Dave Mendez is a UNC Chapel Hill MBA grad.
We met Dave at DigSouth in Charleston a few years ago. Speaking of DigSouth, we have also invited Stanfield Gray, founder of DigSouth and he was recently named by Time Magazine as One of the 31 people Changing the South. (A title any parent would be very proud of.) Stanfield Gray’s father is a former resident of Wrightsville Beach so there is a connection.
On October 13th, we have invited another friend back home to the coast with Wilmington native David Jones of Bull City Venture Partners with a new $52 million fund. Joining David on stage will be “Mr. 3G” (Greggory Bordes) of Front Porch Ventures and John Espey of Defiance Ventures of Charlotte.
And on November 10th, as part of a half day life sciences event, we will welcome Art Pappas of Pappas Capital with his new $250 million fund to talk with our biotech / pharma / medical device / Health Tech startups. Other investors are also involved in the program.
NEXT WE WILL CONTINUE TO YELL FROM THE LIGHTHOUSES
Wilmington was recently announced as the #1 startup ecosystem in the United States of America. Yes, North Carolina, there is a new player in the innovation economy to add to Raleigh/ Durham and Charlotte. (StartupBlink) Wilmington was named #2 in the world behind Cambridge, England which is obviously OLDER than the United States as a country.
This should not be that big of a surprise. UNCW CIE was named a top 100 incubator / accelerator in 2014 by the White House and SBA. And the StartupGenome rankings have listed Wilmington as a top 3 ecosystem in North Carolina for several years running and among the top 100 emerging ecosystems in the world as the third smallest US city on the distinguished list.
As you can see, we are not resting on our laurels and trying to distance ourselves from the confusion with Wilmington, Delaware. No, the PGA golf tournament last weekend was not at our coast but we have hosted a PGA golf tournament recently. (Wells Fargo Championship,)
Join us for our fun, fast paced events where we speak in the tones of the entrepreneurs and have the highest attended monthly startup events in ALL of North Carolina. And the events are inclusive, diverse and most of all, FREE !!!
Register for September 29th event here –
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim R. Roberts is the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the WALE Angel Network. Jim was also the founding Executive Director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UNCW CIE) in 2013. Since 2000, Jim has been working to build the startup ecosystems in Charlotte, Asheville, Durham and Wilmington with a wide variety of organizations.