Have a business idea? Entrepreneurs will converge in Wilmington Thursday for “State of the Startups” event

We’re all familiar with the tourism industry, [and] the service industry. But we also have a lot of, what I call 'brain drain,' where our best college students tend to move away to the bigger cities of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte.

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WILMINGTON — What is the future of startup companies and their role in Wilmington’s economy? The next Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington conference seeks to answer those questions and more.

More than 200 people will converge at Ironclad Brewery, 115 N. Second St., this Thursday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. to join the “State of the Startups” entrepreneur conference and town hall-style event, according to Jim Roberts, Founder of Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW), and the Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE). 

There’s still time to register for this free event, which is one of 15 similar events hosted by NEW since May 2015. Recently, NEW arranged for the investor Paul Singh Results Junkies Tech Tour for a three-day event in Wilmington in October and in November, partnered with Cucalorus Connect.

Now, Roberts said he thinks it’s time to take a look at “where Wilmington stands as a potential technology and startup hub.” The goal, is to start a conversation and share ideas on how to diversify the economy of Southeastern, North Carolina.

“We’re all familiar with the tourism industry, [and] the service industry. But we also have a lot of, what I call ‘brain drain,’ where our best college students tend to move away to the bigger cities of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte,” Roberts said. “Why not create the jobs they want in the place where they want to live? And that’s really the goal is to create new jobs, create a middle class and grow our economy.”

Ironclad Brewery hosts a discussion on the "State of the Startups." Courtesy photo.
Ironclad Brewery hosts a discussion on the “State of the Startups.” (Courtesy photo)

The town hall style event will have two panels of speakers to discuss these and other topics  of interest to the audience, Roberts said.

One panel will have several investors, who will discuss several hot topics, including how to raise capital. The other panel will discuss topics such as how to find technology talent in Wilmington, and when is the right time to talk about an idea for a startup.

“We have a lot of entrepreneurs that are really shy about sharing their ideas. They don’t want somebody to steal their idea, and we’re going to dismiss that very quickly,” Roberts said.

Roberts invites those who have ideas for a business to share in the resources that events like these offer startups and entrepreneurs. These kinds of events ultimately help nurture Wilmington’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, he said.

“We all recognize that there is much more work to do to be a nurturing environment where startups can scale and begin to hire bigger numbers of people at wages above $50,000,” Roberts said.

The panels will also address several other questions, including:

  • When will Wilmington live up to the potential within opportunities that exist?

  • Will Wilmington live up to the potential of the Coastal Corridor,  connecting it to resources on I-40 East to the Raleigh-Durham economy and state capital?

  • Where can scaling, startups find more capital? How will these startup events and efforts be supported as an economic development strategy?

  • Will there be an industry cluster around financial technology, education technology, marine biosciences industry or data?

  • Would startups participate in a structured mentoring program to get retired executive talent in Wilmington more involved in the local economy?

“All of this positive momentum of these startups would have a large impact and would be possible if a Wilmington startup has an exit event such as an initial public offering (IPO) or one of the startups gets acquired to create an impressive return for the early angel (private) investors,” Roberts said.

The following is a list of speakers for the event:

Dhruv Patel: The vice president of Technology Banking at Square 1 Bank, Patel was the former executive with the Council for Entrepreneur Development (CED), an entrepreneur organization based in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Square 1 Bank, is not your typical bank, according to Roberts. The bank only deals with companies that have received venture capital.

“They … know how to deal with emerging growth companies and what those companies need, and (they) have the relationships nationwide,” Roberts said. “If they have Square 1 Bank clients that you could do business with, they’re going to open those doors for you.”

Patel’s experience with the CED will also allow him to speak about on the cycle of entrepreneurship, which NEW is trying to develop here in Wilmington. The CED is one of the world’s largest entrepreneur organizations that, in Roberts’ opinion, helped shape the Raleigh-Durham economy.

Polly Harman: President and chief scientist of Pursuit Enterprises LLC and the inventor of record for its United States Patent and Trademark Office filing “Method and Apparatus for Monitoring and Treatment of Sleep-Related Condition.”

Roberts said Harman had developed an idea for a sleep aid for snorers and attended a NEW Event on the life sciences industry.

“She had lived in Wilmington for five years with this idea. But no one had really helped her get to the point where she could grow this company,” he said. “And she simply came to one of my events, she approached me and said this is what I want to do and I introduced her — one to one — to the panelists that we had, all from the life sciences industry. And one of them really loved her idea and within a week took her to the UNC-Chapel Hill Sleep Center.”

Harman will speak on a panel, as a local entrepreneur, Roberts said.

Ted Coughlin: Owner of Ironclad Brewery and lead investor in WALE, Coughlin is an active venture capitalist leader, as well as part of the New York Angels group.

Coughlin is going to speak as an investor, Roberts said.

“He can talk from experience on what investors are looking for. And I think what Ted does best is he doesn’t just invest on the numbers of how the company is going to do, but he realizes that there’s an emotional part of angel investing,” Roberts said.

Bill Spruill: Triangle Angel Partners and Partner at Global Data Consortium. Spruill, an angel investor in the Raleigh area for more than 20 years, is a board member on the Council of Entrepreneur Development (CED) in the Raleigh area.

“I’ve been trying to get Bill in here for a while,” Roberts said. “He’s a really great guy, an African American Angel investor and we’re striving to have a diversity on these two panels. And I think that’s going to be a really nice edition to see some diversity in the investor panel.”

Adrian Wilson: Formerly of Square 1 Bank and a former venture capitalist. Wilson is currently a business development lawyer for Hutchison Law Firm, which was founded by Fred Hutchison.

“Adrian himself has a lot of angel investing experience. He actually ran a venture capitalist firm, he invested in venture capitalist, when he was with Square 1 Bank and now he is working for Hutchison Law. And now he works with entrepreneurs like Polly, to help them move forward on patent needs and so forth,” Roberts said.

Wilson will be the moderator for one of the panels.

Ryal Tayloe: A new Wilmington entrepreneur, who formerly worked with nCino.

 “He’s one of those people that we hope to retain. He’s one of those really smart young brains that we want to keep in the region,” Roberts said. “And I recently introduced him to a person who became his mentor and they are starting a company together. So, you are going to hear a very fresh story about a new start up that could be the future of the region.”

Tayloe will speak on what it’s like and the challenges of the early days of being an entrepreneur that’s specific to Wilmington.

Brad Leinhart: EntreDot, BunkerLabs RDU accelerator and experienced entrepreneur. BunkerLabs, is an accelerator and entrepreneur support program for military veterans, Roberts said. 

“Brad is going to talk about what BunkerLabs does in the entrepreneur space,” Roberts said.  “So that’s going to be a really nice addition that will be very different than what’s available.”

Based in Chicago, with a chapter in the Raleigh-Durham area, Leinhart is bringing programs for BunkerLabs to Wilmington.

“We’re trying to become the first state to have multiple chapters of BunckerLabs in the same state,” Roberts said. “And this is a good start to that.”

Tim McLoughlin – Co-Founders Capital, in Cary. McLoughlin works for an aggressive venture capitalist, David Garner, who started Co-Founders Capital, Roberts said.

“All of his investors are entrepreneurs who have already built and sold companies,” Roberts said. “Tim is going to bring … what Co-Founders Capital is doing … He will add a lot of energy and experience. He’s been around a lot of startups in a short amount of time.”

For more information about the event and to RSVP click here.