After serving the local entrepreneurship community for the past five years, Diane Durance is leaving her role as director of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, according to an announcement
Monday from UNCW.
Durance will return to Michigan, where she previously lived and also worked with entrepreneurs before coming to Wilmington for the CIE position.
In her new job with a group of “angel investors,” she will help entrepreneurs start their businesses on solid footing, the announcement stated. Her last day is Aug. 13.
The university will conduct a national search for a new director, with the selection of an interim director and details about the search to be announced later.
“Under her leadership, the CIE greatly expanded its mission and footprint, building a mentor network for entrepreneurs and startups, bringing together support groups to better serve entrepreneurs and helping to build a local Blue Economy network,” the release stated.
“One of Diane’s huge impacts has been to help grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Stuart Borrett, associate provost for research, innovation and commercialization, said in the announcement. “The greater Wilmington region is different than it was five years ago, and Diane’s work has a lot to do with that. The university will miss her energy and creativity.”
Durance became director in June 2016 when she noted in an interview at the time
that the prospect of heading the CIE was “very exciting to her” and that she hoped to continue building relationships to garner participation from the community and university.
During her time as director
, her role included connecting more than 100 early-stage student-, faculty- and community-led ventures with resources to help with their launches and company growth.
In addition to fostering connections in the startup ecosystem, Durance is an advocate of aquaculture and sustainable fisheries, which is why the CIE has hosted regional events for Fish 2.0, a global community for seafood businesses and investors, sending two local startups to the summit in 2019.
Under her leadership, the CIE grew its Youth Entrepreneurship Program, fueled support in arts and innovation-based ventures and helped launch 1 Million Cups Wilmington.
During Durance’s role as director, the CIE also helped create
the Health Care Innovation Certificate Program in partnership with the UNCW College of Health and Human Services and New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Innovation Center, and co-founded
the NC Bioneer Venture Challenge with the N.C. Biotechnology Center Southeastern Office to promote life sciences and biotechnology business ventures in the region.
Durance’s initiative in supporting entrepreneurs stemmed from her own experience in launching businesses, previously launching three companies.
Before her role in Wilmington, Durance came from Michigan, where she held various positions including president of MiQuest, a nonprofit supporting ventures, executive director for Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest and president of the Ann Arbor IT Zone, an incubator for technology ventures.
In the announcement, Durance said she is especially proud to have helped build a team-based mentoring group that now has more than 140 volunteer members, many of whom have moved or retired to the area and want to use their expertise to help others launch their own businesses.