Area business leaders convene to discuss entrepreneurship
February 21, 2013By Jenny Callison
Officials at the University of North Carolina Wilmington moved to jump-start a regional conversation about entrepreneurship by hosting an Entrepreneurship Summit on Thursday.
The half-day, invitation-only event brought together entrepreneurs and other members of the corporate community, economic development specialists and university leaders.
To get attendees thinking about how the Cape Fear region could spark an entrepreneurial culture and attract new ideas and ventures, keynote speaker Bijoy Goswami talked about how communities can create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that draws from the unique qualities and resources within that community.
Goswami, an entrepreneurial philosopher and self-described entrepreneurship “evangelist,” is known for his ideas on bootstrap entrepreneurship and social modeling to aid the development of successful organizations. A native of India, he also lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong during his youth and in 1991 came to the U.S. where he studied computer science, economics and history at Stanford University. He has observed the life cycles of startups in Silicon Valley as well as in his current base of Austin, Texas.
“Where is Wilmington on its journey: perhaps at a crossroads?” he asked. “What is Wilmington’s core question? You have to know what your culture is in order to grow and attract entrepreneurs in a way that makes sense.”
The event began with remarks from UNCW chancellor Gary Miller, who spoke about the university’s efforts to make its Entrepreneurship Center an effective focal point for spurring entrepreneurship and developing an infrastructure to support new ideas and new ventures.
Earlier this month, the university announced it had purchased property at 803 S. College Road to house the center. In his remarks Thursday, Miller said the search for a center director continues. The center’s founding director, Jonathan Rowe, left in May 2012 for a position with nCino, and Fran Scarlett, head of the UNCW-based Small Business Technology Development Center, served as interim director until Jan. 1.
“We need a new director who can develop a self-sustaining business model for the center and interact with the business community in a way that businesses can understand, while also meeting our educational imperatives,” Miller said. “We must invent a new economic future in southeastern North Carolina.”
Local entrepreneur Justin Sacks spoke briefly about his business, Startupoint -- a web platform that lets communities map and coordinate the resources they possess, maintain a common calendar of events and focus on action toward shared goals. Startupoint will serve as the organizing framework for university-sponsored efforts in entrepreneurship planning.
After the plenary session, attendees broke into discussion groups to identify and discuss the drivers of entrepreneurial activity in the Wilmington area.