New UNCW center director introduced at awards event
May 23, 2013By Jenny Callison
Jim Roberts, new director of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was introduced to a roomful of entrepreneurs and business leaders Thursday.
Roberts spoke briefly about his new position during the annual Coastal Entrepreneur Awards breakfast. He started in the job Monday.
In Roberts’ career, he has developed entrepreneurship centers in Charlotte and Asheville as well as the Durham-based Center of Innovation for NanoBiotechnology. Most recently, he managed his own business consulting firm in Raleigh.
“I like to say I bring a blue collar work ethic to a white collar industry,” Roberts said after the event. “While you need polish and professionalism, you’ve got to get your hands dirty with entrepreneurs to achieve the kind of success that attracts investors.”
Roberts said he sees himself as a matchmaker, an information broker and a connector of people.
“The chancellor [of UNCW] wants the center to have an impact on the community. Every community struggles with angel, with investor capital. I want to take a step back and consider what investors want. They want companies with revenues, with sales and with non-dilutive equity, which is grants – money that does not involve giving away a piece of the company.”
Among Roberts’ goals for the newly renamed center, he said, was to bring outside capital to Wilmington by helping local entrepreneurs gain broader visibility through presenting at conferences where they can make their pitch to investors and potential clients.
“We’re thrilled we were able to get someone with Jim’s experience and talents,” said Max Allen, chief of staff in the UNCW chancellor’s office. “We proceeded with deliberation and patience to find someone to lead the center; the chancellor did not want to rush to find someone. We wanted the right fit, and we’re convinced that Jim Roberts is the right fit.”
Allen emphasized that the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was far more than a university entity and would foster public-private partnerships, which he called key to unlocking the Wilmington area’s potential for nurturing startups.
“We will partner with city and county officials, private individuals, entrepreneurs and the business community,” he said. “The way to successfully start an entrepreneurial spirit is to have these partnerships. Jim’s very personable; people are going to resonate with him. This is a great opportunity for the region.”