Wilmington’s 22nd annual Cucalorus film festival is underway this week, and for the second year it’s also featuring the Cucalorus Connect Conference, which brings together innovators, entrepreneurs, techies and artists.
The Connect Conference and its dozens of panel discussions, workshops, speeches and competitions runs Wednesday through Sunday.
The conference got started with a keynote address Wednesday afternoon at the Ironclad Brewery by Louis Foreman, founder and CEO of Enventys, an integrated product design and engineering firm based in Charlotte.
“When you have that great idea, when you have that eureka moment in the middle of the night, how do you turn that great idea into something that makes money for you,” Foreman said before his address, which was appropriately called “You’ve Got a Great Idea, What’s Next.”
“Before you go down that path, before you put in a lot of time and resources, you really need to determine the feasibility of an idea, so what I share with people is, what are those five questions you should answer before you quit your job, before you empty your savings and 401k,” he explained.
Foreman believes events like Connect play a strong role in developing talent in a community.
“I think these events are both inspirational as well as educational,” he said “They are educational in the sense that people learn the life lessons that they need to be successful, they get the tips and the advice that they need to avoid making the classic mistakes.”
“But it is also very inspiring. You see people who have done it before; you see that it’s really not that hard if you are committed to being successful. You realize that nothing happens if you don’t actually follow through and execute,” Foreman said. “Sometimes that speaker, that successful story, that case study of someone who did it and was successful, might be what pushes you over the edge and gets you to do what you want to do!”
There will be several hackathons this week as well. That’s when groups of people gather to engage in collaborative computer programming. The first hackathon of the week started Wednesday morning.
“One of the things techies love, is awe,” said Emilyanne Atkinson, CEO of Cape Fear Women in Tech, and one of the hackathon organizers. “We want to bring back awe. It was like the first time you ever saw something in 3-D, you were like that is amazing, that is mind-bending, so for us techies it’s about chasing that next great, awe-inspiring thing.”
“We want to show the world what Wilmington can do. We want to make some noise, we want to show off our talent. We want to showcase Wilmington as a whole.”
Her organization is doing a hackathon this weekend as well, called Stupid Stuff Nobody Needs and Terrible Ideas.
All the Connect events will be hosted at various locations downtown including Thalian Hall, Cape Fear Community College Union Station, Jengo’s Playhouse, Ironclad Brewery, Bourgie Nights and Expo 216.
“It’s going really well,” said Liz Marion, Connect event coordinator, as she managed events from Ironclad. “This is our second year, doing Cucalorus Connect, and I think we have some excellent events for the week. Some great panels and discussions will be going on.”
Connect would never have happened, Marion said, without Cucalorus.
“Connect is part of Cucalorus, and Cucalorus is a lasting brand it’s been around for 22 years. We have the Cucalorus support, resources, and staff helping a lot. It has been invaluable in pulling this all together. I think it’s great we have this presence in the community. I think it is becoming a ‘you must be there’ event in Wilmington.”
One of the most exciting events of the week is 10x10, in which 10 filmmakers spend the week with 10 entrepreneurs. All teams will complete a short video, which will then air on Sunday evening at Union Station. The entrepreneurs can then use the video for any marketing or advertising needs they have.
“It’s a very busy time around town. There are three or four events happening at the same time,” said Jim Roberts, founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington, and a panel moderator this week. “We’re trying to build on the brand that Cucalorus has built over the last two decades. If you can mix the energy of the film industry, and the potential of the startups, that’s what this week is all about.”
Roberts said Wilmington is getting there when it comes to startups, but still has a way to go.
“The buzz is certainly growing but the ecosystem here is really only about 3 years old. If we look at Charleston, South Carolina, they are about 10 years ahead of us. They have had five exits of their startups that have been acquired for over $50 million, and our area won’t catch fire until we have that exit event success. We are all aiming for that and pushing things toward that goal.”
The full schedule of Connect
is available online.