These days, it’s a challenge to get a parking space at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), just down South College Road from its parent, the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The CIE is drawing increasingly large audiences for the seminars director Jim Roberts programs. Two held this week, designed to fire the imaginations and challenge the limits of would-be entrepreneurs, were no exception.
At Tuesday morning’s Wilmington Tech Panel session, four technology entrepreneurs shared their ideas about what it would take to make the Wilmington area a technology hub. Speakers were: Forrest Maready, chief technology officer of NextGlass; Tanner Clayton, CEO of WaveRider Design; Ron Vetter, professor of computer science at UNCW and a technology entrepreneur; and John Berry, a technical consultant with IBM.
On Thursday, four Raleigh-area entrepreneurship veterans talked to a packed room of students and entrepreneurs and met individually with 10 startup company representatives. Larry Steffan, with the Wireless Resource Center of North Carolina; Merrill Mason, of Smith Anderson Law; Michelle Calton, of the N.C. Technology Association
; and Bob Creeden, with Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network spoke about how their organizations help early-stage ventures.
The four will return to Wilmington on a monthly basis to provide further one-on-one counseling for local startups and to open their eyes to opportunities beyond the Cape Fear area, Roberts said.
"The real goal is for entrepreneurs to be able to find prospects, clients and investors in outside markets to bring in new money into the Wilmington economy, which is one way to increase wealth creation," he said. "The larger prospects and clients for increased business development and sales will likely be in larger markets."
While each session provided specific information, updating Tuesday's attendees on the status of the technology scene in Wilmington and acquainting Thursday's audience with resources available to them, Roberts said he also wants the technology and entrepreneurship communities from other parts of the state – notably the Triangle – to become more aware of the innovation and business potential at the eastern end of Interstate 40.
"People in Raleigh-Durham have now heard of NextGlass, CloudWyze and Hugo Networks and approach me about the stories they have heard when I travel there for conferences such as the Emerging Issues Forum last week, when the Watson School of Education won their $50,000 grant," Roberts said.