Each year brings a new focus for entrepreneurs who are either looking to ideate, grow their venture, find investors or all the above. For the communities supporting them, it’s important to keep up with trends.
The Greater Wilmington Business Journal checked in with two local organization leaders who work together with entrepreneurs: Jim Roberts, founder of Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW), and Heather McWhorter, director of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).
“Wilmington’s entrepreneurs are taking technology another step by solving big problems – e.g., the opioid crisis, climate change and keeping children safe – in a big way,” McWhorter said.
Roberts and McWhorter share their lists of local startups to watch, potential trends in the local tech industry next year and more.
What tech trends should the region look out for in the next year?
“Artificial intelligence/machine learning – e.g., predictive analytics; leveraging tech to solve community and environmental issues in a scalable, impactful manner and blockchain – while the technology is not new, new applications continue to be developed.”
“We are eager to see more Live Oak Bank, nCino and Untappd employees becoming entrepreneurs much like Telios, Ohanafy and others. With the excellent management at these large companies, we hope the first-time entrepreneurs have learned professional insights. I hope we will see an increase in the support for life sciences startups with a new effort from Novant to support innovation – Novant Health Coastal Innovation Lab.”
What are some local up-and-coming startups to watch in 2023?
“This is a tough question because we have so many great startups in our region. This is a list to get started: Active Defender (nonlocal CIE member), Boreas Monitoring Solutions, Electronic Lab Logs, Essential Personnel, F3TCH, Nanbar Health, OpiAID, Ohanafy and Wisely.”
“STAR NA is a company from UNCW staff that must be supported in the right way. They are using the whole North Carolina ecosystem and NEW is working hard to help them.
Electronic Lab Logs has landed some capital resources and more importantly large name lab clients that will allow some additional hiring. We were very impressed by Boreas Monitoring Solutions.”
When it comes to raising funds or networking, what events/pitch contests/competitions should entrepreneurs look out for next year?
“1 Million Cups Wilmington – every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at CIE for networking; NEW monthly meetings at Ironclad Brewery; NC IDEA MICRO and SEED grant applications ($10,000 and $50,000) in spring and fall. If entrepreneurs are getting ready to pitch for investment the first time, I recommend that they apply for a CIE mentor team.”
“The Wilmington ecosystem, and more importantly the entrepreneurs, are finally looking beyond New Hanover County to connect to additional resources. Wilmington had a great presence at the CED Venture Connect Conference, at DIG SOUTH in Charleston – with OpiAID, F3TCH, Essential Personnel and Telios presenting – and F3TCH won the cash prize at Capital Connects in Greensboro. We need to increase the number of Wilmington applications for NC IDEA grants and learn more about Federal SBIR grants like OpiAID has done.”
What can the community do to support entrepreneurs and startups?
“Something that everyone can do is to buy local to help our region’s entrepreneurs and the community. Investors and experienced entrepreneurs can also support entrepreneurs by mentoring the next up-and-coming startup. Also, if you know a startup, ask them if they are working with one of the Coalition resource providers (wilmingtonbusinessresources.com
“We need to keep the local investor capital invested in Wilmington companies. Millions of dollars are leaving Wilmington and being invested in other markets. We need feedback from these investors on what they want to see from local entrepreneurs, and the ecosystem can work on those challenges. We are shocked by the lack of participation by the local service providers who should have a vested interest in growing the startup scene.”