7.25.14 SARAH HEADLEY@sarah_headley

Fashion, Robots, Music, Social Enterprise: Meet the New ThinkHouse Fellows

Eight new fellows join Raleigh's ThinkHouse August 1.

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

ThinkHouse NC is a major stepping stone for many young entrepreneurs, evidenced by the seven men and five startups who graduated from ThinkHouse's inaugural class in June

It is part-startup accelerator—they're matched with mentors and attend weekly workshops—part-living community. The entrepreneurs accepted into the program live and work together in a house in Raleigh's Boylan Heights over an intense nine-month period of business learning and building. It's a model founders Christopher Gergen and Jason Widen hope to take to cities around the world in coming years.

One of the biggest opportunities it affords, said men from the first group, was the camaraderie and peer-to-peer interactions as they built businesses.

That's likely why Gergen and Widen had no problem recruiting for year two. Today, they announce a second set of fellows to begin their journey on August 1. It also accomplishes a key goal set as the first group came to a close: to incorporate a mix of different skill sets and support more women in entrepreneurship.

I actually met one of the new fellows a month ago at Maker Faire Raleigh. Tia Simpson recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a major in electrical engineering and minor in design studies, and created Konnect in her entrepreneurial senior design class.
 --Read On


7.24.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Raleigh EdTech Startup Heads to NYC for Prestigious Kaplan-Techstars Accelerator

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If you've seen Lea(R)n Founder Karl Rectanus in the last few days, you've probably noticed the big grin on his face and fast pace in his step.

Today it all makes sense. The news he's been sitting on for weeks came out this morning—that his startup would join the elite Kaplan EdTech Accelerator powered by Techstars. By afternoon, he'll be on a plane to New York City to join 11 other startups from around the nation for funding from Kaplan and Techstars and three months of intense mentorship and business-building. They were chosen from a pool of 500 startups from around the world.

Here's how he describes the program: "It's like getting the best startup MBA and the best PhD in learning science in 13 weeks."

The Kaplan-Techstars program has received much acclaim since it launched in early 2013. It was the first corporate EdTech accelerator of its kind, providing access to the global test prep and training company's learning science team, executives and market research, its more than 300 high school and more than 20 university partners around the nation along with an optional $150,000 convertible note and office space.

Techstars also provides access to its mentor network and invests $20,000 in each company. Lea(R)n is the second Triangle company to make Techstars. Durham's Sqord participated in Techstars Chicago last summer.
 --Read On


7.24.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

One Year Later, American Underground Doubles Footprint on Main Street

Startup campus expansion allows for fast growth of Durham startups

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Some predictions are merely predictions. Others are dead on.

And American Underground gets credit for the latter. Today, the operator of startup campuses (and owner of ExitEvent) reveals a plan to double the size of its space on Main Street in downtown Durham by January, making room for 50 additional companies and meeting a 2012 goal of housing 200 companies by 2015.

The expansion will happen on the third and fourth floors of the building owned by Self Help Credit Union and its rooftop, and will include 46 private offices for teams of 8-20, 12 new co-working desks, an Entrepreneurs Living Room with couches, TVs and a private bar, and a rooftop patio for outdoor seating and events. It will look out on the new 21c Museum Hotel, planned to open in spring 2015, and eventually, the 26-story residential, office and retail tower planned kitty-corner to the building.

The announcement comes four years after American Underground was founded in the basement of the American Tobacco complex, a year after its Main Street campus (known as AU@Main) opened and six months since the Raleigh space was unveiled.

It's evidence that—despite some damning reports about our region's venture capital climate—companies are still growing and forming.

Chief Strategist Adam Klein says Underground companies created 122 jobs in the first half of 2014. They raised north of $2 million collectively. And just this month, 15 new companies signed on as tenants. Several have moved from larger tech hubs to the Triangle. --Read On


7.24.14 JOE PROCOPIO@jproco

A Rant Against Bad Startup Advice

What I Learned at the July ExitEvent Startup Social

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Every so often, I find myself at odds with a particular bit of conventional startup advice. Usually, the advice starts out as an innocuous one-liner bequeathed to me that I've re-gifted to others and, at face value, it may make perfect sense.

But at a certain point, the advice gets so blown out of proportion that it loses context. Eventually, it becomes something less than helpful. In extreme cases, it can become harmful.

That's when I open my big mouth and get all contrarian.

The last time I went on such a rant was over advice concerning our startup community and the growing number of startup-related events that were popping up everywhere. Long story short -- conventional wisdom was that there were too many startup events and the advice was that we needed to stop having so many startup events and entrepreneurs should stop going to startup events and get back to work.

This was almost exactly two years ago, so my story needs some context of its own.

The ExitEvent Startup Social was one of the first (if not the first) in a new wave of startup-related events that sprung out of a revitalized startup community in Durham. Yeah, there were startup events and meetups and such, but ExitEvent was sparked the night I went to a startup event attended by 100+ people and wound up talking the whole time to the only other entrepreneur there.

I remember what that was like. I remember when there were exactly zero honest-to-goodness startup events in my startup community. And it sucked, way more than being a little bit annoyed by getting the umpteenth startup-related Evite in my inbox.

So when startup events started exploding shortly after ExitEvent exploded, including two events that spun out of an ExitEvent Startup Social on the same night, my response was rock on, go for it, make some noise.

And when there was a backlash, my contrarian response was: Good entrepreneurs will find the value in good startup events and both will persevere. Shitty entrepreneurs who do nothing but event-hop will gravitate toward the shitty, glitzy events, and both will fail. --Read On


7.23.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

My Chance to Interview SXSW Interactive's Hugh Forrest

SXSW Interactive leader to headline Wilmington event September 4

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I attended my first South by Southwest Interactive Festival in 2011, and I remember walking away thinking, 'What just happened?'

It's one of those experiences that can only be described with a bunch of adjectives: energizing, inspiring, weird, delicious, surprising, fun, exhausting, overwhelming, exciting and I'm sure I'm missing a lot. At the end of the weekend, your brain is so full you can't make sense of it any other way.

But looking back, I know that the people I met and heard speak gave me deep context for the interviews I've conducted and stories I've written since. So I guess if I had to pick a word to describe SXSW, it's influential.

There's a team of people that carefully crafts this experience, and the head of that team for the last 21 years is an Austin man named Hugh Forrest. And North Carolina (specifically, Wilmington) is lucky enough to be his host September 4th for the first Coastal Connect Entrepreneur and Capital Conference, an event organizers hope will spotlight the entrepreneurial efforts in their city along with its coast line (Check out ExitEvent's take on Wilmington's startup scene). I'm pretty pumped too, because they've asked me to host a "riverside" chat with him that day.

Forrest and I chatted yesterday to help me prepare for the event and I've published excerpts of our conversation below. I hope they drum up some other questions from those who plan to attend (leave some in the comments, if you want!).
 --Read On


7.23.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Help Governor McCrory Help Startups

The Gov surveys entrepreneurs for help spurring more university commercialization

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University commercialization. One of the most complicated, yet promising, functions of entrepreneurial communities.

It's been around since 1980, when the federal government passed the Bayh-Dole Act and made it possible for universities (and nonprofits and private corporations) to own intellectual property rights to federally-funded research. What universities do with those rights is what is continually up for discussion. And that's mostly because universities are best at education, not launching businesses.

Governor McCrory and the North Carolina Office of Science & Technology are tackling this challenge head on. One of four priorities of his Innovation-to-Jobs Working Group is to increase licensing revenue, startup creation and investor opportunity at the state's educational institutions.

To help understand the opportunity that exists, the team wants your help. If you've had any involvement in research or innovation at local universities, consider filling out this 15-minute survey. The specific request is for your opinion about how well NC's universities perform in commercialization activities (i.e., creation and support of startup companies as investment opportunities; licensing innovations to existing businesses or startups). --Read On


7.23.14 BILL BING@BillNBing

The More Things Change... (The Mostly Inert State of the Limited Partner)

The rest of the venture capital world is changing. Why aren't institutional LPs?

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The other day I was watching part of 500 Startups' PreMoney conference live video stream and I happened to catch the Limited Partner (“LP”) panel.

It was a group of five or six CIOs and Alternative Investment Managers from large institutional investment funds and fund-of-funds, and it was… incredibly boring.

It immediately brought me back to my time attending conferences and listening to LP panels while fundraising for Square 1 Ventures in 2008. Everyone was saying the exact same things as they were back then and speaking in generalities about the characteristics they look for in a manager: “good track record”, “honest about performance”, “patient approach”, “can manage in all macro environments” and more empty and banal platitudes.

Right after the LP panel, Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList (a company that is completely changing angel investing and which I believe will continue to eat its way downstream) had a fireside chat in which he discussed the impact of AngelList. Contrasting these two sessions left me shaking my head: how can there be so much change and excitement going on in the world of direct investing, while one level up the food chain everything is so stagnant and dull?
 --Read On


7.22.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

SOAR MENTEE: Building the Sportswear Brand of Tween Athletes Everywhere

Dragonwing Girlgear aims to build a national brand around age-appropriate sports bras and apparel

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This is the second in a series of profiles on the first four women to be mentored by SOAR, a new Triangle area organization to help female entrepreneurs raise capital and grow their companies. SOAR is funded by Google for Entrepreneurs as part of its #40Forward initiative to support women in startups.

MaryAnne Gucciardi carries a special bag with her wherever she goes.

When the right moment comes along in a conversation, she begins to pull out its contents. The first looks like a typical girl's camisole but Gucciardi is quick to point out its wider straps, longer torso, elastic that doesn't ride up and its wicking shelf bra. It's made of sustainable fabric, she says, and it blocks the sun with its UV 50 rating. Perfect for tweens on the soccer field, basketball court or in a dance studio.

Next comes a similar garment from a name-brand department store. She'll have you feel the difference.

And then she'll tell the story behind the former, the first creation of her line of Dragonwing Girlgear sportswear, what she envisions will become the leading brand for girls aged 8 to 17 who play sports.

With the help of SOAR, the Cary entrepreneur hopes to build a business worthy of outside investment, and with sports bras, camis, compression shorts and other garments sold online and in athletic stores around the nation. So far, she's selling in about 10 retail stores, including Omega Sports in the Triangle and online through the Hillsborough-based operator of Soccer.com and Lacrosse.com (Sports Endeavors, Inc.).

“My whole mission in this business is to give girls an advantage on the field and in life,” she says. “If something fits, it can be empowering, a change agent.” --Read On


7.21.14 • SCOT WINGO@scotwingo

Ask Scot Wingo: Coming Up With Your Big Idea, i.e. The Startup Idea Pattern

Part one of a three-part series on how to turn ideas into companies.

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Scot Wingo is co-founder and CEO of ChannelAdvisor, a public company in Morrisville, N.C. that helps e-commerce retailers optimize sales across channels. Wingo and team took the company public in May 2013.

This is a regular series, and you can read the kick-off post here for background. Ask him a question by commenting or emailing news@exitevent.com.


Aaron writes:
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Hey Scot,

I've always had so many ideas swirling around but never felt drawn towards any one idea over the others. How were you able to come up with 3 ideas that were able to create such value? I just bash my head against the wall sometimes trying to think of something that would create legitimate value for someone, so much so they'd give me their money for it.

I'm a web developer, but development is a means to an end for me, with the end being creating something of value, rather than programming for programming's sake.
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Thanks Aaron! This is a great question and one I'm going to answer with a three-part series:

1. Coming up with your Big Idea—the Startup Idea Pattern
2. Evaluating your Idea(s)
3. Ideas are easy—execution is hard. --Read On


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