This weekend I took my wife to the mountains. Since she’s originally from Colorado, we try to get to the very cool city of Asheville in the very gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains every chance we get. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and one reason for that is startup + kids = no vacation time. The other reason is I had almost given up on Asheville.
Let me explain.
I’ve been seriously investigating Asheville as a startup hub since about 2007, when the wife and I were debating a possible change in location after I had found some success with my consulting firm.
Again, with the mountain thing working for us, Asheville made a lot of sense and was near the top of the short list. What I found was that Asheville had everything a startup scene should have.
First of all, it has scene in spades. Asheville is a thriving creative community and, as remote as it is, it knows community. However, it’s not too far from Charlotte, Atlanta, and Durham. Plus, there’s money there. It’s quiet money, but it’s there.
It’s also chock full of talent, with a potential annual refresh from local universities (UNC-Asheville, Western Carolina, and nearby Appalachian State) and a solid community college in Asheville-Buncombe Tech.
But what really suckers me into Asheville as a startup hub is when I see blog titles like this: Asheville to have unprecedented presence at SXSW 2012; plan is to pitch Asheville as an entrepreneurial haven
That’d get you too, right?
Headlines like these hit my radar, I don’t know, every six-to-nine months. And when I see them, I automatically think “Yes, it’s about time… waaaaait a minute, didn’t I just see this?”
The article mentions Sean O’Connell, CEO of Creative Allies, who I had lunch with, probably back in 2009, and asked him all those same questions. Beyond some infrastructure problems, he didn’t seem to think there was anything stopping Asheville from being a startup hub.
A few weeks later, I went up for an all-day startup/idea festival he had helped orchestrate downtown called Hatch Asheville. It was awesome. It gave me hope.
Then I didn’t hear anything out of Asheville for another six-to-nine months.
But now things seem to be coming together with a new level of stickiness. Asheville is preparing for their very own Startup Weekend on August 24th, the weekend immediately following the Startup NC launch on August 20th.
The only listed speaker thus far is Jim Roberts, who played a role in Advantage West, and the support organizations Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council (BREC) and the Blue Ridge Angel Investor Network (BRAIN).
Furthermore, a new co-working space, Mojo, is expanding into a new building on September 12th. Mojo members are mostly creative startups that fit right in with the Asheville scene.
Things are happening there, and hell, how quickly do you think I’d jump at the chance for an ExitEvent Startup Social Asheville? Once you get beyond the Triangle and Charlotte, Asheville has the potential to be the next big thing. My hope is that the time is finally right for a startup boom in Asheville, and when that happens we in the Triangle will be able to help them along, making the entire ecosystem stronger.