I’m about to have my first child, a girl, in December. In twenty-two years, if she has the entrepreneurial bug like her old man, I want her to not only have the right skills, I also want there to be a vibrant, full-spectrum startup community in the Triangle for her to work in.
I don’t want her to be plucked out of school to work at a company three thousand miles away, because few, if any, exciting, disruptive businesses are here. I don’t want her to have to work in the dog-eat-dog, money over quality of life, California tech scene that I came from. I don’t want to have to get on a plane to see my grandchildren, like her grandparents will have to do. I’m selfish in that way.
I know we have the power to make Raleigh-Durham a national player in the startup realm, because I’ve never seen a place that so closely mimics the burgeoning startup scene of 1970s Silicon Valley. I believe it’s possible to make that change, while keeping the quality of life that makes our city so amazing.
It’s not a mission with quick solutions, like throwing money at companies. It requires a cultural shift that may take decades. It means changing the Triangle from a big data and pharmaceutical town into a full service technology town; an economic area where you can find the best B to B and B to C products being developed. We need to foster a business community that is known as much for its style as its substance. Only then will we be able to keep our top, home-grown talent.
This is why I am co-founding the Raleigh Entrepreneurial Acceleration Lab (REAL, for short).
We’re a non-profit movement, not an investment fund like most accelerators. We don’t take any equity from our participants, don’t have preset time limits for assistance, and don’t charge a dime for our services.
Our profits are success stories.
We have a dedicated team of coaches who share our goal of building a sustainable startup culture in the Triangle. They don’t offer their opinions to REAL participants at monthly board meetings, they do regular, pro-bono work while they pass on their skills.
In addition to coaching, we’re working to provide REAL companies with as much top-tier, industry assistance as possible. We’ve recently been chosen by Amazon to be part of the AWS Activate program, which will allow our participating companies to receive thousands of dollars worth of cloud hosting and training for their businesses at no cost.
Both our coaches and our participants dedicate time to volunteer with local educational initiatives that give others the tools to become technology leaders and entrepreneurs. We focus heavily on traditionally underserved demographics in the technology space (women, minorities, low-income youth).
We’re addressing the dearth of design and web talent in our area by working with local schools and universities to help them define a web technologies curriculum that prepares their students for our area’s readily available web 2.0 jobs. We’re also assisting those students in finding internships with local startups.
And that’s it. There are no hooks and no other motive than building a Raleigh-Durham entrepreneur community that will last for generations.
I hope you share our mission, and I hope you join us.