Joan Siefert Rose has spent six years as president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, considered the oldest and largest entrepreneurial support organization in the country. She previously worked in commercial and public broadcasting.
Access to capital.
It’s the top item on the wish list of any entrepreneur. CED last summer commissioned a survey of 40 tech and life science entrepreneurs, and, not surprisingly, raising capital remains the main ‘pain point’ for founders.
So we are rededicating ourselves to improving the odds. That same survey, conducted by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in partnership with NC IDEA, found that starting a company in the Research Triangle today is much easier than it was in 1984, the year that CED was founded to help build a vibrant entrepreneurial culture.
Think about it. Our region is among the top in the nation for research dollars flowing to the universities. Our local angel investor groups have added dozens of new members in the past year. We have resident venture capital firms, grant programs and knowledgeable mentors and advisors. There are accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces to help businesses get up and running. The costs of technology have dropped dramatically.
The Research Triangle’s track record for starting a business is pretty good, and getting better. But growing a business remains a challenge. In part, that’s because entrepreneurs here almost always need access to capital outside the region to scale and expand.
This ‘outside the region’ phenomenon is true for just about any place in America, with the exception of Silicon Valley. It’s true for high-growth companies in Chicago, Austin and Seattle, who, like entrepreneurs in the Research Triangle, need to get on a plane to build networks of investors to take that business to the next level. And there’s usually no travel agent to point the way.
CED has surveyed the landscape (including having UNC compare this region to the cities mentioned above) and decided it’s time for a change. This year, we commit ourselves to help entrepreneurs whose companies are growing make those connections to capital—no matter where they are—more easily.
We’ve already taken some important steps. We hosted the Southeast Angel Capital Association conference in September, attracting more than 150 early stage investors, and have been actively assisting syndication efforts ever since. Our annual meeting in January featured Verizon Ventures and Comcast Ventures, two corporate VCs who never had been to North Carolina before. We built the TriangulateNC.com map of 900-plus startups in our region to promote conversations between local companies and investors who track activity here.
We’re regularly hosting Raising the Dough, a 2-day intensive session that covers what an entrepreneur needs to know about preparing to raise outside capital.
And we will be announcing other initiatives this year as CED celebrates its 30th anniversary—we’ll present a complete plan to our board at its meeting in June. You can think of it as CED 3.0, and our goal is to have more successful companies grow in the Research Triangle. We welcome your ideas, and encourage you to get involved at www.cednc.org.