Guest Columnist

How to take advantage of the Triangle's startup resources

Guest columnistNovember 5, 2012 

Ann Johnston, founder of Local-Ventures, a Triangle startup


I’m from the Triangle. Born, raised, educated and employed. I love it. Maybe it’s the Carolina skies. Maybe it’s the basketball, maybe it’s the people drawn here by world-class universities and RTP. Maybe it’s that gas is too expensive for me to leave…

The area has many attributes, but for me, one tops them all: the thriving startup and small business communities.

I’ve operated a Durham-based business for four years, but this summer, while developing a new company called Local-Ventures, I experienced the business ecosystem like never before. Local-Ventures is a startup, and its mission involves creating relationships between local businesses. So I spent the summer surrounded by those who help keep the Triangle consistently ranked on top 10 lists for business, growth and innovation. Here are a few of those individuals and organizations. The list isn’t comprehensive or authoritative – it’s a selection from my experience.

•  CED: CED offers benefits such as tech forums featuring local executives and a FastTrac program, which gives new companies a running start. Anne Katharine Wales introduced me to several other people on this list.

•  ExitEvent: ExitEvent is organized by Joe Procopio, entrepreneur, engineer and writer (follow @jproco). This monthly event brings 200-plus veteran and aspiring entrepreneurs together in Durham and Raleigh.

•  Triangle-Area Chambers of Commerce: Raleigh’s Chamber is the largest and is well organized. Durham’s Chamber offers an emphasis on supporting local startups.

•  Jon Leonardo at Triangle Entrepreneurship Week: Jon runs Triangle Entrepreneurship Week, and can tell you about a startup event for every day of the week. He formerly worked at Bull City Forward, which is making Durham a destination for social entrepreneurs. Speak to Roshen Sethna at BCF.

•  Triangle Startup Factory: Founded by Chris Heivly and Dave Neal, it’s the most capitalized accelerator in the Southeast. Heivly was a co-founder of MapQuest and publishes Triangle Tech Talk. Neal has held C-suite positions at several successful tech companies.

•  Jeff Tippett of Calvert Creative: Jeff knows the small business community. He chaired the Raleigh Chamber’s Business Expo this year and is on the board of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association.

•  JT Vaughn at Cherokee: JT can help you navigate the startup and greater business communities and he runs Cherokee Challenge, a competition and accelerator designed to fund and support high-impact environmental startups.

•  Julian Wooten: Julian recently co-founded Social Venture Chapel Hill, which provides organized entrepreneurial networking events.

•  The Greater UNC Entrepreneurial Community: The people behind this program are truly dedicated to helping students bring world changing ideas to life.

Ann Johnston is COO at Baker-Eubanks, a Durham-based executive due diligence firm, founder of Local-Ventures, a local startup providing information and deals that facilitate local B2B purchasing and a student in UNC’s Entrepreneurship Minor. She can be reached at

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