Guest columnist

Column: Now's the time to start a business

Guest columnistNovember 12, 2012 

A year ago, Automated Insights, a Durham-based content-services company where I am vice president of product engineering, closed its second round of venture funding. Even though we had significant investor interest, we knew that we were just getting in before the investment door slammed shut.

In the following year, venture activity dropped off, and venture capitalists shifted their focus to growth-stage companies that already had millions in run rate.

But I still believe that there’s no better time to start a company, and here are the three primary reasons why:

1) Technology makes starting easier

It’s simple and inexpensive to start a business on the Web, thanks to standardized coding languages, plug-and-play tools and cloud computing.

Furthermore, mobile opens up a slew of new distribution models. A good technical team can create a minimum viable product, get that product out to customers, then get immediate feedback and react quickly.

2) Funding options are expanding

Early-stage funding options have become more varied and accessible. As a result, hundreds of Triangle startups have been created with low or no funding.

Accelerators like Durham’s Triangle Startup Factory can provide startups with infrastructure, connections and seed money. Crowdfunding allows a path to raise smaller amounts from multiple sources. Kickstarter lets companies acquire paying customers before the product is even built.

There are also university programs such as UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Challenge, grants such as NC IDEA, and various business plan competitions. With any of these options, startups have a better chance of succeeding before running out of money. Not guaranteed, but better.

3) Startup hubs are converging

Startup hubs – communities of entrepreneurs and public and private support organizations – are growing. Durham’s hub has exploded around the American Tobacco Campus, while Raleigh’s is gelling around organizations like Innovate Raleigh and HUB Raleigh.

You don’t have to be in a major city to get involved. ExitEvent (exitevent.com), a digital startup hub I created, has seen its membership grow to 500 entrepreneurs over the last year.

Within these emerging communities, entrepreneurs can make connections, get questions answered, find talent, meet potential advisers and mentors, and generally get their company up to speed quickly.

All of these options offer easier and faster ways to get a product out of the mind of the entrepreneur and into the hands of customers.

And ultimately, getting to customers is the determining factor of success.

Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer and speaker. Follow Procopio on Twitter @jproco or at http://joeprocopio.com

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