Guest Columnist

Column: Startup pros hope to reinvent RTP

March 25, 2013 

Laura Baverman, guest columnist.

Build a product that sells and a startup worth investing.

Connect with others in the community.

Share your knowledge, insights (and technology) with others.

And promote the Triangle as the best place in the U.S. to build a business.

Those are the key messages I got from the rapid-fire, inspirational talks given by startup founders and other leaders in the Triangle’s tech community last Tuesday night in Research Triangle Park.

Called 180°, this was the first of a series of events meant to bring life to RTP after the scientists and engineers and executives go home. It’s all part of the research park’s plan to reinvent itself as a place to build next-generation businesses big and small, and where startup teams want to live and hang out.

The efforts coincide with a region-wide goal to become a top-five area for entrepreneurship and innovation by 2017.

Those things can happen, event organizers said, if people, corporations and organizations in the Triangle work together, share resources and tell their stories, even as they build businesses that transform industries or lives.

Eighteen speakers had a chance to share Tuesday night. Here are the highlights:

•  Hal Thomas of the Center for Entrepreneurial Development unveiled a digital tool that maps and provides data on 1,000 area life science and technology startups. Thomas hopes startups and investors will use it to make connections.

•  Jason Hibbets of Red Hat will soon release a book on Raleigh’s pursuit of open government. He’s raising money to publish “The Foundation for an Open Source City” through an Indiegogo campaign that ends March 28.

•  Adam Klein of American Underground and Matthew Coppedge of Downtown Durham Inc. grabbed international attention for Durham last year by creating the world’s smallest office, and awarding that “Smoffice” to a promising startup. The pair travels to Qatar next month to compete for the most unconventional chamber project in the world.

•  N.C. State empowered Tethis co-founder Scott Bolin to license a salt-soaking sponge that helps clean unsanitary water removed during fracking. He’s since raised $800,000 to tackle this new industry.

•  Sarah Wechsberg owes this region for two successful Triangle Entrepreneurship Weeks in 2011 and 2012, which gave her team the experience and confidence to take the week of events and workshops to eight other cities this year.

•  Howie Rhee of Duke University is connecting hundreds of student entrepreneurs to alumni investors and startups all over the world, efforts that led to a $50 million donation for a campus-wide entrepreneurship initiative.

•  Erin Monda spends her days promoting the Triangle as RTP’s social media guru. She left the crowd with this:

“We have to all be saying the same thing: ‘We are an amazing place, full of smart people, conducting research that changes the world.’ ”

Laura Baverman is a journalist who spent eight years covering business for Cincinnati newspapers before moving to Raleigh.

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