Editor’s note: Jim R. Roberts is the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington and the WALE Angel Network. Prior to being the founding Executive Director of the UNCW CIE Incubator, Jim also worked for the Durham-based Center for Nanobiotechnology Innovation (COIN), funded by the NC Biotechnology Center. Jim also started entrepreneur support organizations in Charlotte and Asheville. Jim sits on the committees of NC IDEA, NC TECH and CED. He was also an employee of the North Carolina Department of Commerce in the International Trade Division.
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WILMINGTON- Aren’t you glad I-40 widened EAST in 1990? You love that smooth ride to the beach until Labor Day every year. (Just don’t speed in Duplin County, because your speeding tickets are a big chunk of their county’s revenue.)
But now we also use the road for business, not just for the sun at the beach for fish tacos with a cold adult drink.
We call it the coastal corridor. (We’re exactly the same distance from Raleigh as the “Greater State of Mecklenburg,” also known as Charlotte.) But Wilmington knows that road goes both ways. I think I-85 is a two way road…
Through professional friends who work for NC TECH, NC IDEA, CED, RIOT and others, Wilmington has been using this as a two-way relationship and resource flow since 2013. This has resulted in a further increase in annual awards, grants from startup, stage time at events and pitch conferences and many new friendships and relationships. Wilmington had more attendees and attendees at the 2022 CED Venture Connect investor conference than any city in North Carolina outside of the Triangle.
Wilmington continues to evolve (rapidly) as an entrepreneurial center – here’s an update
Half a billion reasons
We’ve arranged for over $500,000,000 in out-of-town capital to visit Wilmington and speak at our events over the past three months. Yes, half a BILLION dollars. Can’t you imagine me with Dr. Evil’s little gesture?
Our November 10 event will mark 95 out-of-town investors who have spoken at our beach events since the Network for Entrepreneurs launched in Wilmington in 2015.
We’ve used all of these resources to become the #1 startup ecosystem in the US and #2 worldwide for cities under 300,000.
And according to NC TECH’s latest Tech Talent Index, Wilmington ranks among the top 55 metropolitan statistical areas in the United States for tech talent, tech supply, and innovation. More importantly, Wilmington ranks more than 100 places higher for technology and innovation than the region ranks on total current population.
Startup Spotlight: $500M VCs Are Coming to Wilmington—Here’s 3 Opportunities to Meet Them
OK, before you get the wrong idea, we don’t steal from Triangle startups/entrepreneurs. It can’t be said that the Triangle hasn’t stolen some of our startups.
But we’re having a big life sciences startup event on November 10th and we’re inviting all of your Triangle-based entrepreneur resources to Wilmington to make the most of this opportunity. We are working on this event to showcase the work of the NC Healthcare Meetup group on the coast run by local entrepreneurs.
Well, these entrepreneurial resources are not actually owned by the Triangle. The NC Biotech Center is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly, the entire state legislature. The First Flight Venture Center is located in North Carolina’s statewide funded Research Triangle Park.
And Mr. Art Pappas of Pappas Capital, who will be part of our closing session at our November 10 event, will be traveling the world to find the best deal flow he can find for his $250 venture capital fund. million dollars for life sciences companies. in.
Certainly, this is an ambitious event for our region. We help our current early-stage startups prepare to mature to a point where they might be ready to meet a venture capital fund later.
Wilmington’s Startup Scene Isn’t “Rising” – It’s Here and Ranked #1
Does Wilmington have a life sciences sector?
Well, consider this: our November 10 event is sold out. A half-day event focused on the life sciences industry featuring startup showcases, a panel full of helpful life science-specific resources, and a third session with early-stage and late-stage investors for the life sciences.
What we currently have is the former PPD clinical research headquarters building, and that building is now available for sale, listed on the open market, following the acquisition of PPD by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Wilmington therefore has an asset that RTP is trying to develop and North Hills is developing at a very high cost.
UNCW is not the same kind of powerhouse as the THREE conveniently located Tier 1 research universities in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, each with BILLIONS of dollars in federally funded research. But there is a VERY interesting new chemistry professor on the coast with an innovative idea around technology that will not require cold storage of vaccines for transport to third world countries. This early-stage start-up is already working with the experts at the First Flight Venture Center.
We have a startup with a partial solution to the opioid crisis that people seem to want to sweep under the rug. But Wilmington can’t sweep opioids under the rug, as Wilmington is the No. 1 opioid problem city in the United States with 11.6% of working-age adults exhibiting some level of addiction.
With these people, we want to be clear, addiction often doesn’t start in Wilmington. (Opioid use disorder and other addictions have many causes, and we care about all of our neighbors.) A growing startup called OpiAID is working on a tech-based solution. OpiAID is now a finalist for the NC IDEA SEED Grant and won an NIH (National Institute of Health) SBIR grant that was “matched” by the North Carolina Office of Science and Technology, based at the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
And the term life sciences is quite broad when trying to build a cluster. Wilmington is also home to another NC IDEA grant winner named Lab Logs. Since North Carolina is the headquarters of the clinical research organization industry, it is difficult to monitor all this laboratory equipment on a daily basis. Lab Logs has now moved this process from a handwritten checklist to a much more reliable electronic process. This business has matured beyond the start-up stage with capital from investors and a growing list of clients.
The report ranks Triangle 16th among startup centers in the United States; Wilmington #2 among similar-sized cities worldwide
Does Wilmington have the talent?
Well, where do you think all this virtual office work is currently being done? The place with the best views even out of season and much less traffic than the Triangle.
And for the first time in UNCW history, some of the graduates from science programs are now able to stay with a new set of opportunities. A local company, Quality Chemical Laboratories, is about to complete a 110,000 square foot expansion. The founder of Quality Chemical Labs recently made a large donation to the university. A new company called Frontier Scientific Solutions is opening a large facility near the port. Signs of progress on the coast.
In an industry starved of talent, Wilmington offers a competitive advantage to businesses that have a beach/coastal/river location where people can be productive. One of our big FinTech companies, nCino, calls it “Hustling in Comfort”.
Wilmington’s nCino completes acquisition of SimpleNexus for $1.2 billion, but share price slips