NCIDEA

Year End Community Celebration (Dec. Social) Recap

Last Thursday, December 6th, 65+ local entrepreneurs, community members, and business owners gathered at the American Legion in Blowing Rock for the Silicon Hollar Year End Community Celebration! The night started with open networking, drinks, pizza (Carolina Pizza Co.) and cookies (Appalachia Cookie Co.). Because of our awesome drink sponsors we had beer, cider, wine and mead flowing all night long! Thanks again to our monthly drink sponsors, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Blowing Rock Brewing Co., Booneshine Brewing Co., & Lost Province Brewing Co.

Sam Glover, Co-Founder of Startup High Country opened us up with a quick overview of special guest speakers and by thanking our drink, food and raffle sponsors.

Christy Hemenway from Run Amok Mead took the floor to discuss her new business adventure coming soon to a mountain near you and a Mead Label Art Contest that is underway now! Learn more here. Everyone enjoyed sampling the Mead at this event as well!

Doc Hendley, Founder of Wine to Water (WTW) was next up to the floor to discuss the work his local nonprofit does worldwide to help provide clean drinking water for all. Doc explained several different ways to get involved and support the cause. An easy way to support the efforts of Wine to Water is to grab some food or drinks at Ransom in downtown Boone and support WTW through their cost-sharing efforts! Everyone enjoyed Wine to Water wine at the celebration as well!

Jeffrey Scott, Founder and Facilitator of Velocity Labs then took the floor to discuss his recent 12 week startup course and Cohort 1. With the recent NC IDEA grant funding Startup High Country received, there will be a Spring Velocity Labs course in 2019! Stay tuned for details!

Four startup businesses from Velocity Labs Cohort 1 pitched their business idea or venture to the room. Jeremy Bollman Co-Founder of Hatchet Coffee pitched first. Jeremy discussed problem solution fit along with customer discovery, validation and creation. Hatchet Coffee hopes to grow and expand into other markets in the future. Jeremy also said he learned more about company building and leadership development from the Velocity Labs 12-week course.

Next up was Courtney Baines, Executive Director of local nonprofit Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). During the course, Courtney focused on the High Country Food Hub, a project of BRWIA. She was able to track significant customer growth in a year and has worked on new marketing initiatives to promote shopping and supporting local food and artisan products in the High Country.

Holly Denise, Founder of SilverBarre pitched next. She was able to find a good customer market for her education product here in the High Country. Holly pivoted and changed ideas several times throughout the 12-week course but is now ready to implement her first SilverBarre class.

The last pitch was from Brandon Hall, Co-Founder of ChurchLearn. His team discovered that churches need a volunteer workforce and software to train the volunteers. They have a huge target market and are already reaching out to churches all over the US.

Our last speaker of the night was special guest Thom Ruhe, President/CEO of NC IDEA. NC IDEA is a private foundation that has their own money and flexibility to take risks in the market. NC IDEA provides grants and programs to help and promote entrepreneurship and customer validation. He and his team are always trying to figure out ways to get people capable of entrepreneurial and critical thinking. Thom discussed how local entrepreneurs and companies are now competing with kids in other countries, therefore we have to show resilience. Ruhe said, “Not being able to think entrepreneurially is the new illiteracy.” We must try to redefine the ecosystem innovation.

Our team is grateful for the outstanding support and attendance at this event! Thanks for always supporting our entrepreneurial efforts here in the High Country. Stay tuned for information regarding our January Startup Social.

Cheers to 2019!

Check out these images below from David Rogers of Blowing Rock News.

Startups, Accelerators, Investment Funds...oh my!

By James Bance, Startup High Country.

We are beyond excited to announce the launch of Velocity Labs. Aimed at supercharging startups in our region, this program will help young companies grow faster by building connections with investors, other founders, and mentors that have had seen success in their own right.

But hold up...startup companies? Investors? Founders? This all sounds like something that belongs in downtown Durham with the techies and hipsters - not in Boone. Economically speaking this region has been driven by tourism - and let’s be real - it is not perceived as a hotbed of innovation. However, it is an area where starting a business is not unusual, it’s even a right of passage. But to scale and grow a company beyond the craggy granite boulders of Blowing Rock, or the more gentle slopes west of Boone, is not common.

If you look a little closer, there is currently a new wave of startup companies being birthed here and they’re driven by creative, industrious and technically skilled locals that are fueled by laptops, smartphones, gigabit internet and copious amounts of caffeine. Having access to all of these ingredients, along with a newly minted Angel Investment Fund (High Country Impact Fund) and close proximity to Appalachian State University makes Boone an exciting place to start a company.

The 5 county area surrounding Boone and it’s groundswell of ambitious entrepreneurs have the potential to make a splash in the economy of WNC and fill a much needed gap in a high-tech corridor that starts in Raleigh, extends to Winston-Salem, passes through Boone and south to Asheville.

In order to support a thriving startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs need support in the form of capital, connections and education. Over the last 4 years, Startup High Country has been a key player in the work to transform the economic trajectory of the area by forming the High Country Impact Fund as well as connecting coders, entrepreneurs, and investors via it’s Silicon Hollar events. The next phase of growth for the ecosystem is the birth of a locally based Startup Accelerator.

What the heck is an Accelerator?

In our case, it’s a 3-month intensive program that places local startup companies into a peer-based cohort. It’s designed to force founders to critically think about their customers, iterate on products faster, test and learn, make deeper peer connections and really get a grasp of the foundational aspects of operating a high growth company.

Another critical element of an accelerator program is to help facilitate opportunities quickly through a mentor driven support network. Experienced mentors help the founders avoid the typical pathways to mistakes and poor decisions that fledgling business owners often take. They can also pave the way for valuable introductions to key hires, investors, or new business opportunities.

Key data point - startups that go through an accelerator program, significantly increase their chances of surviving the first few critical years. One accelerator program, GAN Accelerator, shows that 85% of the 9,400 startups that went through their program, are still operating today.

Being a founder of a company can be a lonely journey on a very lonely road. The camaraderie built in an accelerator program can’t be replicated in traditional incubators, co-working spaces or business classes. When a founder interacts and builds friendships with other founders that are on a similar journey, magic can happen and the chances of surviving and thriving, go way up.

So Boone has an Accelerator now - What’s next?

First off, let me explain what Startup High country has created. Velocity Labs, the High Country’s first accelerator program, launched its pioneer cohort on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 and it will finish up in late November 2018.

“Startups face a number of challenges while building a viable business,” says Jeffrey Scott, Velocity Labs Director. “At Velocity Labs we help founders understand that they are really a temporary organization in search of repeatable, scalable and profitable business models. What is the big problem they trying to solve and for whom? Is the opportunity worth the investment of millions of dollars and years of work? We help them put first things first and validate their business model early on to increase their likelihood of success as a high growth company in the High Country.”

We received and reviewed about 20 applications from various companies in the area and ultimately narrowed the group down to seven. We felt these seven local companies had the right mix of growth potential (over $5MM revenue in 5 years), product, and desire to stretch their thinking about their companies:

Hatchet Coffee, The Insulators, Silver Barre, Thriftsy, ChurchLearn, High Country Food Hub, and Smart Gaming Systems

(summary of each company at the bottom of this post)

A key piece of the puzzle has always been about teaming the companies up with mentors who have their own battle scars as well as invaluable stories of success, and failure, in their own journeys.

Our mentors are experienced, proven and knowledgeable business leaders that have been sought out by the Startup High Country partners for their expertise. These folks have lived through the highs and lows, and have personally experienced the anxiety, exhilaration and stress of starting a company, or have worked in large enterprises and high-growth startups. Our mentors are also well connected, so their personal networks are extremely valuable to the program and participants.

How long will this program be available?

For the next 3 years. Recently, Startup High Country was the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the NC IDEA FOUNDATION. Given through the NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant program, this investment is huge for our entrepreneurial ecosystem and is a signal of the potential and momentum building in the Boone and Blowing Rock area.

“Our partnership with Startup High Country allows us to create greater opportunity for the statewide exchange of ideas, experiences and connections between the mountains and the coast of North Carolina,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA. "We look forward to our collaboration.”

SHC will use the grant to further Velocity Labs and promote our mission to create more high-tech (high-paying) jobs and more growth investment opportunities for the residents of the high country. With the support NC IDEA and local partners like Watauga Economic Development Commission and ECRS, Startup High Country has the fuel it needs to make a tangible impact in the economic outlook of the our region.

Want to learn more about Velocity Labs and Startup High Country? Visit us at:

www.startuphc.com


Or, connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.


Companies in Velocity Labs Cohort 1:

ChurchLEARN, a software company that helps churches recruit, equip and develop volunteers.

Hatchet Coffee, a roasting lab, slow bar, and coffee lounge.

High Country Food Hub, an online market for local food and artisan goods. It features over 500 products from 50+ small-family farms and food entrepreneurs from Watauga and 9 other surrounding counties.

Smart Game Systems, provides scenario-based learning development and a digital coaching platform for people and organizations needing greater risk agility, change of behavior, cultural alignment, improved performance, and innovation in an ever-changing environment.

SilverBarre, a fitness training technique that focuses on the training and support of the aging body. Age Graceful. Stay Active.  

The Insulators, use artificial intelligence to build models and generate accurate quotes for insulation and building world.

Thriftsy, the new way to save on your favorite brands while having fun in augmented reality!

Velocity Labs would not be possible without our amazing partners: Watauga EDC, NCIF, High Country Impact Fund, and ECRS.