GEEK: Greenville’s Expanding Economy of Knowledge

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Over 300 investors, entrepreneurs and small-business owners were at the inaugural GEEK event. This celebration of the inventive spirit of the Upstate was held at the newly opened NEXT Innovation Center in late August of 2011. It was tight quarters, indeed, with innovative minds shoulder-to-shoulder, each person inching their way from table to table where half a dozen resource providers were there to explain their individual programs.

Fast-forward to 2013, and the collaboration between the Inno-Vision Awards Program and Clemson University’s College of Business and Behavioral Science (CBBS) has assembled an even larger group of resource providers for a GEEK event next month. Fostering startups, entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses requires a rich and diverse group of private and public organizations whose mission is to provide them with assistance. Let me share an overview of these entities; if I am unsuccessful in encouraging you to attend, you can use this as a directory of helpful sources.

The Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF) moves tech-nology, created through research and creative inquiry, out of the laboratory and into commercial markets.

The Clemson University MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MBAe) is a one-year, intensive, experiential program where students begin with an idea, apply rigorous business principles and graduate with both an MBA degree and a market-ready business.

The Clemson Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers personal guidance and assistance to small-business owners and entrepreneurs through personal and confidential consultation.

The Clemson University Sustainable Entrepreneurs & Economic Development (SEED) education certificate program draws on the experiences of local business leaders to help early stage entrepreneurs build sustainable success.

The Clemson University Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership supports educational, research and outreach programs promoting entrepreneurial activity and economic development. Their programs include EcoPlosion, Social LaunchPad, and LaunchPadSC.

InnoVenture helps people with big ideas ask for introductions to those who can help attract the customers, capital, talent and technology they need.

Michelin Development Corporation provides low-interest loans and business expertise to create quality sustainable jobs and promote economic growth.

The Iron Yard supports entrepreneurs, investors, developers, artists and teachers, in collaborative spaces, and by hosting events that bring them all together.

The Piedmont Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) has 40 volunteers committed to helping entrepreneurs start a new business, or build up an existing business.

SC Launch, an SCRA affiliate, facilitates applied research, product development and commercialization programs and provides entrepreneurs with key tools to help build technology startups, jobs and equity in the future of our state.

Upstate SC Alliance is a public/private regional economic development organization that markets the dynamic 10-county Upstate region to the world.

The Upstate Carolina Angel Network (U-CAN) provides intellectual and financial capital to startup and early-state, high-growth businesses. To date, they have invested $4.5 million in 16 companies.

The Greenville Spartanburg Anderson Technology Council (GSATC) provides networking, education, business development and community service opportunities through its news-letter, meetings, job fair and community training programs. They host Tech After Five, a series of free, sponsorsupported professional networking events.

Greenville Business Magazine partners with organizations and experts to provide terrific advice to help grow businesses and protect their assets.

And lastly, InnoVision, in its 15th year, has a rich tradition celebrating and highlighting the achievements accomplished by talented and innovative individuals, businesses and governmental entities within the State of South Carolina. InnoVision supports innovation and technological excellence through monthly Forums and its annual awards dinner.
Douglas Kim, shareholder of McNair Law Firm P.A. and chair of the InnoVision Awards Program, strongly believes that “the economic growth of the Upstate will continue to be fueled through entrepreneurial activities and technological advances developed in the area.” Dr. Greg Pickett, associate dean of Clemson University CBBS, states, “Greenville is nurturing a new generation of businesses that are rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit, and many involve a great deal of innovative technologies.” Both Kim and Pickett agree that GEEK 2013 is going to be the most significant networking event of the season.
In addition to Clemson University CBBS and Innovision, sponsors of the event include Upstate Business Journal, McNair Law Firm, Fete Greenville, Kidder Group, Inc., Immedion, Net 3 Technology, Smith Moore Leatherwood, VidiStar, Mojoe.net and [en-gage] solutions.

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