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Friday, November 16, 2012

Lessons learned by local entrepreneurs

For some, small communities are more beautiful

Big Council hosted a technology conference for entrepreneurs yesterday in Charlotte NC.  The conference had panel discussions where VCs, CFOs, and entrepreneurs all participated in extended dialogue and question answer sessions.  Unlike Boston or Silicon Valley, the Charlotte NC area has fewer companies and less VC groups with local funding.  Several things the region has are worth sharing because the advantages are similar in many other smaller communities.  In addition, the companies experience the same issues, utilize the same terms for financings, and experience many of the same trends of technology companies across the USA. 

·        The local area has reduced talent for hire when compared to the more established regions.  However, when a person joins one of the local companies they tend to remain with the company and in the region.  Stories of talent shifts in Silicon Valley and other areas were described and retention in those regions is more difficult.  In those areas, highly experienced people find that if a company is not growing fast enough they will move to a different company.  This occurs less often in smaller startup communities.

·        There is a different type of network present in smaller communities. They are focused on helping grow the community. They tend to be friendly and approachable. 

·        Angels exist in large and small communities. Angels are always interested in new companies that fit their interests. A local company found angels in New York that owned sports franchises. The entrepreneur obtained expert help and investment from the New York groups. It is not true that you must move to find money; Angels recognize great technology and management and will invest if they like what they see.

·        All the entrepreneurs learned the lessons of timings relative to seeking financing. The realization espoused by all was that seeking funding never stops. The facts are that an entrepreneur will continuously be seeking capital until they depart the company or the company becomes hugely profitable. You never have enough money and seeking capital it the only way to improve your reserves. Fail to do so and you risk lower deal values in a future round.

·        Many entrepreneurs described periods of up to 2 years where they did not draw a salary. They found a variety of ways to sustain themselves and fund the company. Many took large risks by borrowing against their own properties. 

·        Entrepreneurs are the same everywhere. They know that the word can’t is not in their vocabulary. They realize that hard work and drive are part of the process.

·        NEWTORKING is the best way to find sources of money. Every entrepreneur that closed on a financing found it by networking. There is no magic involved and no central spot to go for the funds. They all worked hard, met lots of people, and developed relationships that yielded a closure to a financing.

The lessons are the same and the local companies have equal chances to become great businesses. There are differences from the more developed communities, but an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur. They will all strive to build something great and not stop until they succeed. Then they start over to create the next company!

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.