Janet Cowell visited American Tobacco in Durham last night for a late afternoon update on the Innovation Fund as well as an informal panel discussion with local entrepreneurs. The panel included:
– James Avery, CEO, Adzerk
– Jud Bowman, CEO, Appia
– Joe Davy, CPO, EvoApp
– Chris Porter, COO, Clinipace
– Sloan Rachmuth, CEO, HealtheMe
– Rachel Weeks, CEO, SchoolHouse.

About 100 jammed into the classroom in the American Underground for about 1 1/2 hours to talk about the need for more capital in the area. Ms. Cowell shared that about $100M of the $235M has been invested in 3 funds (including Hatteras) and 6 individual later stage investments. She also added that there are plans for a Life Science directed fund possibly announced in the fall. Discussion themes included jobs, startup & expansion capital, large company vs small company support, tax incentives for founders and investors, the disappointment in the shutdown of LaunchBox (our local accelerator) and the lack of a direct flight to the west coast.

One one hand, I was energized to see a pretty diverse group of people come together. On the other hand the accelerator discussion from James, Jud and Sloan brought one of the more critical regional holes to a head. With my involvement spearheading then managing the LaunchBox program over the past 2 years – I was asked all evening on why LaunchBox couldn’t hold past 1 year. At this point the details are less important than our collective decision on what to do next. The team, space, playbook, mentors and local/national entrepreneurs are there.

With the state clearly concentrating on Life Sciences now and in the future, I wonder where that leaves the tech ecosystem.

Afterwards, Appia invited all to their office in the PowerPlant. Thanks to CED, Appia and Clinipace for organizing and supporting the meeting.