Innovate Raleigh Summit To Focus On Funding, Talent and Inclusivity

The Innovate Raleigh Summit will be held next Friday, Nov. 9, at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Now going on its seventh year, next Friday’s Innovate Raleigh Summit is offering the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem a chance to gather at the Raleigh Convention Center to discuss how the area can be the top innovation center in the country.

This year the summit is focusing on getting funding for early-stage companies, the talent pipeline in the Triangle and fostering an inclusive community, said Innovate Raleigh Executive Director Bridget Harrington. She said that the summit’s focus on funding, talent and inclusivity are some of the key ingredients to foster a thriving innovation hub that can rival any in the nation.  

Innovate Raleigh strategically partnered with Raleigh’s Chamber of Commerce and Wake County’s Economic Development Center in 2017 to further foster the summit’s reach and impact on the broader business community. Harrington said she expects about 350 people to attend the summit.

The summit — which will take place all day next Friday, Nov. 9  — will start off with keynote speaker Arlan Hamilton, the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a new venture capital fund targeting under-represented founders. Hamilton went from homeless to a founder of Backstage Capital in only three years. Backstage has raised a $36M fund from which it’s already invested in more than 100 companies, all of which have at least one founder who is a woman, a person of color, or LGTBQ.

Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton will kick off the summit.

Hamilton will be interviewed in a keynote conversation by Robyn Tomlin, the executive editor of The News & Observer.

Other notable speakers at the event include North Carolina General Assembly Senator Jay Chaudhuri and N.C. General Assembly Representative Cynthia Ball.

David Gardner, founder of Cofounders Capital and a speaker at the event, said he loves that there is a diversity of speakers, including by profession — from general assembly members to advocacy executives — and that he’s excited to hear the corresponding diversity of perspectives.

Gardner also said that it’s imperative to talk about innovation, and how to keep talent in the Triangle.

“I think the best way to keep startups here is to have more early-stage funding,” he said.

Gardner also said that these kind of summits bring crucial conversations to the table about how important entrepreneurs are to the economy.

“Over 50 percent of S&P 500 companies have gone out of business in the past 50 years,” he said. “When it comes to innovation, the wheel of innovation keeps coming. You’re either riding that wheel or it’s going over you… We need to do more than just pay lip service to innovation. That’s why I work really hard to get local corporations to engage with our startup community.”

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Rebecca Ayers is a reporter for GrepBeat and a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill.