The Download: Amy Bastian, Senior Director, NC IDEA

Amy Bastian serves as Senior Director at NC IDEA, where her primary responsibilities are managing the NC IDEA SEED  and NC IDEA MICRO grant programs.

Prior to NC IDEA, Amy served as Director of Analytics and Testing for The Nature Conservancy. There she developed and led the marketing department’s digital analytics and website testing programs, with a focus on developing well-defined business goals and providing actionable insights leveraging qualitative and quantitative data. Amy received an MPH in Biostatistics from University of California, Los Angeles and a B.S. in Journalism with a double major in Economics from University of Maryland, College Park.

1. What is in your pockets?

I always have my phone and keys, but I find that the fewer things I carry around the easier they are to find.

 2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

NC IDEA is an independent private foundation, founded in 2006. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs achieve their potential in the state of North Carolina. And we do that through a variety of grants and programs—direct to entrepreneurs, but also to the entrepreneur ecosystem.

NC IDEA is based in Durham but we have a statewide mission. One of the things that we found is that our ecosystem partners across the state are doing really great work, and the way that we can be most impactful to help entrepreneurs in their areas is to fund the work that the partners are doing.

So we actually put them all together in person yesterday, which was great. To see these partners from across the state come together, make connections, and share what’s working was really exciting.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

We have this really amazing coffee cart in the lobby of our building, Diaspora House. It is excellent coffee, maybe the best Americano I’ve ever had.

4. What keeps you up at night?

I oversee our $10,000 MICRO grants and $50,000 SEED grants. These programs run like clockwork. We know we are going to award six SEED grants and 15 MICRO grants in the spring and we’ll do the same in the fall. We know that we’re going to engage reviewers and coaches in each cycle and hold information sessions across the state. We leverage our partners to get the word out and we know that we’ll be reviewing between 300 and 500 applications.

We know how to do this, but what keeps me up is how do we reach entrepreneurs that may not be hearing about us, or may not see themselves as a potential competitive company. The startup space is very dynamic, so we can’t just keep doing what we are doing.

We don’t want to get too caught up in the process of finding new grant recipients and onboarding grantees when we don’t take the time to step back and look at the data that we collect. We want to find the insights and make sure our companies are successful.

Staying on top of the dynamic startup space that we have to make sure that we are reaching new entrepreneurs and that we are also involving stakeholders, partners and reviewers who understand these new technologies and can help with the challenges that entrepreneurs face.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

My favorite restaurant is M Sushi in Durham. I’ve never had a bad experience there. The quality is so good, and their execution, it’s a delight. I’m glad it’s so hard to get a reservation so I don’t go so often.

I will also give a shout out to two new local places. There’s a new cocktail bar called The Waiting Room. If you’re on your way to a ballgame or you’re on your way to a performance at DPAC, it’s right there in the corner of the Old Bull building. And then the other restaurant is also on the American Tobacco campus called Ekhaya, and it is Southern African small plates.

6. What is next for you or your organization?

We have our fifth annual summit coming up Nov. 13-15 in Raleigh. Like in the past, we’re going to gather together various leaders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state.  Previously, we’ve focused more towards entrepreneurial support organizations, investors, and other individuals working with entrepreneurs. We’ve heard from entrepreneurs that they find that content useful, but they’d like some content for themselves so we are adding content with insights for the actual entrepreneurs.

So it is an expanded focus this year, and we just opened early bird registration.

And then for myself personally, we just selected our spring grantees, so we’re getting to know them, and figuring out how we can help and get them the funds that they would like. And we’re already planning for the fall cycle because we don’t wait. So that’s something that’ll be really exciting. We are having five in-person information sessions across the state as well as a webinar, and I really enjoy meeting up with partners across the state and talking to entrepreneurs about what they’re thinking what they’re working on, and then potentially help them figure out if they could be a good fit for our program.

About Brooks Malone 106 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.