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Showcasing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Charleston, South Carolina

I (Frank) had the opportunity to take part in the annual DIG SOUTH event, participating in a panel on crowdfunding. DIG SOUTH founders Stanfield and Sunny Gray are doing a great service, drawing attention to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charleston, S.C., and bringing together two important groups: people who are building businesses and those who can help them grow and secure funding.

I was honored to be part of a panel discussion with an engaging group of experienced investors, entrepreneurs and accelerator operators:

  • Gavin McCulley, Angel Capital Group,
  • Adam Lee, Bohemian Guitars,
  • John Osborne, The Harbor Accelerator,
  • Bobby Pearce, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, and
  • Zach Pousman of THINK Interactive, Inc.

We had a thoughtful discussion on the “dos and don’ts” of crowdfunding, equity financing and raising investment capital. The two “suits” at one end, Bobby Pearce and me, cautioned investors to be careful what you ask for when seeking crowdfunding, because you might get it. Bobby highlighted that a company owes the same duty to the smallest shareholder as a large influential one, and I tried to help people see the practical costs to small businesses of having lots of shareholders rather than a few. Bobby, who has deep experience as a lawyer and company founder, encouraged South Carolina entrepreneurs to avoid extra regulation and seek accredited investors, in particular taking advantage of the state’s Angel Investor tax credit.

Adam Lee, whose company was the first to be funded under the Invest Georgia Act using equity crowdfunding, helped people see how investment crowdfunding done right can be effective for both marketing and raising capital.

DIG SOUTH showcased the quality of entrepreneurial work coming out of regional accelerators, including winner of the Wild Pitch competition Dynepic, a company supported by Charleston’s Harbor Accelerator. College of Charleston students also had an impressive showing. David Wyman, director of the college’s Center for Entrepreneurship, did an excellent job coaching students for the Wild Pitch Students competition. The teams were impressive in both competitions.

The closure of the Charleston Naval Shipyard in 1996 was a big blow to the regional economy at the time, but it created an opening in Charleston for economic development by large and small businesses. Looking at it today, the base’s closing helped create an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It is gratifying to see how Charleston turned this challenge into an opportunity. DIG SOUTH showcases this happy result. Those with an interest in entrepreneurship and economic development in South Carolina would be wise to attend the conference in the coming years.

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