Drake has his motto (#YOLO), and DIG SOUTH has theirs (#SucceedInTheSouth). And thanks to a burgeoning startup scene, a recent downtown revitalization, and a unique blend of universities and businesses, Columbia, SC is proving to be a place where the DIG motto rings true. Want to know a little more about the tech and entrepreneurship resources at your disposal in Soda City? Below are just a few of the people and places you should know to help build or jumpstart your business.
Here’s a name you may already recognize, especially if you’ve been keeping tabs on the What’s Next Midlandsproject. EngenuitySC always has an eye on South Carolina’s economic competitiveness, which it both pushes and promotes with events like the annual Ignite! Ideas Contest, a showcase of innovative ideas from local entrepreneurs. What’s more, the winners get $5,000 help fund their ventures. Learn more here.
With a massive building on the oft populated Gervais St., this local non-profit is hard to miss. In addition to regularly scheduled courses like Cyber Saturdays, Programming 101 and WISE gatherings (Women in Information Technology Science and Engineering), IT-oLogy also houses larger events like last year’s cyber security focused “Trends” conference. The organization also held a robotics summer camp last year. You’ll definitely want to put IT-oLogy on your list of places to visit as you survey the city’s startup scene. Find out more here.
COR (Columbia Opportunity Resource)
Keeping tabs on this self-described “volunteer-driven” organization is another good opportunity for meeting young upstarts. Formed in 2005 by the City of Columbia and relaunched in 2010 with a Talent Magnet Program, this collaborative effort is trying to retain outside talent while steadily building the local economy based around the work of young professionals. The annual CORrelate event connects community leaders with both business and government leaders. Learn more here.
SCRA Technology Ventures
SCRA Technology Ventures enables commercialization and promotes the development of high tech industries, enhancing South Carolina’s tech economy. Through its flagship SC Launch program, the organization makes investments in and offers support services to South Carolina’s early stage tech startups. To date, the program has supported more than 300 companies. (Fun Fact! This year’s DIG Venture & Demo Day is actually sponsored by SCRA Technology Ventures!)
1 Million Cups
If you want to rub shoulders with people who are currently active in Columbia’s startup scene, this weekly meeting is a good start. Company owners and spokesmen perform quick pitches of their products followed by a short Q&A session. Past presenters include The Entrepreneurship Club at USC, Webgyrlz Code, which actually won the Ignite! Ideas Contest in 2014, and software developer KRIT, to name a few. This informal powwow is organized by Greg Hilton, who also co-founded SoCo, a space where entrepreneurs can openly collaborate and share ideas. Learn more about 1 Million Cups here, and about SoCo here.
Made in Soda City
Maybe you’d like a quick lay of the land before getting your feet wet. Made in Soda City is here to help by highlighting some of Columbia’s bigger success stories. Recently, it started sending out a weekly newsletter with highlights of events around the city. Learn more here.
University of South Carolina Technology Incubator
Helmed by startup vet Bill Kirkland, this initiative helps fledgling companies find their footing. Perhaps its biggest success story, IDV (Interactive Data Visualization), was presented a technical achievement award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in 2014. The company was recognized for its SpeedTree toolkit, which has created hyper realistic foliage in movies like Super 8, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar. Learn morehere.
Central Carolina Community Foundation (CCCF)
Money makes the world go ‘round. And if you’ve got an idea focused on philanthropy, the Foundation might be able to help. According to its website, this nonprofit has “given more than $90 million to organizations nationwide.” Sweet deal if you make the cut. Learn more here.
Keep in mind that this is just a cursory glance at the bevy of resources available to entrepreneurs in Columbia; we hope it’s a great start to get you connected with like-minded people in the region! And remember, don’t wait — You Only Live Once.