Community Feedback for the Innovate Charlotte Team

On February 24 and February 26 Innovate Charlotte presented its vision to a group of prominent business people and social activists. Our goal was to solicit feedback and gain support for our initiatives. We were so grateful for the strong participation and candid opinions. The idea of resource connectivity and the opportunity for stronger mentorship provided an overall sense of optimism, knowing that we are now taking steps to achieve our goals. 

Our team spent the last few weeks organizing the comments and determining how we can best improve the vision, goals, and timelines so that we are in alignment with the suggestions from the community. After collecting all of this feedback, we traveled to MIT to explore the Venture Mentoring Service and prepare to launch this program in the Charlotte. We hope that the insights from the feedback along with the launch of our Venture Mentoring Service will result in an exciting year for Innovate Charlotte. 

Below you will find the summary of our insights and the current direction of Innovate Charlotte based on the feedback we received.

Christy Harner

 

The Good: Positive Impact

The audience found the following aspects to be the most impactful about Innovate Charlotte initiative:

  • Increasing awareness and transparency in the ecosystem for the entrepreneurs;
  • Some people found the idea of connectivity and pulling together various resources very exciting;
  • The participants liked the action-oriented approach and were even cautiously optimistic.
 David Phillips (fasterglass.com) facilitated the feedback session

David Phillips (fasterglass.com) facilitated the feedback session

The Need: More Clarity

While the "execution arm" of Innovation Charlotte is still young and our first initiates will be pilot programs, many participants felt that more clarity on the goals and plans of Innovate Charlotte was needed. The following concerns were brought up in the discussion: 

  • The process of company selection: more clarity on the target companies, industry, defining the stage of company’s development;
  • There was also a lack of clarity on the execution process when it came to the pilot;
  • How could an organization become a partner and how can we make sure that partners are properly vetted?

The Challenge: Measuring Success & Sustainability

Although excited, many people asked questions about how Innovate Charlotte would measure success, and how we plan to grow and sustain our model as we increase the number of connections, mentors, and startups. Overall, the following aspects were found to be the most challenging:

  • The way success is going to be measured in terms of metrics, budget, and timeline;
  • Ongoing structure of the organization and whether it is going to be sustainable;
  • Getting a buy-in from existing organizations was considered a challenge by many.
 Walt Frye, Executive Director of Innovate Charlotte

Walt Frye, Executive Director of Innovate Charlotte

Incorporating the Feedback and MIT VMS Trip into Innovate Charlotte Activities

Right after the second session, our team went to MIT to learn from their renowned venture mentoring service. The feedback and the experience of being in that program jumpstarted our thinking about having a greater focus as we move forward with our activities in Charlotte.

We decided that a venture mentoring program based on the MIT VMS methodology is going to become the core component of Innovate Charlotte. Having such a core focus will help us address a number of issues that were raised by participants in our original presentations:

  1. Will it work? As we are licensing a program with 20 years of experience, the chances of success are rather significant.
  2. How will it work? The implementation process for the pilot will be done on the basis of MIT VMS methodology.
  3. Will your small team be able to handle it? By focusing on a single core offering, we are going to be able to reduce the team workload and, at the same time, leverage partners in the community to help us implement the other components of the mandate. The Innovate Charlotte Venture Mentoring Service has the potential to become the unifying component of these activities.

We would like to thank all the participants for their time, engagement, and sincere willingness to be involved. A number of people offered help in the form of being a mentor, connector or source of potential companies and partners.

We’ll be providing updates on our current thinking shortly, as well as organizing informational sessions for people interested in becoming mentors, as well as for companies that seek unbiased advice.