Kathryn James, Blackstone NC Program Director, Moderates Panel at NC State Innovative Women's Conference

DURHAM & RALEIGH, N.C. – Kathryn James, program director for the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network North Carolina, recently moderated a panel discussion at the inaugural NC State Innovative Women’s Conference October 24. James’ participation continues the Blackstone NC mission to solidify the connection between Triangle institutions and the entrepreneurial ecosystem while building bridges to regional partners such as area universities, advocacy groups, business leaders and the innovation community at large.

“It’s extraordinarily important for us to actively engage individuals and groups involved in entrepreneurism to share our knowledge about cultivating high growth businesses as well as promote innovative support mechanisms like our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and Blackstone Fellows programs,” James said.

The 25-year business development veteran moderated a panel focusing on the process of fundraising, addressing audience questions related to when a company should start thinking about funding and what it looks like; the best ways to prepare for fundraising; and what companies should accomplish before getting in front angel investors.

The Conference was hosted by the NC State Jenkins MBA Student Association in partnership with e51, a new organization created with a goal towards building an ecosystem in the Triangle to cultivate high-impact female entrepreneurs. e51 was co-founded by Sheryl Waddell of the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network along with Heather McDougall, executive director at Leadership exCHANGE. 

They started e51 after identifying gaps in the entrepreneurial community for women in the Triangle. Their research showed a need for women-driven events centered around issues such as building businesses, human resources, project management and supporting entrepreneurship.  They are creating workshops/training to address specific business needs, developing opportunities to meet with peers and mentors known as the E51 CoffeeConnection and partnering with other organizations to encourage collaboration between female entrepreneurs and the development of a more cohesive ecosystem.

“We now have a listserve of over 400 women in all different facets of the entrepreneurial community and are working to continue building partnerships with local organizations and develop meaningful programming,” Waddell said.

This was the third recent entrepreneur event James was invited to participate in: earlier in the month she served as a judge at the 3rd Annual Cleantech Open Southeast Regional Innovation Summit in Alexandria, Virginia, helping select three finalists from 21 participants. Atlanta-based DPG Energy received both finalist and sustainability awards, while Mississippi-based NG1 Tech and Washington, D.C.-based BitGrid, Inc. received finalist awards.

As regional finalists, the startups will receive a “Startup in a Box” package that includes cash and in-kind services worth up to $20,000 and will advance to compete for the national grand prize of $200,000 at the Cleantech Open’s Global Forum, November 12-13 in San Francisco.

Prior to Cleantech, James judged companies participating in the Triangle Startup Weekend: Women at HQ Raleigh, a 54-hour experience where participants pitched ideas, collaborated with others who have complementary skill sets, received coaching, and produced startups that help even the playing field in entrepreneurship.

Through her work with the Blackstone NC EIR and Fellows programs, James helps provide access to sought-after information, contacts and resources. Each Blackstone NC portfolio company is assigned a lead entrepreneur who regularly meets and reviews business growth and progress as well as provides connections and makes personal introductions between the portfolio company and the lead entrepreneur’s network. Additionally, each portfolio company is coached by Blackstone NC’s team of 12 Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and has access to the organization’s University Fellows, strategic university and entrepreneurial support partners, and local, regional and national investors.

For more information on the Network visit www.bennorthcarolina.com.

About the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network of North Carolina
The Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network of North Carolina was launched in 2011 with a gift from The Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The Network’s mission is to help catalyze the regional development of the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and thereby strengthen economic development in the area. The Network harnessed the talent of a regional pool of veteran entrepreneurs, and in 2012 created a tightly connected team of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) to help identify marketable innovations out of area universities and regional startups with the greatest potential to become high-growth companies. EIRs work one-on-one and as a team to mentor local entrepreneurs and help them achieve significant business milestones, make connections to their network of experts and funders, and provide access to the broader Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. Network portfolio companies enjoy access to sector experts, venture coaches, angel investors, and administrative and marketing support provided by Network Fellows. The Network supports its Partners (UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC State, NC Central University, CED) and the Triangle entrepreneurial community through sponsorship and participation in regional entrepreneurship events, providing Network expertise through panels and conferences, and maximizing Network impact through strategic partnerships and community outreach.