UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hosts Conference, Celebrates First Anniversary

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Marking its one-year anniversary, the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted the inaugural Coastal Connect Entrepreneur and Capital Conference (CCECC) on Sept. 4.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo thanked UNCW for partnering with the city to create the CIE. “The entrepreneurship spirit in our city is alive and well,” he said.

CIE executive director Jim Roberts welcomed the crowd of entrepreneurs, investors and innovators gathered at the Coastline Conference and Event Center for the all-day event. “Thank you for being here to celebrate the CIE’s birthday,” said Roberts. “I’m proud of all that we have accomplished in the first year, particularly establishing the Coastal Open Resource App Lab (CORAL), which was just announced today.”

Roberts then thanked his friends “who came from all over,” including Hugh Forrest who traveled from Austin, Texas to deliver the keynote address.

Forrest serves as director of the SXSW Interactive Festival. “I’m here to tell you what Wilmington can learn from SXSW and vice versa,” he said. Laura Baverman from Exit Event and USA Today fielded questions to Forrest.

Forrest became SXSW’s first full-time employee in 1989, saying he “got the job because I had a Mac Plus and they didn’t, an example of having the right hardware at the right time.”

He explained the first 10 years of doing SXSW Interactive were “very, very slow.” In 2004, they began to see some positive growth. He credits Twitter’s launch in 2007 for really fueling the growth. “Speakers we couldn’t previously get were now asking to speak,” he said.

The annual festival was attended by nearly 20,000 people from around the world last year and has helped thrust Austin into the national spotlight as a hub for music and its quality of life.

“One hundred people move to Austin in a day,” said Forrest. “The conference drives the growth of the city by shining a very bright spotlight on all that Austin has to offer.” 

“There are three pillars to everything we do at SXSW: innovation, inspiration and creativity. Interactive took 30 years to grow.  It takes patience and persistence and patience and persistence.”

In his closing remarks, he advised the crowd to “do it one more year.  Events are hard to produce, but if you produce it right and do it year after year, it pays off.”

Following Forrest’s talk, attendees heard from more than 50 speakers during the conference’s breakout sessions and panels.