Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Unveils New Catalyst Center

catalyst-featureThis past Thursday night, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) unveiled its new Catalyst Center—their contribution to the quickly growing entrepreneurial pipeline. The Chamber generated much attention and anticipation during their Sneak Preview event this past spring, and attendance was just as staggering and tech-centered at the Grand Opening. Two hundred members of the community arrived to celebrate the Chamber’s stunning new space, accompanied by the advent of the Entrepreneur Crowd—a CMCC membership program for high impact entrepreneurs. Keynote speaker and tech startup vet, Bobby Christian addressed his soon-to-be hometown with a story many Charleston tech entrepreneurs can relate to.

CCTableWith over 80,000 members the Chamber’s support of entrepreneurs is essential to the growth of Silicon Harbor. “It’s easy for us to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community. Now entrepreneurs who are planning their business… will also have access to those resources,” said Megan Reilly, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager at the Chamber. The Catalyst Center is designed to help small businesses with scalable ideas achieve their potential and enrich our Charleston economy. The Silicon Harbor reputation only comes by innovation and the city’s continued support is vital to its success.

CCStudio

Catalyst Center Audio-Visual Studio

The annual fee for joining the Entrepreneur Crowd is just $100, and it’s free if you are already a Chamber member. Entrepreneur Crowd members have access to a conference room, audio-visual studio, coworking areas, and the mentor room. The Chamber also launched the online community, the Entrepreneur Ecosystem. Both early-stage and accomplished entrepreneurs will share their success stories at Monthly Launchpad Workshops, at which attendees have the chance to win lunch with a successful entrepreneur or mentor. These Inspiration Lunches give new entrepreneurs an opportunity for more personal coaching. A monthly webinar series will kick off in October with a talk on the angel investor tax credit.

Their 1000-square-foot space offers a landing pad primarily targeted towards members of the Entrepreneur Crowd, but the space is also available to other chamber members. Chris Frasier, Chairman of the Board, said he is “really excited to have a space where Chamber membership can come anytime” without an appointment. Programs like the Harbor Accelerator, which was birthed last year out of the efforts of the chamber’s Entrepreneur Council, are jumpstarting Silicon Harbor. The Catalyst Center adds to the startup pipeline by providing space and resources for innovative businesses, perhaps even accelerator candidates and graduates while they figure out their next steps.

CCMuralDesigned by local project management company, GreenBy3, the space itself is striking. Reclaimed hardwood lines are accented by warm lighting. Every feature counts, including the Birdseye view mural of the lowcountry’s river-island landscape. After 20 years working as a network engineer, GreenBy3 owner, Jorge Riano, decided to start his own company fusing his networking and project management skills with his passion for recycled materials. He has become a behind the scenes fixture of Silicon Harbor growth, designing numerous tech companies’ offices. He keeps each space unique and inventive by using reclaimed materials to create inspiring spaces.

cc-bobbychristian

Bobby Christian, Founder of iMPACT Ventures

GreenBy3’s design was no less inspiring than the keynote address by Bobby Christian. A Virginia native, Christian began his talk by establishing that most of the people in the room had been in Charleston for less than ten years, then went on to describe his introduction to Charleston. He and his wife recently decided a change of scenery was in order, and through a few Google searches for awesome lifestyles in warm coastal towns, Charleston continued to show up.

Christian quipped, “Whoever is in charge of the SEO is doing a great job.” Although Christian had made up his mind thanks to the Google searches, he thought visiting Charleston would be a good idea. He said his first visit “was like the Truman Show.” He described eerily perfect moments and imagined a director behind the scenes watching their every move and giving stage directions like “cue the breaking dolphins on the empty white sand beach.” His meetings at the CRDA and the Digital Corridor were a premature welcome wagon. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in Virginia,” he said.

After reminiscing with the audience, most of whom undoubtedly had very similar experiences, Christian imparted some knowledge from his years of leading high-impact companies, and dabbling in investing as well. He gave two lists of top three lessons learned:

Top Three Entrepreneurial Lessons
1. Know why you’re doing it.
2. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
3. It takes a long time.

Top Three Investing Lessons
1. Invest in the person first, then the market, then the model.
2. Have clear criteria.
3. – – –

When he got to number three Christian said, “I have no idea because I’m really an entrepreneur.” In other words—know your place in the world.

Christian plans to move to Charleston in a year with his wife, four children, and two companies iMPACT Ventures and Waterfall Software. They will settle into the easy Mount Pleasant life, equidistant from the history and hustle of downtown and the beach. His story was the perfect illustration of the exciting time we are facing here in Charleston, one where the talent is coming to us, and the upward energy is palpable. Silicon Harbor has all the criteria it needs to grow and it’s happening before our eyes.

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