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What’s Next, They Asked.

In the TV series The West Wing, President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet was fond of asking his staff, “What’s next?” as he moved from issue to meeting to crisis to burning platform. He had a way of seeing what needed to be done, getting smart about it in the moment, making a decision and then moving on. It’s a good way to work when you’re leading the free world.

Now leading Venture Cafe WS isn’t quite that large of a responsibility, but I’m also a big fan of the What’s Next question. And not just in the way I work day to day. But in the “So we have some great accelerator programs here that produce investor-ready graduates, but what’s next?” Or the “Our community has elevated some equality and equity issues and even made some studied strategic recommendations, but what’s next?” Or the “I’ve built a company that’s growing, but I’m ready for the next level. What’s next?”

We’re working hard to answer those questions. There are gaps in our ecosystem that we, and many others in the innovation ecosystem, are trying to answer and fill. We’re trying to find more mentors at every stage of a business from idea to IPO; we’re leveraging local and regional investments to work harder here at home; we’re partnering with programs that provide extremely affordable office space for startups. And of course, we’re building trust and community through our weekly Gatherings and free programming.

What do you want to be next? What’s next for your idea or company? We’d love to hear about it!

So here’s to getting started on what’s next! See you at Venture Cafe Thursday!

BTW: Sorry this is late today. My cat got stuck in the storm drain outside our house and I had to call the fire department! All is good now, but let’s just say I can cross “Climb down into storm drain” off my list 🙂

June 16 2017 | Three Questions with NC Biotechnology Center

As we count down to Biotech Night @ Venture Café on June 22, we reached out to Nancy Johnston, executive director of the NC Biotechnology Center here in the Piedmont Triad for some context.


Here are some important things to know for us non-scientists:

  • You don’t have to have a PhD to be interested in biotechnology. It impacts anyone who wears a fitness device, gets a flu shot, eats vegetables that are more resistant to pests, or is interested in cleaner energy.
  • Biotech means good jobs. There are more than 650 companies here in NC, employing 63,000 workers and creating $86 billion in annual economic activity.
  • Right here in the Piedmont, there are 74 companies with nearly 9500 workers.

Q: Nancy, what distinguishes our region from other biotech hubs in the state?

A: In our 12-county region, we are diverse and continue to gain traction with new entrepreneurial advancements and existing company growth. There is no single story that defines the success of the Triad, but more of a sum of all parts from our growing cluster of biotech companies, the strength of our academic research institutions and the value of our research park and innovation communities. There are many reasons to be proud of our contributions to the state. Alamance County leads the nation’s small metro regions in research, testing and medical labs. We have the second highest concentration of Ag biotech companies. And we’re home to The Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering, an academic collaboration between NC A&T and UNC Greensboro, which also houses the only Zeiss Helium Ion Microscope in the southeastern United States as part of its Nanomanufacturing Consortium. And so much more…

Q: What’s new around our region when it comes to biotech?

A: Well, the region just attracted 400 high level attendees from across the state and beyond to celebrate biotechnology excellence at Triad BioNight 2017 with Keynote Speaker, Dave King, Chairman and CEO of LabCorp. The energy and enthusiasm of our advisory committee and key leaders have provided momentum for advancing innovation and job growth. And, right now there’s a lot of activity happening from the new pharmacy school at High Point University to the new Center of Excellence in Biotechnology at Alamance Community College. Workforce training here is among the most established in the country with the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce at Forsyth Tech and continues to push new boundaries. The FDA just approved a device created by Cook Medical that helps newborns avoid surgery from esophageal birth defects. And the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) is leading a $20 million effort to apply advanced manufacturing to regenerative medicine. Regional innovation can be discovered in areas such as Ag Biotech, nanobiotechnology, diagnostics, regenerative medicine, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. Just to name a few…

Q: What’s the most surprising thing about biotech here in the Piedmont to non-scientists?

A: People just don’t realize how much biotechnology touches their daily lives. For example, if you or a loved one have benefited from healthcare innovations to help treat, manage, or even cure disease, you have experienced the value of clinical trials conducted in our area. You are more than likely using products with oils extracted from novel crops made here. Or if you have a dog, chances are you’ve given your pet a pharmaceutical that was researched and developed here. If you’ve been to the NC Zoo, you’ve been to one of the hubs for animal science and horticulture in our state. Basically, biotechnology provides solutions to help heal, fuel and feed our community and the world. Biotechnology innovation can be found most everywhere and our region is one of the strongest in the state. In fact, we’re the second largest behind Research Triangle Park.


Join us to learn the stories behind the discoveries and the brains behind the business at Biotech Night @ VentureCafeWS on June 22. Thanks to the Piedmont Triad office of the NC Biotechnology Center for being our Lead Sponsor, and to NK Patent Law and the Greater Gift Initiative for their partnership.

See you at Biotech Night @ Venture Café at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter!  Click here to check out the detailed schedule!