Why Southeastern startups are thriving
AnnexTech Partners founder and Chief Innovation Officer Doug Speight has built his business on making connections: uniting the Southeast’s underrepresented talent with global tech companies looking to divest.
“You have a number of really talented underrepresented founders, technicians, coders, developers, [and] managers who are interested in the startup world, but can’t shoulder the risk of jumping out into something that’s starting from zero,” he explained. “What we’re doing is spinning out … underperforming business units and putting diverse talent around that.”
In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Speight breaks down why the Southeast has become a hotbed of innovative, successful startups. Thanks to a wealth of diverse talent, a creative culture, and a supportive community, he says, the region’s ecosystem is distinctive from tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Boston.
Strength in diversity
Speight points to diversity as the №1 factor that gives Southeastern startups their fresh perspective and competitive edge.
“The beautiful thing about the Southeastern United States,” he said, “is that about 55% of the black population in the United States lives in 10 states, mostly throughout the Southeast and South.”
That wealth of diverse talent brings an equally robust range of experience to the table and fuels innovation. “You have this great density, across the Southeast in particular, of really diverse talent,” Speight said.
A culture of creativity
With less venture capital at their disposal, generally speaking, than counterparts in Silicon Valley or Boston, Southeastern entrepreneurs “get really creative about how to generate revenue early on,” Speight said.
“We really have to prove product-market fit very early on — generate revenue so that we can say, ‘This is gonna be a solid business whether we raise the next round or not.’”
Above all, the Southeast’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is driven by community, Speight said, highlighting 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival as an example of that spirit in action.
“There are people here that are invested in your success … . You get this really cohesive environment where people love to help each other succeed,” he said. “It’s a great place to be with hustlers who really understand how to go out and get it and start generating revenue to position their companies to be stronger from the gate.”
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