Charlotte, NC

Davidson College to Host Innovation Week for Charlotte-Area Startups & Investors

Shannon Cuthrell

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Davidson College's Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.The Hurt Hub@Davidson via Instagram

Next month, Davidson College will host an Innovation Week to convene at least 200 entrepreneurs, startups and investors from across the Charlotte region for a week of networking, workshops, panels and other activities.

Behind the event is Davidson College's in-house coworking space and startup incubator, the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (or The Hurt Hub@Davidson). Director Liz Brigham expects a turnout of at least 200 in-person attendees throughout the week, aiming to reach another 100 people through livestream.

Brigham says this is the first time the Hurt Hub is dedicating a full week to gathering the community to spur new ideas and economic development in the Charlotte region. The goal, she adds, is to facilitate access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for all members of the community, from students to faculty/staff to alumni to local entrepreneurs and investors, as well as other regional colleges and universities.

"We wanted to create an inclusive event showcasing the work of our community and the best of what we have to offer at the Hurt Hub—educational programming, experiential learning, mentorship, coworking and access to capital—for all of our audiences to reintroduce us to the community in a fun way," Brigham says.

Brigham also wants Innovation Week to showcase the Hurt Hub's focus on inclusion in its activities. In late July, it announced its first Innovator in Residence: Mbye Njie, CEO and founder of Legal Equalizer, an app that supplies recording tools, legal information and emergency-contact messaging for use during police encounters. The Hurt Hub's residency role provides a $75,000 grant for Njie and his team to build the venture out of the space while employing at least two Davidson College students.

"We are actively recruiting underrepresented founders, BIPOC-owned businesses, students, faculty members and those from non-tech backgrounds to participate [in Innovation Week]," Brigham said. "We believe that developing an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset serves everyone well, regardless of where they’re coming from."

She also hopes attendees will walk away knowing what the Hurt Hub does, what resources it offers for business development, and how they can engage with Davidson students, faculty and staff to expand their capacity.

Brigham adds that while each event offers specific learning outcomes, the Hurt Hub overall hopes that attendees will walk away with "an understanding of what an entrepreneurial and innovation mindset is and how they can apply it in their lives," and "a deeper knowledge of the skills, offerings and potential collaborators they have access to in [the] region to get a new business off the ground."

Previewing the Week's Activities

The event will kick off on Sept. 10 with Techstars Startup Weekend, in which attendees team up to imagine a solution to a given problem, form a business model with help from mentors, and pitch their idea to the audience—all in 54 hours.

Other activities begin Sept. 13 and last through the week, except Wednesday evening through Thursday evening, in observance of Yom Kippur.

While Techstars Startup Weekend is an in-person-only program, some of the other events will be held in a hybrid format via livestream. Masks will be mandated for any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated attendees, though this guidance is subject to change with Davidson College's broader COVID-19 policies.

Here's an overview of the week's activities:

Monday, Sept. 13:

Coworking & Business Showcase (4:30-7:30 p.m.): A networking event convening individuals and businesses looking for new connections.

Tuesday, Sept. 14:

Spotlight on Students (4:30-7 p.m.): A showcase of projects led by students in the Hurt Hub's Gig-Hub program, a consulting gig where students work with local startups and companies on projects involving data analysis, market research, copywriting and other skillsets.

Wednesday, Sept. 15:

Design Thinking Workshop (8-9:30 a.m.): Participants will learn to apply design thinking problem-solving to reimagining opportunities for an underutilized physical space.

Inclusive Innovation: A Storytelling Event (12-1:15 p.m.): Three panelists will share their perspectives on the relationship between inclusion and innovation.

Exploring Davidson's Makerspace (2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.): A tour of Studio M, a rapid prototyping lab with 3D printers, laser engravers, virtual reality simulators, and other tools and equipment.

Technology and Innovation: A Skill Building Workshop (4-5:15 p.m.): A workshop on using Adobe Illustrator to tell stories creatively.

Friday, Sept. 17:

Community Celebration (4-8 p.m.): A closing party where attendees can network and recap the lessons learned and projects created out of the week's events.

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Shannon Cuthrell is a Charlotte-based freelance journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.

Charlotte, NC
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