Entrepreneurs, investors connect at conference

If you’re a savvy entrepreneur with a good idea or a smart investor with a fat wallet, there’s a networking event on Thursday you shouldn’t miss.

It’s the Carolina Connect 2008 conference at the Grove Park Inn. The annual gathering, now in its sixth year, is organized by the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, which is a program of the AdvantageWest Economic Development group.

The conference is all about networking — about getting entrepreneurs and investors together in hopes of matching ideas and money. The event also provides workshops and speakers aimed at professional development.

Ryan Allis is the morning’s keynote speaker. Allis is founder and CEO of iContact, a Durham-based company that provides e-mail marketing for small businesses.

Dan Heath, a consultant to the Policy Programs for the Aspen Institute, will speak at lunch. Heath is the co-author of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and will talk about how an idea can take life.

The conference will also feature informal discussions about hot topics facing entrepreneurs and business owners, a full-day seminar for investors about “angel investing,” and more.

A local business will be in the spotlight, as well, as an example of the kind of success entrepreneurs and investors can find. Jute Networks, an Asheville-based software company founded by Sean McDonald and Matthew Raker, will announce that it is merging with Swamp Fox, a Greenville, S.C.-based company that distributes a weekly e-mail and radio update and produces the annual InnoVenture conference.

McDonald and Raker met John Warner of Swamp Fox at last year’s Carolina Connect. The Jute software allows users to see a visual representation of business relationships, while Swamp Fox is an online community for entrepreneurs. The two will combine their strengths — connections and conversation, according to McDonald — and allow for greater online collaboration.

“This merger is good news for Matt and me, our investors, and the region’s entrepreneurial community,” McDonald said in a written news release.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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