Charleston Aims to Compete with Silicon Valley

What are some of the ways Charleston is helping start-ups start up?

In a city famed for old-fashioned grace and hospitality, it may be difficult to picture start-up companies moving into the millennial age of computer technology, but that is exactly what’s happening in Charleston. The movement to promote technological businesses is not limited to South Carolina, but is occurring in cities and states all across the country. In many locations where the Great Recession hit hard and many small and large businesses caved in under the financial pressure, new tech companies are beginning to take root.

Teaching Business Students to Create Businesses

In Charleston, with the help of a $250,000 grant from the South Carolina Commerce Department, the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology (ICAT) program at the College of Charleston has raised another quarter of a million dollars from private companies and private donors. In the initial class of the ICAT program, six of eight students have turned their educational projects into incorporated businesses!

“Accelerators” Putting the Pedal to the Metal

In other parts of Charleston, “accelerators” are also incentivizing start-ups. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, a nonprofit with four locations in the city, is providing free or inexpensive office space, as well as mentors and training for startups in any industry. What is the incentive for the incentivizer? If the start-up successfully reaches $100,000 in investment or $250,000 in revenue during its first two years, the nonprofit takes a $5,000 cut.

Clearly, it is to everyone’s advantage for the start-up to be successful. Another accelerator, The Charleston Digital Corridor, expects to open its third start-up space downtown. It has already given 92 start-ups its support.

Other Small Cities Encouraging Startups as Well

All over the country, in cities from Chattanooga to Chapel Hill, from Kansas City to Salt Lake City, similar programs are being put into motion. Frequently, they are centered on large universities. The “innovation district” of Chattanooga, sponsored by a city-private partnership that will spend $500 million on the project, is being designed to include 400 apartments, many of them tiny, to put out the welcome mat for millennials, the young adults they want to attract.

Other cities are also trying to attract millennials to open start-ups by building receptive communities; bike paths, restaurants, bars, and musical venues are part of the package. So is access to high-speed internet. Nine cities so far are part of Google Fiber which provides internet service 100 times faster than average.

Government Assistance for Startups

State and federal governments are also providing financial help for entrepreneurship. President Obama’s TechHire Initiative will disperse $100 million in grants to cities, states, universities, and community colleges to train employees through coding boot camps. Twenty cities have also committed to working with regional companies to provide such training.

If you are planning a start-up business, technological or otherwise, you should engage the services of a skilled business attorney.