Finding the Local Startup Community in Greenville, SC

Throughout my time in Louisville, I never really connected with the local tech community.  The KY Open Source Society meetups were on a day I was typically unavailable, and the local Drupal user group we tried to kickstart never really got off the ground.  I still managed to forge some good connections that are alive and well today, but I never really got integrated into a community where things were already happening.

Before moving to Greenville, I was already excited about my prospects here, as I knew a couple local Drupal users and had seen the website and demo video for Greenville’s The Next Big Thing startup accelerator.  I didn’t know exactly where and when they met, but I was determined to find them “some day.” Little did I know that day would be sooner rather than later.

It was just over a week ago that I took my wife and daughter to a Chick-fil-a for lunch where Christina found a story about Greenville’s NEXT Innovation Center on the front page of the local paper.  It was a pretty exciting read for me, as the center and the NEXT initiative are offshoots of the local chamber of commerce intending to foster a high-tech startup community here in the South Carolina Upstate.  Browsing the NEXT website, I found the phone number of the VP in office and arranged a time to introduce myself and Commerce Guys to her and learn more about NEXT.

Through my meeting with Brenda from NEXT I found out that I should really be meeting with the folks from The Iron Yard (the new name for The Next Big Thing) and Greenville’s Cowork, a slick coworking space located right downtown.  Naturally, as we were winding down our conversation, Peter Barth, founder of The Iron Yard, walked in the front door and off I walked with him to see their space and learn more.

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I ended up spending most of the day working out of their office in the NEXT Innovation Center (located at the corner of University and Church St. not far from my beloved Falls Park downtown).  They’re just about to start this year’s round of their Labs program, a 13 week startup accelerator program where founders get funding, office space, and other resources to help launch their businesses.  The program ends in a Demo Day where they each pitch their businesses to a gaggle of VC’s and other local entrepreneurs.

Pete was very welcoming, inviting me to spend a day a week working from their offices and getting to know their teams.  I shared lunch with a few of the guys who have already showed up, and I’m excited to see what they’re able to do in the coming weeks.  If all goes well, I hope to report on some of their ideas and needs, and I can say for certain right now that at least a couple will be looking for Node.js / JavaScript and Python developers if anyone is interested in getting to know the Upstate up close and personal. 😉

With my introduction to The Iron Yard, I feel very “at home” in the Greenville startup community and look forward to helping out where I can.  We have plenty more to do at Commerce Guys to prove ourselves, but there are already business lessons learned that I can pass on and general software development experience I’ve gained over the years that I can share.

With a little luck, we’ll get a local Drupal user group started up in one of these spaces in the near future.  I’ll be sure to say when and where. 🙂