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Several dozen community leaders and business owners gathered at Brewmasters on Thursday to learn about a new business accelerator program and scholarship program planned for the Gig East Exchange.
“We’re really excited to get engaged with the Wilson community,” Rachael Meleney, program director for Riot, told attendees of the informational session. “Riot has been working with Wilson for a number of years on different projects, so bringing this program here will allow us to get even more embedded in the community.”
The Riot Accelerator Program originated in Raleigh, but the Triangle nonprofit is branching out with RAP Wilson — a 12-week program that includes a $1,000 scholarship, a variety of workshops geared toward bolstering start-ups, mentors and additional resources. Since launching the program in 2018, Riot has worked with 25 companies to create about 100 jobs and generate more than $10 million in revenue.
“Previously, Riot has typically worked with tech start-ups, but we’ve also worked with small businesses to leverage the data economy as technology continues to evolve,” Meleney said.
Riot used to stand for Raleigh Internet of Things, but has since dropped the acronym as it has gone national.
“We’re casting a broad net in Wilson, so we’re looking for entrepreneurs running a tech start-up, but we’re also looking for small business owners and industries.”
Informational sessions will also be held at 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 at Rocky Mount Mills, at 4 p.m. on Dec. 2 at The Frontier at RP in the Fusion Room and at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 3 at Riot Labs in Raleigh. Applications are being accepted through Dec. 16 with interviews being conducted among the finalists and the initial cohort of six to eight companies selected by the end of January. The curriculum will run from Feb. 24 through May 15, including a pitch contest sponsored by Greenlight Community Broadband with a $2,500 prize as part of the Gig East Summit 2020.
Meleney said ideal applicants have an interesting business concept and viable model with a forward-thinking angle, an innovative mindset and a desire to learn.
“Above all else, we’re looking for people who are coachable,” she said. “This program surrounds people with mentorship and experiences. They need to be a sponge and soak everything up. They need to hear all the advice, filter through it and act on what works for their business.”
Gig East Exchange manager Darren Smith said he is thrilled to have Riot committed to the incubator before the doors even open in the early spring. He said Riot will complement other programs and events planned for members as well as the community at large, which also fits well into the overall downtown revitalization.
“When you build a community within a place like the Exchange, the people who work there want to have places nearby to eat, to meet people and to have meetings after work,” he said of the project at 127 Goldsboro St. “It is exciting to see the upfit of the Exchange and all the momentum in downtown.”
Visit www.ncriot.org/rap to apply to the accelerator program. Visit www.gigeast.com for more information on the Gig East Exchange.