INNOVATION IN 2017: Trends And Key Traits For Startup Success From The Don Ryan Center For Innovation

Photo: David Nelems, executive director of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation

Since its launch in May 2012, the Don Ryan Center for Innovation has been a leader in transforming our regional economic development

“Empowering innovators and accelerating innovation is our mission,” says David Nelems, the center’s executive director. “Creating primary jobs and a diverse economy is the true measure of success.” Indeed, every regional plan for the past decade has focused on primary jobs, diversity, knowledge and technology business formation.

Joshua HaleTo date, the Don Ryan Center has provided hands-on consulting and support resources to 28 local companies that have graduated from the formal incubator program. And all these businesses have stayed in Beaufort County. Together, they represent almost 90 jobs and $5 million in payroll. Annual sales exceed $25 million. More than 70 other prospects have been given informal mentoring or assistance.

How do companies like Greenbug, NutriFusion, Jester Communications, Taylor Offshore and Page1 Media succeed?  As they say on “Shark Tank,” what's the “secret sauce”? The keys to success?

“All entrepreneurs share the traits of persistence, patience and a great passion to succeed,” Nelems says. Some business experts like to call it “the cockroach mentality” — you have to be nimble, lean, and resilient to overcome the many obstacles in a challenging business environment.

Nelems says today's entrepreneurs have to be able to master the use of various communications platforms such as search engines, social media, mobile, video and messaging. Today, the so-called "elevator pitch," or 30-second explanation of your business idea or plan, may be done on an iPhone or viewed as a condensed PowerPoint presentation on LinkedIn.  Extensive business plans and pro formas are fast becoming “dinosaurs,” he says. “Lean and mean is in.”

As for trends in entrepreneurialism, it's all about connectivity, communication and collaboration. It's about creating new business clusters around technology hubs and using the new affordable channels of communication to cut costs and go direct to target markets.

“As we look to the future in innovation and intellectual property commercialization, the regions that are able to provide a functional community ecosystem for startup education and success will be the winners,” Nelems says. “A healthy system that can produce products for export beyond the region and that creates new, diverse, well-paying jobs will thrive.”

Strategic partnerships with educational institutions, public/private hybrids, buy-in and commitment from the overall business community leadership are the future of innovation and new business formation, Nelems believes. “We have exciting plans for municipal partnering and a transformative technology/intellectual property hub to grow our regional economy,” he says.  “We want to help lead the profound change we think is coming.”

For more information about sponsoring the Don Ryan Center for Innovation or to join the volunteer mentoring team or become a general member, visit www.donryancenter.comor call 843-540-0405.

What’s Ahead for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation

The Don Ryan Center for Innovation is closely watching trends in innovation for 2017 — as well as preparing for new developments in the year ahead. Here are just some of what the center has planned for 2017 as it continues to accelerate success for — and empower — entrepreneurs and innovators throughout the region: 

  • Expansion of municipal partnerships, to include an additional space in Beaufort City Hall, to serve the needs of entrepreneurs and innovators seeking another convenient location.
  • Launching The Hub, a 3,000-square-foot center in Buckwalter Place in Bluffton for small business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone seeking state-of-the-art co-working office space and off-site inspiration. It will be an incubator, accelerator and possibly even a maker space. It will open in late 2017.
  • Further growth of the center’s AT&T “Girls Who Code” program — a free after-school program for girls in sixth through 12th grades to help them learn and use computer coding to impact personal and community growth. 
  • A continued focus on fostering small-business growth in key areas of technology and the knowledge industry, including mariculture, which could be at the heart of a new technology cluster for our region and the entire Lowcountry. 
  • An exciting roster of upcoming monthly educational sessions for 2017 that will be open to the public and cover a wide range of topics for entrepreneurs and business owners.
  • Additional benefits and programs for center members, with special 2017 membership incentives.

For information about becoming a member of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation and a complete schedule of upcoming programs, events and monthly educational sessions, visit or call 843-540-0405.