Earlier this month, 200+ presenters, 35+ venture capitalists and thousands of attendees came to Charleston for the third annual DIG SOUTH—the Southeast’s interactive tech festival. In the Charleston Regional Business Journal’s article, “Dig South gives Southeast startup scene a national boost,” DIG SOUTH’s founder, Stanfield Gray said “We are building a reputation for the Southeast as a place to launch a product, service or platform, raise capital, find clients and recruit talent.”
Over the years, DIG SOUTH has played an important role in showcasing why the Charleston metro is fast emerging as the next tech hub for smart, creative professionals. Here are just some of the highlights from this year’s festival:
- VC Visitors—Among the attendees were venture capitalists looking for investment opportunities in the Southeast, including executives from VC firms like AOL founder Steve Case’s Revolution Fund, Silicon Valley’s BlueRun, Core Capital Partners, Comerica, Revolution Ventures and more. Combined, these attendees manage more than $3 billion in funds.
- A Focus on Tech Talent—DIG SOUTH also hosted the soft launch of a new collaborative economic development initiative: Charleston Open Source. Launched by a dozen of the area’s top tech companies and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, the initiative aims to attract talent to Charleston’s rapidly growing tech scene. DIG SOUTH also launched its first ever DIG Demo Day, a 24-hour event that connects companies to talent and capital.
- All-Star Presenters—This year’s DIG SOUTH panelists included tech experts representing some of the biggest names in the business including Google, Instagram, Twitter, TechCrunch, BuzzFeed, Inc. and more. Entrepreneur and internet personality, Gary Vaynerchuk, led the kickoff keynote. Charleston’s very own tech leaders hit the stage as well with thought-provoking panels.
- A Wild Competition—One of the most exciting parts of DIG SOUTH was the Wild Pitch event, where eight innovative startups presented their best new ideas to an audience of festival attendees, expert judges and investors. Charleston-based Bidr, which develops a silent auction platform, took home the first place prize of $7,500, plus $2,700 of on-the-spot crowdsourced funding. Just one week after DIG SOUTH, Bidr yet again took home the top prize of $100,000 from Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest tour stop in Charleston. A testament to Charleston’s supportive startup scene, Bidr is a graduate of the Harbor Accelerator, a 12-week program run by The Harbor Entrepreneur Center.
The post-festival buzz is strong. TechCocktail wonders, “Why is Everybody so Amped on Charleston’s Tech Ecosystem?” Writer Will Schmidt remarked, “… among the long list of things Charleston has going for it, and the budding tech ecosystem can’t be left off the list. Not only is there an incredibly strong sense of community in this city, the startup ecosystem boasts tremendous resources for entrepreneurs looking to startup a fresh idea.”
Energizing events like DIG SOUTH and companies like Benefitfocus, Blackbaud, Blue Acorn, BoomTown, Echovate, PeopleMatter, PhishLabs, Scientific Research Corporation, SPARC, and Zubie, are building an entrepreneurship culture and attracting top talent to our region. In Charleston, you’ll find that our tech leaders are not competitors—they’re collaborators. And they’re committed to doing ground-breaking work right here in the best city in the U.S.