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Graham Treakle is no stranger to startups. For the past two years, he has run operations for a startup called Pass the Plate, an app that makes charitable giving easy by helping users make and track donations to over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations.

With Pass the Plate in beta testing as of October 2015, Treakle is gearing up for a full launch of the product in the near future. Enter the Triad Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event for local entrepreneurs hosted at Flywheel, a co-working space located in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. The mission of the Triad Startup Weekend is to support local entrepreneurs by providing the collaboration, resources and educational activities necessary for startups to get off the ground.


Participants of Triad Startup Weekend brainstorm an idea

During the weekend, participants submit conceptual ideas to workshop—no existing startup concepts are allowed. Although Treakle couldn’t submit Pass the Plate as an idea, he decided to participate in the weekend to hone his startup skills.

“This weekend is terrific for entrepreneurs beginning startups,” said Treakle. “You can learn about the whole process in a condensed period of time by collaborating with other local entrepreneurs.”

After 54-hours worth of seminars, brainstorming sessions and product development and testing, Treakle walked away with four lessons he believes are essential for entrepreneurs:

  1. Make Connections

Connecting with other entrepreneurs is important. Events like the Triad Startup Weekend create an atmosphere of collaboration and excitement, which was also one of the reasons Treakle looked at tapping into the Innovation Quarter. Connecting with a variety of local professionals, including potential partners, coaches and community sponsors, can lead to more resources and better products. In the bigger picture, events like these help create a culture of entrepreneurship, making Winston-Salem an exciting place to live and work.

  1. Be Adaptable

Flexibility and openness is essential to a startup. At the beginning of the weekend, participants pitched their ideas for startups, and then picked only a handful to focus on for the rest of the weekend. Fleshing out these ideas required participants to be open to change. Later in the weekend, groups took a more developed version of a chosen idea to the streets for market research. The feedback from target consumers helped them fine-tune the concept. Throughout the weekend, the group’s ideas and concepts morphed as they completed each phase of the process. Treakle believes this quick process of refinement can accelerate product development, and even found some of the feedback about his group’s hypothetical product to be applicable to the real product he is developing.

  1. Seek Advice

Every entrepreneur should have good advisors: people who can give impartial advice on your ideas and products and who have experience in the startup world. The Triad Startup Weekend brought in “coaches” from the local community with their own successful startups to help advise the participants over the course of the weekend. Hearing from these experienced entrepreneurs—who are familiar with the ups and downs of the startup process—was invaluable. If nothing else, hearing the stories of others helps you realize the feasibility of your own dreams. They did it—so can you.

  1. Concentrate Efforts

The Triad Startup Weekend showed Treakle how quickly you can investigate the viability of an idea. If you are willing to invest some concentrated time, you can test out an idea for a startup in one weekend. You can develop a good base of information from a little brainstorming, a basic product idea, some simple market testing and good collaboration. A lot of people get hung up on fully developing an idea, but this weekend demonstrated that taking your idea through a series of strategic steps may be the boost a startup needs to get off the ground.

Treakle’s take-away was this: “Events like the Triad Startup Weekend provide important guidance for entrepreneurs at all stages,” he said. “Bring a good idea, or bring a bad idea—it doesn’t matter. The weekend helps you sift through the process of developing your idea and your startup.”

Tune in to future personal and professional development opportunities hosted at Flywheel by visiting their calendar. Or check out Treakle’s startup, Pass the Plate.

The rich history of the predominantly African-American communities that were home to thousands of workers and their families during tobacco’s heyday in Winston-Salem will be explored at a free interactive event on Saturday, Nov. 21.

“Remembering the Neighborhood: Life in the Former Tobacco District” will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Wake Forest Biotech Place in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, which encompasses the sites of both once-bustling tobacco facilities and once-thriving residential and commercial areas.

The centerpiece of “Remembering the Neighborhood” will be a panel discussion including former Belews Street neighborhood resident Barbara Morris, former tobacco worker Miles Harry, former Winston-Salem city staff member Jack Stillman, community historian and author Annette Scippio and educator Rudy Anderson. The discussion will be moderated by Endia Beal, director of The Diggs Gallery of Winston-Salem State University.

Among the activities available to attendees will be viewing a slide show of images from The ARCHIVE (Society for the Study of Afro-American History in Winston-Salem) and other sources, listening to oral history recordings made by the City-County Planning Department and participating in a New Winston Museum “memory mapping” project.

Additionally, University of North Carolina-Greensboro graduate student Amanda Holland will be on hand to record the recollections of former area residents and tobacco workers.

Complimentary light refreshments will be served and there will be an activity area for young children.

Biotech Place is located at 575 N. Patterson Ave. Free parking for this event will be available in Innovation Quarter Lot P1, which is accessible via North Chestnut Street.

“Remembering the Neighborhood” has been organized by a partnership of The ARCHIVE (Society for the Study of Afro-American History in Winston-Salem), the City-County Planning Board, The Diggs Gallery of Winston-Salem State University, New Winston Museum, the Office of City Council Member Derwin L. Montgomery, the Wake Forest University Department of History, Old Salem Museum & Gardens – St. Philips Heritage Center, Wexford Science & Technology, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and resident volunteers.

Photo courtesy Sam Cassidy

More than a few eyebrows were raised recently when Winston-Salem officially gave itself the motto of “City of Arts and Innovation.” That’s a lofty goal, after all.

But, in reality, Winston-Salem has been long recognized as a leader in both the arts and innovation. For example, now achieving a remarkable 14 years in a row ranked as one of the top 10 digital cities in the U.S.

This latest honor has been given by the Center for Digital Government to “cities [that] have developed a mature infrastructure that lets city leaders experiment with technology projects that are molded in the image of the average citizen’s lifestyle.”

Translation: cities that invest in the future. The future of technology, the future of collaboration and the future of community partnerships.

That’s how the city of Winston-Salem worked to recently bring an all-fiber gigabit network here, through the NC Next Generation Network.

It’s how the city and county came together to provide local residents with all-digital access to commonly requested information like county tax records, map information and other local data sets (known as Geographic Information Systems, or GIS).

And it’s also how a public-private partnership was formed to help birth the Innovation Quarter, now no longer an experiment, but an example of the power of proximity and collaboration.

There are other notable examples of the city’s progress on the digital front:

  • The push toward cloud-based and on-premises solutions has greatly reduced the city’s reliance on paper-based file systems.
  • For staff, mobile office connectivity and the ability to rely on tablets and smartphones allows for more productive in-field work.
  • Tools like a budgeting dashboard and capital project application that allow users to access the latest information on the city’s cash flow or the more than 200 active projects.
  • A push to connect fiber-optic cable to all of the City’s facilities

It’s clear by the 14-year run in the polls (that rivals even many of the near-by ACC basketball teams) that Winston-Salem is invested in digital progress. It’s invested in the arts. It’s invested in innovation.

And that’s good news for all of us.

The leaders of Salem College and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts will talk about the value, current state and future role of liberal arts education on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Wake Forest Biotech Place in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The “Engage: Education” panel discussion featuring Salem Academy and College President D.E. Lorraine Sterritt, Ph.D., and UNCSA Chancellor M. Lindsay Bierman, M.A., will be moderated by Eric Tomlinson, D.Sc., Ph.D., chief innovation officer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and president of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The hour-long discussion will begin at 6 p.m. in the atrium of Wake Forest Biotech Place. It will be preceded by a networking reception with drinks and appetizers beginning at 5 p.m.

This event, which is open to the public free of charge, is part of the Innovation Quarter’s “Engage” series, which each quarter presents a conversation involving leading figures from various sectors of the Innovation Quarter and greater Winston-Salem communities.

Sterritt became Salem’s president in July 2014 after holding administrative and faculty positions at Harvard University. Bierman assumed his duties as chancellor of UNCSA in August 2014 after serving as editor in chief of Southern Living magazine.

Wake Forest Biotech Place is located at 575 N. Patterson Ave. Free parking for this event will be available in Innovation Quarter Lot P1, which is accessible via North Chestnut Street.

Information about public events at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is available online at


Some of the most innovative cars on the road will now have a place to recharge in downtown Winston-Salem.

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter joined with the city of Winston-Salem and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) on Friday, October 16 to celebrate the commissioning of a Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) charging station. The two-car charging station, the first of its kind in the city, was officially opened for use after a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The charging station, manufactured by OpConnect LLC, is located near the corner of Patterson Avenue and Fourth Street in the heart of the Innovation Quarter. It was installed by PART and funded by a grant from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center.

Allen Joines, mayor of the city of Winston-Salem, spoke at the commissioning ceremony. “This [charging station] adds to the ambience of sustainability,” Joines said. “Winston-Salem is committed to sustainability.”

The PEV charging station is one of four stations located across the Piedmont Triad.

“This is a part of what we are doing to establish a more environmentally-friendly energy use pattern in our nation and in our region,” said Dan Besse, Winston-Salem councilperson and vice chair of Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation.

Innovation Quarter president Eric Tomlinson sees the charging station as one of the important steps toward Winston-Salem being a city on the cutting edge of technology.

“We are on the tipping point of creating one of the world’s greatest centers for innovation in biomedicine, information technology and clinical sciences,” Tomlinson said. “Partnerships like the ones we are celebrating today are crucial to our success.”

The charging station features plug-and-pay technology, allowing users to pay at the station by credit card. Representatives from PART and OpConnect said the cost to fully charge an electric vehicle at the station is between $4 and $5.

Inmar was recently recognized as one of the 100 healthiest workplaces in America. Healthiest Employer®, an independent corporate wellness research and data analysis firm, awarded the honor at the Corporate Health and Wellness Association’s (CHWA) Annual Corporate Wellness Conference and the Employer Healthcare and Benefits Congress in Orlando, Florida.

Inmar, a technology company located in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter that operates intelligent commerce networks, ranked 37th among healthy workplaces, with around 800 companies participating. These healthy workplaces were chosen for providing a vision and framework for health and wellness among the companies’ employees.

The Corporate Health and Wellness Association, a nonprofit, member-based organization, recognizes leadership in workplace wellness, concentrating on health, disease prevention and population health management.

In 2011, Inmar started its Wellness Program to decrease health care costs for employees and their families. The program includes health challenges, screenings, clinics, workshops and benefits fairs, creating an atmosphere that promotes wellness at the technology company.

David Mounts, chairman and chief executive officer of Inmar, says, “As companies, we have tremendous opportunity to engage and support our associates to improve wellness and the lives of their families and most responsibly manage healthcare costs.”

For more information about Inmar, visit

The Triad Business Journal released its 2015 list of the Triad’s Fast 50, a list of the region’s fastest growing companies, on September 25, 2015. Clinical Ink, a software development company located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, ranked 10th in the Fast 50.

Clinical Ink provides e-source solutions for clinical research sites. Its lead product is SureSource, an electronic platform that provides users with a paperless system for recording data, comments, explanations and other information required in clinical trials.

According to the Triad Business Journal, Clinical Ink has a cumulative growth rate of 4,613 percent over the last three years. This incredible growth resulted in Clinical Ink also being named to the Inc. 5000, a list of the country’s fastest-growing companies.

The company was founded in 2007 by Dr. Tommy Littlejohn and Doug Pierce. Clinical Ink employs 95 professionals at four locations, including 30 at its location within the 525@vine building in the Innovation Quarter.

“The Innovation Quarter’s collaborative environment is ideal for a company such as Clinical Ink,” says Pierce, Clinical Ink’s president. “Just sharing ideas with the other people here is helpful, and there is a lot that can be gained from just that.”

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has announced the name of Wake Forest School of Medicine’s new building in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. On Thursday, October 1, 2015, the Medical Center revealed that the building will be named the Bowman Gray Medical Education Building.

Bowman Gray Medical Education Building was chosen to honor the gift of the Bowman Gray estate that helped bring the medical school to Winston-Salem in 1939. The subsequent affiliation of Wake Forest School of Medicine with North Carolina Baptist Hospital resulted in the creation of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The Bowman Gray Medical Education Building is located in the former 60 series R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company complex, adjacent to 525@vine in the Innovation Quarter. Construction is underway with plans to be ready to welcome medical students in 2016.

Construction of the building is part of Wake Will, a Wake Forest University campaign aimed at raising $1 billion for Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

For more information, read the press release.

Governor Pat McCrory Dialogues with Forsyth Tech Students about STEM Careers

The North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) held the first day of their Fall Planning and Work Session at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter on Tuesday, September 29. Session activities took place at Wake Forest Biotech Place and Forsyth Tech at Innovation Quarter within 525@vine.

The day focused on the theme of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and its role in preparing students for post-secondary education and future careers, as well as the positive impact that STEM skills and positions have on North Carolina communities.

Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education, called the session to order in the atrium of Biotech Place. “We always have a focus on innovation,” Cobey said, “and one of the legs of innovation is a STEM education.”

Eric Tomlinson, president of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, welcomed attendees during the session’s opening remarks. “We are dedicated to innovation, to translating ideas, discoveries and assets into something valuable,” says Tomlinson. “This makes the Innovation Quarter the perfect backdrop for discussions encouraging science and technology education.”

The State Board of Education members participated in a variety of sessions and activities, including demonstrations of project-based teaching and discussions of STEM connections to careers and higher education. Forsyth Technical Community College invited attendees to its wet laboratory facility to meet students pursuing post-secondary education in advanced technologies.

Gary Green, president of Forsyth Tech, invited board members and other guests to speak with students who participate in project-based learning at the community college to prepare them for careers in nanotechnology. “This is the future of North Carolina,” Green said.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory joined the educators to interact with nanotechnology students from Forsyth Tech, addressing their role as future scientists and innovators. “There is a skills gap right now in our state,” McCrory said.  “We count on [students] like these and need more like them.”

McCrory recalled having passed through the area that is now the Innovation Quarter several years ago before development started and noted the remarkable transformation of the area. “This is true visionary leadership,” he said.

The UNC Center for Design Innovation (CDI) celebrated the grand opening of their new facility on September 23, 2015. Located on a four-acre tract on Design Avenue, the CDI building is the first facility to open in the South District of the Innovation Quarter.


CDI, a multi-campus research center of the University of North Carolina system previously located in Winston Towers, moved into a $9 million, 24,000-square-foot headquarters facility in the Innovation Quarter. The multi-level complex will house a wide range of programs and projects bridging art, science and technology.

“We are extremely pleased to be in our fantastic new home,” says Pamela Jennings, director of CDI. “This world-class facility is the entry point in visualizing, incubating and inspiring how we will live, work, play and communicate in the century to come.”

The celebration featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks by representatives of local and state institutions, including Allen Joines, mayor of the city of Winston-Salem, and Eric Tomlinson, the president of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

“Winston-Salem was a manufacturing base,” says Joines. “We have flipped over into a community whose economy is based on knowledge-based industries. [Design industry] will clearly play a key role as we move into the future.” Joines believes CDI can be a catalyst for growing the design sector of the city’s economy.

CDI supports collaborations that connect creative, technical, applied and scientific disciplines and provides lifelong learning for students and the community through workshops, classes and internships that introduce design thinking and foster creative production.

“The cutting-edge work that CDI does perfectly aligns with the culture of the Innovation Quarter, and the new facility is magnificent,” said Innovation Quarter President Eric Tomlinson. “There could not be a more suitable anchor for our South District.”