UNCW entrepreneurship center creates 'paying advisory board'

Published: Sep. 16, 2015 at 6:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2015 at 6:13 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - UNC Wilmington's chancellor says members of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's new advisory board won't receive any undue access or influence in exchange for the $2,500 they are each expected to contribute each year.

"Any gift that we get from anybody has to come with no strings attached," Chancellor Zito Sartarelli said.

The center, created in 2008, leases office space to entrepreneurs and provides events and support for high-growth business ventures.

"The role of the advisory board is to serve as champions for the CIE, be mentors for new startups, participate in events, and provide feedback on CIE programs and services," said Ron Vetter, associate provost for research. "We expect advisory board members to be actively involved in the CIE and welcome their input and wisdom."

Sartarelli said connecting advisory board members – who may be investors or business leaders – with students is a win-win situation.

"We are not going to compromise as an institution, as a university," Sartarelli said. "We're not going to do for them anything that we would not do to any other partner."

The list of advisory board members is being finalized, according to Vetter. He expects the board, which will be limited to 25 members, will contribute approximately $50,000 per year. The money will be used to further the center's mission, including expenses for meetings, special events and services to the community.

The establishment of a "paying advisory board" is just one of the ways UNCW is working to ensure CIE can operate for years to come, Vetter told Wilmington City Council Monday. The city has budged $70,000 for CIE this year, part of a five-year commitment.

Vetter said the center generates revenue by charging some tenants rent and taking an equity stake in some businesses located there. A $30 annual CIE membership is also required to attend most events. Student memberships are free.

The center is home to 33 startup companies and their 20 workers, Vetter said. The center held 97 events, serving 2,500 people this year.

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