How to Ruin an Evil Plan

The Harbor Entrepreneur Center held their first annual State of the Harbor address on October 18th, handed out champagne flutes, and toasted their accomplishments.

As Evil Plans go, this one is pretty straightforward. Offer free resources to energetic wanna-be entrepreneurs. Attract mentors. Beguile them with stories of how working together will improve the community. We’ll make a brighter tomorrow for our children! Lure investors with the excitement of risk and reward. Then, park yourself in the middle and collect a nice fat windfall.

It’s how to succeed in evil 101. Edwin Windsor would be proud!

But wait! Against the solid advice of any mid-level evil efficiency consultant, the founders Patrick Bryant and John Osborne decided this venture should be a non-profit.

Non-profit!? Other business accelerators, like Techstars and Y Combinator, invest money in their startups. Any why not? Mentors and owners have a vested interest in making these companies successful. Shrewdly, Osborne and Bryant knew they wouldn’t be able to compete with these kinds of groups, so they formed a non-profit, enabling them to get buy-in from local municipalities and take advantage of grant funding. What encourages success of these companies? Enthusiasm. As long as things are going well, it spreads like a deadly Omega virus.

They are growing fast and have a wide range of programs. The most well-known is the accelerator program, where budding entrepreneurs are put through 14 weeks of gruelling ego-bruising self-awareness programs.

A lesser known program for existing businesses with around $250k in revenue creates a “virtual board of directors” — a group of about 7-8 business owners who meet on a regular basis to solve problems and hold each other accountable. This for a relatively small fee.

Third, they have created a number of co-working spaces around the area: two on Mount Pleasant, one down town on upper King, and one soon-to-be completed in Summerville. They are looking for space in North Charleston.

In addition, the center hosts a number of events aimed at getting people together to meet and greet.

Clearly there is a more sinister plot afoot than Capt. Lil’ Bit is able to comprehend. Could it be a Goldfinger-inspired scheme to improve the value of an inferior startup, or a Zorin-esque plan to eliminate the competition? For now, we will keep a weather eye.

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