The Office of Innovation Commercialization

Our Story

In 2006, UNCG participated in the preparation of a statewide entrepreneurial proposal to the Kauffman Foundation. The process of writing the proposal revealed widespread interest in and enthusiasm for teaching entrepreneurship on this campus. Building on the momentum created by that initial effort, BELL (Building Entrepreneurial Learning for Life) began in the fall of 2007. The purpose and mission of this initiative was to weave entrepreneurship into the fabric of the university by fueling the entrepreneurial spirit.

As a campus-wide interdisciplinary effort, BELL was coordinated by an Executive Committee comprising the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (Dr. Tim Johnston), the Associate Provost for Research and Public / Private Sector Partnerships (Dr. Rosemary Wander), and the Dean of the Bryan School of Business and Economics (Dr. Jim Weeks). A multi-discipline faculty Advisory Committee met periodically with the Executive Committee to provide input and suggest new directions. BELL was funded by the Chancellor, Provost, the Executive Committee, and gifts from the external community, including a generous gift from Mrs. Pat Cross.

BELL offered a range of educational, research and outreach opportunities, including an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship (Bryan School of Business and Economics); undergraduate and graduate courses in entrepreneurship in various disciplines; development grants to faculty wishing to create new courses; support for student and faculty research on entrepreneurship; entrepreneurship education for students and faculty; public forums to educate the campus and community about entrepreneurship; lectures by visiting experts in various types of entrepreneurship; and workshops, symposia, and panels.

In April of 2009, the UNCG Board of Trustees approved the formation of the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center (NCEC). Under the directorship of founder Dr. Dianne H.B. Welsh, the NCEC began its efforts to expand entrepreneurial connections in the region, state and beyond by helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses while continuing to provide entrepreneurial support and programming for the on-campus community.  Concurrently, Dr. Welsh helped expand the academic program to more than three dozen classes offered across twenty departments across campus.

In April of 2011, the NCEC hired Bryan Toney as the first full-time Director.  This change provided additional resources to the Center and allows Dr. Welsh the time and freedom to continue to meet the growing demand for entrepreneurial education. Mr. Toney brought 25 years of entrepreneurship expertise with him as both an entrepreneurial business owner and founder and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University.  Under his leadership, the NCEC launched several new efforts including Growing Entrepreneurs by Mentoring Students (GEMS), Entrepreneurial Journeys and 2 Minutes to Win It. He also expanded the NCEC reach beyond our campus as a partner in Triad Startup Weekend and engagement with the broader regional startup  ecosystem.  Toney was then chosen to fill the Associate Vice Chancellor of Economic Development and Corporate Engagement position in February of 2014.

Current NCEC Director, Justin Streuli was selected to lead the NCEC in June of 2014. “Our goal is to advance the relationship local colleges and universities have with the area’s entrepreneurs,” he said. “Working collaboratively, we will determine how we can best feed the local startup community and foster an action-oriented approach to growing startups among campus communities.”

Streuli most recently served as director of business development for Anomaly Squared in Greensboro, after that fast-growing marketing firm absorbed OpenLedge, the web development firm he cofounded. As an active startup evangelist in the burgeoning Triad startup community, Streuli played a leadership role in coordinating multiple Startup Weekends, organizing a local entrepreneurial meet-up called Shift, and serving on the board of Converge South, the Southeast’s largest technology conference. Streuli previously worked at UNCG as a lecturer in the Bryan School of Business and Economics, a coordinator for the Spartan Startup Living Learning Community and a faculty adviser for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization.

The NCEC will continue fulfilling its Mission by creating new kinds of learning through co-curricular and outreach programs that engage the student population at UNCG and the Triad business community.  Please visit our Vision and Missions page for more information on the NCEC and check the Programs and Calendar pages often for information about current and future programs. .