By James Forrest

I read a story in the Triangle Business Journal last year that further validated my opinion that the Raleigh-Durham area is one of the best places in the country to do business.  In the story, the TBJ announced a sizeable investment in the Triangle business community by New York-based private equity firm the Blackstone Group.  The Blackstone Group is one of the largest private equity firms in the world investing in multiple sectors, including technology, manufacturing, retail, and media.

The Blackstone Group’s philanthropic arm, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, dedicated $3.63 million to form the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network (BEN), in conjunction with several area partners.  The BEN represents a joint venture of Blackstone, the Triangle-based Council for Entrepreneurial Development, and four area universities—the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University.

According to the TBJ article, “the Blackstone network will link 30 startup teams each year with experienced entrepreneurs and mentors, including venture coaches and angel investors. The program will target startups in the early stages of fundraising that have the potential to create $40 million in revenue and become profitable within 10 years.”

The Forrest Firm has been active in the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce’s various initiatives in the startup space, as well as joint efforts across the region such as the Bull City Stampede. We are delighted to see the Blackstone Group invest in an area we believe has had great success, but has yet to reach its true potential.

My good friend Scott Bolin, who in addition to his full-time studies in the master of business administration program at NC State, is working on the Blackstone team to ensure the entrepreneurs network gets off to a fast start in the area.  Scott is a part of the local “boots on the ground” team, working hard to build the necessary support network of mentors, coaches, and investors, as well as introducing area entrepreneurs to the Blackstone concept.

He shared with me that while the company certainly has a view of targeting entrepreneurial concepts that will have immediate impact, they also are focused on sustained job creation in the sectors that the selected entrepreneurs will be serving.  To that end, the network will partner qualified startups with a team of “master entrepreneurs,” experienced business leaders from around the Triangle who have taken their own companies from conception to exit. These mentor teams will provide mentorship, guidance, and hopefully open doors to much-needed resources.

Scott also shared that the Triangle-based Blackstone Entrepreneurs group will be a test market for the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, as it seeks to expands its economic development activities. The program’s success in this area will dictate speed and scope of the further expansion of Blackstone’s economic development plan.

For more information on the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, whether you would like to join the Forrest Firm in promoting economic development in the Raleigh-Durham area or would like to test your concept with mentors, coaches, and investors, please contact Scott Bolin at