Being named CODE2040’s Entrepreneur in Residence is a dream come true for Doug Speight of Durham.
The collaboration not only grants $40,000 to local startup businesses affiliated with American Tobacco, but it gives him a chance to give back to the city he grew up in.
“It’s actually the fulfillment of a lifelong dream I’ve had,” Speight said.
CODE2040 Residency, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, is designed to empower Black and Latino entrepreneurs to take their companies to the next level while promoting diversity in their own communities.
The nonprofit organization creates pathways to ensure that by the year 2040 (when the US will be majority-minority) Blacks and Latinos are proportionally represented in America’s innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.
The goal is to drastically increase diversity and inclusion efforts around the nation.
The San Francisco nonprofit organization started the initiative in 2015, launching it in three cities – Durham, Austin, and Chicago. The project was so successful that four more cities will be added this year.
Speight, a proud graduate of Jordan High School, fits right in this strategic partnership. He graduated from North Carolina A&T University in 1995 and went on to earn a MBA from UNC Chapel Hill.
Speight has spent several years working in tech transfers at universities, mentoring startup companies, as well as federal labs for NASA and the Department of Energy.
His long portfolio of entrepreneurial experience includes launching new ventures, designing profitable strategic partnerships, managing open innovation and intellectual property for organizations ranging from startups to federal agencies.
The spirit of entrepreneurship runs deep in the Speight family of Durham. His family has operated a string of businesses in the city since the 1930s, ranging from automotive services, real estate, heating and air conditioning, taxi cab services, oil and delivery.
Speight lived in Tennessee six years before returning to the Triangle where he worked for the Department of Energy Oakridge National Lab outside of Knoxville, Tenn. In that position, he focused
Speight applied to the CODE2040 after following the work of the program’s founders for several years. “Tristen Walker and Laura Weidmann-Powers are on a mission to diversity the technological industry,” he said. “That’s really drew me in.”
The program plays a major role minority diversity in technological companies in the (San Francisco) Bay area.
CODE2040 has a specific focus on Durham. “That’s what excites me about it,” Speight said. “We do believe that Durham is going to be the next Silicon Valley.”
2040 is the targeted year when the minority population across the US will rise above the Caucasian population.
Speight said this has already happened in Durham.
“It’s a demographic shift the country is in,” he said.
According to Speight, the shift will create the largest economic boom witnessed in several years.
“This tremendous economic growth will come directly from new companies founded and run by minorities. “We want to be positioned well to take advantage of this shift,” he said.
Talib Graves-Mann is credited for bringing great visibility to Durham, even on a global level. Speight and Graves-Mann will continue to work together on the CODE2040 initiative.
Averhart said Speight stands on the shoulders of Graves-Mann who was the first entrepreneur in residence for the pilot program. He got us up and running,” according to Averhart, adding that he landed the program in USA Today.
He is credited with making the bold statement that American Underground would be the most diverse tech hub in the US by the end of 2016.
Speight said he and Graves-Mann are still in close collaboration, adding that they just got back from a trip working in San Francisco, CA together.
Doug said Graves-Mann is a key networking resource, adding that he is well connected and has vast experience in start-up ventures. He is known for his great marketing skills and being well connected.
“He’s very talented,” Speight said. “He’s good at building community around things.”
Cathedral Leasing is Speight’s own business venture that he started when he still lived in Knoxville. The company leases computer equipment to small companies at affordable rates. The company also allows them to purchase upgrades and other equipment as older equipment and software phases out.
Speight said Cathedral Leasing offers small companies what they need to compete on a global scale. “We give Daniel the strength to fight Goliath.”
Speight moved Cathedral Leasing to Charlotte where he lived briefly before finally moving back to Durham. He still has a small office in Charlotte to maintain a presence there for the business.
He said Charlotte is the second largest financial center in the nation. However, he quickly noticed that talent pool of technological workers reside in the Triangle. “They have the developers, designers, coders and programmers,” he said.
Speight has his eyes set of raising capital for his equipment leasing business and other equipment distributors. He hopes to develop strategic partnerships with more equipment distributors, banks and leasing companies.
The move back to his native home of Durham brings Speight’s wife and two children closer to his own family. He said the bonus is that his children get to be closer to their grandparents. “It’s nothing like home,” he said.