Charles Wohl is the Don Ryan Center for Innovation’s new vice president of innovation, leading the business incubator and entrepreneurial ventures, and he came to Bluffton both to step back and to shake things up.
“On my bucket list was to move back to a coastal environment,” he said on why he took the job and moved to the Lowcountry from Texas last summer. But it’s a sure bet he’s not going to kick back and take it easy.
Wohl has global experience as an incubation program leader in various industries, including aerospace, bio-technology, electronics and manufacturing. He is an expert in mentoring entrepreneurs in full-scale business formation including product development, market entry, sales, licensing and operations management.
“My passion is helping early-stage companies,” he said. “If there’s some technology involved, I prefer that.”
Wohl got right to work in his new role. He is developing the curriculum for the center’s new Acceleration 101 cohort, which starts in January and runs for 11 weeks. The participants will be people who have ideas for a product or company or have recently started a company and want to grow it. Among the many pieces of advice Wohl will offer them: “Be prepared to pivot.” Participating in the cohort will “get them ready for investors,” he said.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN CURIOUS ABOUT HOW STUFF WORKS. I THINK IN PICTURES.
Wohl hopes to help the Don Ryan Center for Innovation build a network of early-stage investors in the Lowcountry. Before accepting the position, he researched the area, investigating Bluffton’s rapid growth, its number of high- and ultra-high-net worth potential investors, the average age of Bluffton residents compared to the average age of entrepreneurs (34.8 vs. 35), and the local plans of universities, military bases and aerospace giants Boeing and Gulfstream. His conclusion: “This is a town that’s forward-thinking enough to provide financial backing for economic development, and the time is right.”
Most recently, Wohl was executive director of Texas Capital Network. Additionally, he launched HTC North, a technology-focused incubator in The Woodlands, Texas, that developed new clients for the Houston Technology Center. He is a named inventor on numerous patents across various industries including location services, and he also has put together two joint ventures in China.
Active in the Texas startup community, Wohl served as a mentor for programs at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Rice University, along with the Regional Clean Tech Open program.
Wohl comes by his interest in innovation naturally. His mother was one of the founding members of the Rocky Mountain Inventors Conference, now the Rocky Mountain Inventors Association.
“I’ve always been curious about how stuff works. I think in pictures,” he said, reminiscing about buying a junk lawnmower when he was 12 to take it apart and put it back together, making it work again.
Wohl will play an integral role in planning and development of The Hub, a space currently under construction that will house the business incubator and serve as Bluffton’s first state-of-the-art co-working space and economic development headquarters. On Nov. 14, the Don Ryan Center board of directors, staff and Bluffton Town Council celebrated the groundbreaking of the center’s new facility in Buckwalter Place Commerce Park.
Wohl is excited to support the would-be entrepreneurs the Don Ryan Center helps.
“I like explaining things to people by taking technical information and making it simple,” he said.
The Don Ryan Center was formed in 2012 as a technology business incubator in a partnership between the town of Bluffton and Clemson University. It has become the town’s economic development arm, with a focus on entrepreneurism; business attraction, expansion and retention; real estate and infrastructure; workforce development and talent retention and attraction; and marketing education and outreach.
AT THE CENTER
The Don Ryan Center for Innovation’s next acceleration cohort starts Jan. 29. For more information, contact Dorothy Guscio at email@example.com.
“How I Built It” & “Next Level Learning”
This monthly series is designed to educate, empower and inspire entrepreneurs and executives at all levels. It’s held from 8-9 a.m. the last Thursday of each month upstairs at Corner Perk. Free for Don Ryan Center for Innovation members; $10 for the public. For more information, call 843-540-0405 or go to donryancenter.com.