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WAKE FOREST — The Wireless Research Center, in honor and memoriam to Larry Steffann, is supporting the rotary club’s new Launch Rolesville and the Launch Wake Forest programs to help entrepreneurs start and expand businesses.
Steffann served as a general manager of the WRC from 2013 until his death from illness in 2018. He was a serial entrepreneur including working with two companies with successful “exits” through an initial public offering and a corporate acquisition. He was a co-founder of RIoT, the WRC’s economic development initiative to establish partnerships and collaboration for the Internet of Things that has grown to include more than 6,000 members and 80 company sponsors throughout the nation.
Staffann launched the first startup incubator, Joystick Labs, in the American Underground in Durham and served as the Entrepreneur in Residence at the NC State Poole College of Management. The WRC also launched a RIoT scholarship fund in his honor.
“Larry would be very pleased with this honor and support for entrepreneurs,” his wife Barbara said. “He enjoyed working with young people and helping them chase their dreams to build a business. He was very passionate about the WRC and RIoT. He loved working with the people and saw it as an opportunity to share his experience to help others and give back to our community. He viewed his experience with the WRC and RIoT as a legacy to the success he had in his business career. He would be proud to help support the Launch programs.”
The WRC was founded in 2010 by Gerard Hayes as an independent, private nonprofit shared resource with a vision of creating a trusted resource for pioneering innovation and entrepreneurship. The WRC’s Commercialization Center, which was expanded this year, provides office space and business mentoring services for wireless communications start-up companies.
“Helping entrepreneurs create and run businesses was Larry’s passion, and he was a mentor to many. Our mission of being a trusted catalyst and shared resource for collaboration begins at home in the communities where we live” said Hayes, the WRC chief executive officer. “Larry embodied that entrepreneurial commitment and mentorship culture at the WRC and many of the entrepreneurial communities in the region.”
Brad Walker, a commercial real estate broker, established Launch Wake Forest two years ago as the president of the Wake Forest Rotary Club. He is the program administrator for Launch Wake Forest and Launch Rolesville. Across the nation, rotary clubs bring community partners together to build Launch programs that include business loans, business development services, mentors and networking opportunities.
In addition to the WRC, community support in Rolesville and Wake Forest programs include town governments, chambers of commerce, and Wake Tech Community College. The first class with eight companies in Launch Rolesville began Aug. 22 at the Arise Coworking Community in Rolesville with weekly meetings and a graduation ceremony planned in November.
“Participants establish strong connections with other local entrepreneurs to help each other succeed in business,” Walker said. “Because of the generosity of our sponsors, it’s all provided for free. This community building program is only possible with the support from sponsors, chambers of commerce, town governments, Wake Tech, community businesses and many volunteers who serve as mentors.”