The group's purpose is to provide a forum for small and large wireless businesses to communicate with one another and with students and faculty, said organizer Jeff Reid from UNC's Council for Entrepreneurial Development.
"(Large companies) have made huge investments in wireless businesses in the Triangle, and there are also lots of startup companies focused on wireless business in the Triangle," Reid said. "The initiative is aimed at getting all those people talking to each other."
The idea began, Reid said, when he heard members of the wireless business community saying they wanted to know what other companies were doing.
"I started asking around and had a student intern who worked hard, who surveyed people around the community, and everyone said it sounded like a good idea," Reid said.
That student intern was Marc Saulsbury, now a second-year student in the business school's two-year master's of business administration program. Instead of doing a traditional internship with a company, he spent last summer working to organize the wireless initiative.
"I primarily interviewed people in the wireless industry around the area to see if we were to start an organization, what they would like to see and how they'd want to see it operate," Saulsbury said. "The result is, we got a group of executives from small wireless companies and large technology companies, and they're acting as our advisory board."
The focus of the first meeting was to get members of the local wireless industry together, Saulsbury said, but future meetings will have more student involvement.
"The business school has a very strong competency in wireless technology in particular, and we have a lot of students who are heavily interested in the wireless industry," he said.
Saulsbury said business students will have opportunities to explore the wireless industry and interact with the executives who are coming together through the initiative. Faculty doing related research also will get feedback from the group.
The charter members of the group are Cisco Systems, IBM, Ericsson, Nortel Networks, Avesair, Pinpoint, Wakefield Group, GadgetSpace and Aurora Funds. The group's second event will be held in February, but a date has not been set.
At Thursday's event, a kickoff for the project, speaker Ed Paradise, the vice president and general manager of mobile wireless for Cisco Systems Inc., discussed the future of wireless technology.
"It isn't the technology that is important, it's what we're going to use that technology for," Paradise said. "What is going to make this technology take off is applications that ... make your life easier, and no matter where you are you can get the data that you need."
Aside from discussing the future of wireless technology, another goal of the initiative is to discuss how to market the Triangle as a good place for wireless technology investment, Saulsbury said.
"The one real goal that people have is to let everyone know about the ... assets we have here in the Research Triangle Park and share that with the rest of the country."
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