The Dig South Interactive Festival can be difficult to describe to those uninitiated in the world of rock 'n' roll, entrepreneurial geekdom usually found in places like New York and Austin.
But beyond the live music, the beer gardens and bright green Yelp gorilla hula-hooping on the court of the College of Charleston's TD Arena, the festival - now in its second year - has a clear mission to show off Charleston to the movers and shakers of the tech world while introducing Charleston to innovative ideas from off.
During an early session Friday, a social media panel that included two Facebook content strategists explained to a rapt audience how small businesses can best leverage social media to grow their audience and sell their product.
In another session the inaugural class of the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, who spent the last 14 weeks building their startups in a 3,000-square-foot office building with the help of local sponsors and millionaire mentors, pitched their businesses to a room full of potential investors.
The Harbor Accelerator, which will begin fielding another group of entrepreneurs in May, was born just six months ago while founders Patrick Bryant and John Osborne were visiting a similar program in Nashville. "Collision" was a word Bryant and Osborne frequently used Thursday in describing the premise: put these brilliant minds in an environment with other brilliant minds with the same interests and goals and "good things will happen."
They might as well have been talking about Dig South itself. Session after session included panels of business leaders from the Silicon Harbor to Silicon Valley.
During the social media session, moderator Justin VanBogart pressed the Facebook representatives on why a business should invest in platforms such as Facebook when it can make significant newsfeed changes and the business has no recourse.
"Why build a building on rented land you really have no control over?" VanBogart said.
Facebook content strategist Clay Delk, who said he couldn't speak about the company's algorithm or recent newsfeed changes, said "it's about communication, now ownership."
The representatives said Facebook can make sure its ads are seen by potential customers where no one can guarantee an email will even be opened.
The Dig South Expo, a free event that will continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday on the TD Arena Court, was a lively scene with a 3D printer, the green gorilla and a working Bitcoin ATM.
The Bitcoin ATM is the first in the Southeast, according to Southeast Bitcoin co-founder and owner Coley Hudgins. Hudgins said they hope to find a permanent home for the ATM in Charleston because it has a vibrant tech sector and because South Carolina is one of three states in the nation without money transmittal laws.
The festival continues Friday with more sessions, "HackCharleston" and the closing keynote from Kickstarter co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler.
Yelp’s green gorilla mascot uses another vendor’s hoola hoop during the Dig South Expo Thursday.×
Andy Paras/Staff John Park, left, uses a Bitcoin ATM with the help of Coley Hudgins, co-founder and owner of Southeast Bitcoin during the Dig South Expo Thursday. Hudgins said the machine is the first of its kind in Charleston and is expected to have a home in Charleston after the festival is over.×
Andy Paras/Staff Jim Nuttle, senior graphic recorder for Maga Design, chronicles several pitches during a conference session about the Harbor Entrepreneur Center.×
Dozens of companies are exhibiting during the Dig South Expo at the Dig South Interactive Festival Thursday April 10, 2013 at the TD Arena at the College of Charleston. Grace Beahm/Staff×
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