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innovation, cultivation, growth

Larry Wilson Outlines His Vision For Trelys At Press Conference

Following are Larry Wilson's remarks from a press conference held on July 16, 2001, to announce the formation of Trelys:

Thank you, Mayor Coble, and good afternoon. We are very excited about the announcements we will be making this afternoon and the potential positive impact they can have on our State's future.

Since the merger of Mynd with Computer Sciences Corporation six months ago, I have been trying to decide how I can best help our state. South Carolina has been very good to my family and me. I have learned firsthand how to grow a high technology company in this state. I know that our state has great potential to diversify its economy from tourism and manufacturing to include vibrant high technology and knowledge-based businesses. I have spent much of the past six months visiting and listening to young companies and others interested in high technology in our state. I have seen an increasing enthusiasm from political leaders and the private sector for diversifying our economy. The governor has asked his Technology Transition Team to lay out a plan to increase knowledge-based businesses in South Carolina and the public and private sectors will have to make a serious commitment to implement that plan. It will take determination and cooperation to make the transition a reality.

We have a lot going for us in this state; great people that take pride in their work and care about each other, a terrific climate and location, diverse and beautiful geography, a business friendly atmosphere, abundant energy (both human and natural), and, increasingly, a willingness to change for the better. We should be one of the richest states in America. Our limitations are self-imposed, but I am very encouraged by our growing commitment to improve.

Fundamental to a robust knowledge-based economy are high quality educational opportunities for all. We are making progress in K-12 and I believe our research universities and all of higher education are committed to significantly improving their quality.

One of the areas that we need to focus on is the number of headquarters in South Carolina. When CEO's are based here they become involved in strategic issues and provide leadership for positive change. We all have seen the rise of Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Atlanta and the impact of the leadership of the banks, technology companies and other corporations in those regions. The mergers of the last decade have reduced the number of companies headquartered here. The Department of Commerce has done an outstanding job of bringing business to our state, but it is very difficult to relocate home offices, particularly high tech companies. The best and brightest young adults in South Carolina are increasingly looking outside of our state for challenging and rewarding career opportunities - the kind that more often exist at a company's home office. We need more corporate headquarters here in South Carolina. And to get them we must grow our own.

The fastest growing segment of the U.S. economy and the highest level of new public companies are knowledge-based businesses. This is America's growth engine for the twenty-first century. North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Florida, the other southeast Atlantic coast states, each have dozens of publicly held high technology, knowledge-based companies headquartered in their states.

How were they created? It is a process that has five critical steps. Each is important and necessary. First, the innovation for knowledge-based businesses comes from outstanding universities' basic research. Top quality faculty and students that are researching and learning about industry changing ideas and, secondly, developing applications of that research. We have three good research universities in our state, Clemson, Carolina and MUSC, and I think they are committed to being great research universities. Innovation to create new companies will come largely from these institutions. The other higher education institutions will provide the workforce.

The next steps are incubators. Robust incubators are needed to transfer research applications to the commercial world. We now have incubators at Clemson and USC, and 10 others statewide, and we should continue to expand and invest in them.

Next is venture capital. Venture capital provides two necessary ingredients for successful businesses; funding and management guidance. Start-up knowledge-based companies require capital for product development and rollout, marketing and distribution, and infrastructure. Perhaps equally important is the need for experienced guidance in developing the business model and financial and operational management. In 1999 North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida each had about $700 million dollars in venture capital investment. We had about $82 million dollars invested in South Carolina. In the first quarter of this year, it was zero. This is clearly the area that needs private sector involvement.

Of course, the final step is transitioning some of those venture capital-backed companies into publicly held companies.

I believe we can make these five steps a reality. While I intend to continue to be involved in education improvement, I believe I can also help our state by working in the area of venture capital.

Today I am pleased to announce that I have formed a new company, Trelys (spelled T R E L Y S), that will focus on assisting emerging knowledge-based companies. Trelys has a contract to purchase the BB&T building at the corner of Assembly and Richland Streets in Columbia and will be based on the third floor of that building.

In addition, I will be a general partner in a new venture capital fund, Trelys Venture Partners. The fund will focus on investing in high growth companies in our region. I will devote approximately 50% of my time to Trelys Venture Partners and help advise the management of the companies in which the partnership invests. The fund will be managed by Adrian Wilson (no family relationship). Adrian currently manages Coastal Growth Partners, which is a successful venture capital fund that is now fully invested. Adrian and his family will move to Columbia in the near future. Adrian is a Davidson graduate with a law degree and an MBA from the University of North Carolina. Adrian will tell you more about Trelys Venture Partners in just a minute.

I need to make it clear we are not raising capital today, nor are we soliciting investors. This is a private placement fund and we will be seeking support only from pre-existing, qualified investors.

To advise the fund we have established an outstanding board. Each of these people care deeply about the future of South Carolina and have agreed to take the time to advise us on our investments and to work with the management of companies in which the fund invests. Now I would like to introduce the board to you, several which are in attendance today.

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