400 Buckwalter Place Blvd.
Bluffton SC 29910
Contact Information
Organization DBA (Doing Business As)
Organization DBA
Don Ryan Center for Innovation
Address 400 Buckwalter Place Blvd.
Bluffton, SC 29910
Telephone (843) 5400405
Fax (843) 8156581
Projected Annual Revenue $328,460.00 (2016)
Mission Statement

The Don Ryan Center for Innovation is designed to support new innovative/technology company formation and development in Bluffton, SC. The program blends the attributes of hands-on consulting support, resource identification and availability, and long distance learning to help increase the probability entrepreneurs, who we call innovators, will be successful.

This program links innovators to intellectual property, technology evaluation, product development services, seed financing, business mentorship, corporate relationships and recruiting.

CEO/Executive Director Mr. David Nelems
Board Chair Mr. Matt Green
Board Chair Company Affiliation JCM Ventures, LLC
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 2012
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses Bar Graph - All Years
Graph: Expense Breakdown Graph - All Years
Revenue vs Expenses Area Graph - All Years

Comparing revenue to expenses shows how the organizations finances fluctuate over time.

Source: IRS Form 990

Net Gain/Loss:    in 
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

The Don Ryan Center for Innovation is designed to support new innovative/technology company formation and development in Bluffton, SC. The program blends the attributes of hands-on consulting support, resource identification and availability, and long distance learning to help increase the probability entrepreneurs, who we call innovators, will be successful.

This program links innovators to intellectual property, technology evaluation, product development services, seed financing, business mentorship, corporate relationships and recruiting.


The Bluffton Technology Incubator Corporation Inc. (known as the Don Ryan Center for innovation or DRCI) was created in 2012 as a collaborative effort between the Town of Bluffton and Clemson University. It was the first in a pilot program, “building the technology village,” designed by Clemson to support new job creation in non-metropolitan communities in South Carolina. There are now five centers within the state. The emphasis is on creating high-income primary jobs and supporting wealth formation in company founders, employees, investors and the economic region. DRCI supports the creation and development of emerging technology and related product oriented companies.

This support takes place in 1600 sq. ft. of prime office space contributed by private partner eviCORE (formerly CareCore National) in Buckwalter Place. Services offered include business planning and mentoring, technology evaluation and product development, website design, market strategy development, and individual and communal office space. DRCI is a key component of Bluffton’s strategic plan for economic development and regional business growth. To date, nine companies have graduated from the 12-18 month program. Seventy-seven documented jobs and over $4,100,000 in payroll have been added to the area economy. There are currently 12 companies in the center and several nearing graduation.

Other programs include partnerships with SCAD and the Beaufort County Schools to develop entrepreneurship and business acumen. We also offer monthly public seminars for the local populous that cover a wide array of business topics vital to growth of any business. A “fast prototyping” 3D printer is available by area businesses and entrepreneurs. The latest outreach/empowerment initiative is a company showcase/jobs board called Lowcountry Works to help promote and grow businesses in the region.

The goal of all this activity is to empower innovators and accelerate innovation in the Lowcountry region in a supportive environment. The result can be a successful company on a regional, national or even global level.

1. Secured $100,000 grant from the South Carolina Department of Commerce for growth of the center and innovators within it.
2.  Graduates and current innovators went from creating 14 jobs with $660,800 in payroll to over $3 million in payroll.
3. Graduated 3 new companies into the community.
4.Started formal partnerships with beaufort County Schools and SCAD to develop entrepreneurship programs for the students.
5. Bought a 3D printer for rapid Prototyping.
1. Graduating 3 more companies in August.
2. Total jobs and payroll of graduated and current innovators now at 77 jobs with $4.1 million in payroll.
3. First annual major fundraising event in our golf tournament at Palmetto Bluff (September 28th)
4. Secured $120,000 Google Adwords grant for non-profits
5.  Reduced town of Bluffton's financial commitment by $30,000.
1. Capital to help secure, promote and support our innovators and future innovators. $6,000/innovator. (10 innovators max)
2. Funds to hold annual code camps for students of local high schools. computers and hardware: $2500, marketing for event: $500-1000, hiring teachers and coders to assist: $500, Food and Drinks for event: $1500
3.  Funds to go towards fundraising events, specifically centered on membership drives and the golf tournament: golf tournament $7500 for manager and palmetto bluff participation and membership drives $5000.
4. Marketing for the DRCI: SmartMarketing is the agency we use $7500
5.  Funds to attract more influential speakers to educate and motivate local entrepreneurs and business people and students on how to nurture and grow a business: $7500
CEO/Executive Director Statement

The DRCI is designed to assist and grow high tech/high impact companies and support new technology and innovative company formation and development in the Bluffton area. Our program blends the attributes of innovative learning with hands on consulting support. We link communities to intellectual property, technology evaluation, product development services, financing, business mentorship, corporate relationships and recruiting.

This program can reduce the cost of company incubation and innovation, engage the community in new company formation as a platform for the local and regional economic development strategy, and support new job creation.

The DRCI is the most successful of the Clemson Technology Villages. With more than 20 companies served, graduate and current innovators employ more than 77 people and contribute more than $4MM in annual payroll to Beaufort County.

What is unique about the DRCI is its engagement with the broader community – not just the companies in the program. We have partnerships to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Beaufort County Schools in their Middle and High School programs. In addition, the Center offers monthly education sessions to the general public as well as 3D printing services. The goal is to foster innovation at every level of the community– not just for Bluffton residents but also for County residents and beyond.

Part of that thinking is what is behind The site provides business organizations with an effective resource featuring a simple, comprehensive and up-to-date listing (and map) of companies operating within the region. Companies can be quickly filtered by industry those known to be currently hiring.

Taken together, the DRCI has a wide range of programs to offer to companies and individuals in the region. It is one of the most well rounded programs in the state and we look forward to expanding it even further.

Board Chair Statement

As Chairman of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation ("DRCI") Board of Directors, it has been my distinct pleasure to witness an entrepreneurial and innovate effort from inception. While many local leaders and others doubted the efforts of a few key business leaders vision and foresight to start an entrepreneurial culture in Bluffton, SC, the results have been overwhelming. The number of companies and related payroll growth is the best ROI that one can measure success to both the public and private. Not only has the DRCI changed the paradigm for entrepreneurial spirit in Bluffton, SC, it has single handedly changed the way the state of SC looks at the Bluffton/Hilton Head area in terms of economic opportunities. No matter what type of company enters the DRCI, they are all treated with the same level of integrity, spirit and care. Bluffton has the opportunity to create something from scratch that most people say can't be done. While the movement is just started and momentum is building, now is the time to reinvest in the mission to have lasting effect on not our community but also our state. I highly suggest you join us to help move this initiative forward for the Greater Bluffton region.


On a personal note, I have been involved with the DRCI from the initial conversation with Clemson University. I was always intrigued at their concept to focus innovation and entrepreneurship in rural communities and not major MSA's. There were so many challenges along the way with political leaders, citizens, etc. that many times I thought the initiative would have to be retired. If it were not for the resiliency of a few local leaders, the DRCI would not have been in existence. I have stay involved because I continue to see incredible steps towards achieving our long term goals. Whether it be partnerships with K-12 schools, companies accelerating growth patterns or community support, the progress, while challenging and happening over a 3 year period, has been heading in the right direction. One challenge that we have each and every year is the funding. Just like everything else in this world there is not enough money to support the ongoing operations of the DRCI to reach its full growth potential. While we have partners to support our mission, we are grossly underfunded and miss so many opportunities as a result. Opportunities to invest in our resources (i.e. 3D printing), invest in like minded people, broaden our outreach capabilities, create funding scholarships, etc., the list goes on and on. I can't stress enough the importance to support 'grassroots' entrepreneurship in small communities in America such as the DRCI. If we are going to lead as a country and prosper like we once did with entrepreneurship and innovation, it is initiatives like the DRCI that need to be prioritized and at the top of the list for these types of grants. While the movement is just beginning and momentum is building, now is the time to reinvest in the mission to have lasting effect on not only our community but also our state. You are investing in something that can be used as a model for other communities that have routinely tried and failed to do what we are doing in Bluffton, SC and the surrounding region.

Areas of Service
Beaufort County
Colleton County
Hampton County
Jasper County
Beaufort County, SC
Jasper County, SC
Colleton County, SC
Hampton County, SC 
Chatham County, GA 
Board Chair
Board Chair Mr. Matt Green
Company Affiliation JCM Ventures, LLC
Term July 2015 to July 2018
Board of Directors
Mr. Carlton Dallas Founder Dallas International Trading
Ms. Deborah Edmondson Southern Lifestyle Properties
Mr. Matthew Green Developer, JCM Ventures
Mr. Larry Hughes Community Volunteer
Mr. Michael Mathews Community Volunteer
Ms. Kathleen Mercier EVP Human Resources, eviCore
Mr. Brian Messman Page 1 Media
Mr. Bill Miles President and CEO, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Jeffrey Moss Superintendent, Beaufort County Schools
Mr. Walter Nester Lawyer, McNair Law Firm, P.A.
Mr. Marc Orlando Bluffton Town Manager
Mr. Kevin Ryan Veteran, Service Brewing Company
Mayor Lisa Sulka Mayor, Town Of Bluffton
Mr. James Taylor Retired
Ms. Meredith Truitt Bluffton PDC
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 13
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 11
Female 4
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 65%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Under Development
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 21%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 14%
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Other Boards
The tables below contain information about other groups that advise this nonprofit on operations and projects.

Executive Director
Executive Director/CEO Mr. David Nelems

After being a part time "Blufftonian” for 7 years, David and his family moved here in June 2013. 

David was the founder and president of ActiveGroup. The privately-held company provided video-streaming services to the marketing research industry. A recognized leader and speaker in the marketing research industry as it relates to technology, David won numerous industry awards and was an in-demand speaker. His technology enabled Fortune 500 companies to view their focus groups in real–time over the internet from 450 global locations eliminating the need for clients to travel. He grew the company into a multi-million dollar organization in six years. David is a great fit for the Center since he has experienced every aspect of starting and running a business - from coming up with the initial idea, to marketing the service, raising money, making payroll to ultimately selling the company.

Nelems also was the Chief Operating, Financial and Technology Officer for Juls Candles, during which he reorganized the company’s technical and financial procedures.

His diverse background also includes stints as a pilot for Delta Air Elite and a keyboard player for a regional rock band. He earned a degree in human relations and aviation management from Georgia State University.

His goal now is to develop start-up and early stage companies in and around the Bluffton, SC region so that more high-impact and high-knowledge careers are available for residents.

Former Executive Director/CEOs
Jordan Berliner Mar 2012 - May 2013
Marc Orlando June 2013 - Aug 2013
Full Time Staff 1
Part Time Staff 1
Volunteers 20
Contractors 1
Retention Rate 100%
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Yes
Date Strategic Plan Adopted July 2015
Years Strategic Plan Considers 15
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Management Succession Plan? No
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Diversity Policy
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy No
Description The primary program of the DRCI is to support entrepreneurs whom we call Innovators by providing hands on consulting including, market strategies development, business mentorship, website design, research through Clemson University, office space with an enterprising environment, access to 3D prototyping and extensive entrepreneurship experience through our Executive Director and mentors. 
Budget $60,000.00
Short Term Success Short term success depends on the individual companies themselves. Due to the companies entrance into the program at various stages of business development, one success may be hiring one new employee while another could be starting a website, while still another may be actually taking the product through the process of concept, to design and finally to production. By having bi monthly meetings we are able to set and track short term goals enabling us to achieve long term goals.
Long Term Success The long term goal of the program is to have multiple innovators graduate every year culminating in successful start-up businesses in the region. Graduates of the program will hire multiple high knowledge people from within the region and provide economic diversity through their business and hiring to the region. This is already being monitored by keeping track of the employees of the various companies already graduated. 
Strategy Yes
Program Success Monitored BY The program success is monitored by graduate rate, growth of companies within the DRCI and growth of the companies after graduation, which is when we expect most of the success to occur. We make calls to gather information from the graduates on number of employees hired, turnover rates, salary growth and overall company growth.
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year 2016
Projected Revenue $328,460.00
Projected Expenses $328,460.00
Endowment Value $12,840.15
Spending Policy N/A
IRS Letter of Exemption
Detailed Financials
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201420132012
Program Expense$178,678$217,458$37,226
Administration Expense$5,312$4,084$29,923
Fundraising Expense--$11,102--
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses9.610.921.02
Program Expense/Total Expenses97%93%55%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue0%6%0%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201420132012
Total Assets$18,149$23,420$2,729
Current Assets$15,637$23,420$2,729
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0--
Current Liabilities$2,953$1,061$1,368
Total Net Assets$15,196$22,359$1,361
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201420132012
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities5.3022.071.99
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201420132012
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201420132012
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? Anticipated In 3 Years
State Charitable Solicitations Permit
Registration Exempt Nov 2015
Organization Comments The audited financial statements fall under the Town of Bluffton's audited financials and can be accessed through their website or upon request.
Address 400 Buckwalter Place Blvd.
Bluffton, SC 29910
Primary Phone (843) 5400405
CEO/Executive Director Mr. David Nelems
Board Chair Mr. Matt Green
Board Chair Company Affiliation JCM Ventures, LLC
Year of Incorporation 2012