Charleston, SC’s Dig South, the progenitor of Interactive Festivals in the South, promises three days of connecting, hearing great content, raising capital, recruiting talent and launching new startups from April 26th-28th. With a top shelf roster of Key Note Speakers slated and an expected attendance of more than 2500 – exponential growth from the Festival’s first year attendance of 454 only three short years ago – they’re certainly onto something.

I wondered whether such rapid growth in such a brief frame of time was a happy accident.

“We’ve planned it all along,” Gray says with calm confidence, “We planned this exact growth rate.”

Inspiration for the Festival came out of a desire to transcend boundaries by opening the doors of opportunity, exploration and innovation between a largely hidden, vast cache of southern creative and tech talent and the world. Seeking to solidify the southeastern experience and maximize collaborative impact, Dig South’s CEO, Stanfield Gray – also an Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellow – decided on a mission. Embarking on a circuit of innovation hubs, conferences and festivals across the nation, Gray set out to witness firsthand the kinetic energy they spawned and expanded within their own communities and measure their individual and collective impacts on global influence.

“We’ve modeled it loosely after SXSW and the Ad Age Digital Conference, a couple of Fast Company conferences. I saw no reason that a conference like this couldn’t be very large in the southeast.”

Little effective debate can be posed that such creative and innovative heritage to this region has a flavor all its own – one which has a very legitimate contribution, and warrants further exploration and integration as the world becomes an ever-smaller place to live.

Featured speakers for the event include:

  • Gary Vaynerchuck  – CEO/Vaynerchuck Media, Best-Selling Author, #AskGaryVee
  • Melanie Deziel – Director of Creative Strategy, Time, Inc.
  • Steve Lohr – Technology Reporter, New York Times
  • Meghan Keaney Anderson – VPMarketing, HubSpot
  • Peter Kafka – Senior Editor, Re/Code
  • Kamal Avila-Salmon – Product Marketing Manager, Google Play
  • Paul Singh – Investor/Entrepreneur, Results Junkies

Vaynerchuck’s appearance marks his second in as many years to Dig South, and his attention to the southeast circuit in general this year is indicative to the caliber of talent in the entire region awaiting exposure to a larger audience – when big fish visit smaller streams, there’s a reason.

Going forward, Gray balances a pragmatic approach with a strong eye on a much larger picture focused heavily on local, regional and national collaboration.

“What we try to do is pair leading brands and startups from across the south with companies globally, so we invite companies from Silicon Valley, Austin, New York – we’ve had some from Europe attend as well – and we try to provide the content, contacts, capital they need to enhance their market share, find investors, [obtain] expert advice, leadership takeaways.” Gray explains, adding, “We’ve had great support from The American Underground and HQ in Raleigh-Durham; the Atlanta Tech Village and Nashville Entrepreneurs Center. I’ve made the rounds and traveled to all those cities in the last few years and it’s been really fun – great support.”

HARK looks forward to bringing direct coverage of Dig South as the event unfolds. Look for it soon!

For more information or to attend Dig South, visit,

Follow on Twitter @DIG_SOUTH.

Originally posted on HARK

By: Robin Lea