I’ve lived in Charlotte long enough to know that it’s been referred to as a “banking town” for quite some time. And when you walk around uptown at noon on any given weekday, it’s not hard to see why. A flood of charcoal suits and blue shirts pour out of the glass and concrete towers and onto Tryon street below. The entire uptown district can feel very corporate at times, and for some, it begs the question, “Is Charlotte a good place to be an entrepreneur?”
Well, we’re happy to report that yes, Charlotte is an extremely startup-friendly place, and 2015 is looking to be a great year for entrepreneurs. The city now has a thriving startup community that simply didn’t exist only a few short years ago. With the creation of Packard Place, an uptown hub for entrepreneurs, many different groups, events, and programs to support entrepreneurship have taken root in the city and energized a new generation of entrepreneurs.
One of the exciting things about entrepreneurship in Charlotte this year is the momentum that we’re currently experiencing. From the announcement of Google Fiber last month to the return of the Southeast Venture Conference in March, this “banking town” is seeing a high level of interest and involvement in the startup community from people throughout the region and beyond.
So what does all this mean for local startup companies and fledgling entrepreneurs? Where do you go if you have an idea and just want to network with fellow entrepreneurs? Well you’ll have a chance to do just that at Startup Weekend taking place this weekend, February 27th through March 1st.
StartupWeekend is a great event for entrepreneurs or really anyone interested in seeing what this whole startup craze is all about, and this year’s event takes place at UNC Charlotte’s new uptown building. The event is a conference that begins on Friday evening, when anyone who wants can come up and pitch a 30-second idea to the crowd. Once all the pitches are in, the audience votes on their favorites, and a handful of teams form around the winning ideas.
The teams spend the rest of the weekend researching the market and the idea itself to build out a plan and a prototype, then they pitch their creations to a usually packed house on Sunday night. Panelists give the teams feedback on their presentations and deliberate to select a winner. These winning teams receive prizes and services from sponsor companies, and sometimes go on to work on projects together, even occasionally building their idea into a real business.
The event is a blast and you learn a lot from your fellow teammates, who all tend to have varied backgrounds and specialties. It’s those late-night arguments between the developer and the accountant on Saturday night that produce the most valuable insights, and very often to the best presentations the next day. I’ve personally participated in a couple events and now enjoy helping other entrepreneurs as a Startup Weekend host and organizer.
If you’re unable to make it to Startup Weekend but still want to check out the scene and meet some folks, you should look into PitchBreakfast, a monthly event we put on where entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas in front of a panel for feedback and ideas. Even if you don’t sign up to pitch your own startup, simply hearing what others are working on, the kind of feedback the panelists provide, or even sticking around afterwards to network with everyone makes it totally worth it.
PitchBreakfast takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 8am in the lobby area of Packard Place in uptown. The next one takes place on Wednesday, March 11th. Be sure to get on the email list for news and updates on the companies pitching and other events and announcements by the PitchBreakfast team.
And speaking of newsletters, you’ll definitely want to sign up for StartCharlotte’s newsletter. This monthly email provides a breakdown of what’s happening in the startup world with any relevant news you should be aware of, and events you should check out, programs being introduced, etc. It’s the best way to stay up to date on all things startup in the city.
Featured image photo credit: cravotta.com