Startups in Charlotte, North Carolina have been on the rise in recent years. In fact, according to a report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, startup activity in Charlotte increased by 22 percent from 2010 to 2015. While the city has lacked the moniker of “Silicon Valley” or “the next Silicon Alley,” it has quietly been building up its infrastructure and developing a supportive community for entrepreneurs.
What’s attracting startups to Charlotte? There are several facto. For one, the city boasts a strong and growing economy; in 2020, it had the ninth-largest GDP in the country. Additionally, Charlotte is home to several major banks and corporations, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, and Nucor, which creates an ideal environment for startups in financial services or energy technology.
Charlotte is also home to several universities, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), Johnson C. Smith University, Queens University of Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College, and more. Many of these schools offer startup accelerators geared toward their students (such as UNC Charlotte’s LaunchBox Digital program), which helps young entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground with mentoring and networking opportunities.
The below startups from Charlotte are making a big impact in their respective industries, and they’re worth keeping an eye on.
Catapult is a SaaS solution that helps companies manage their sourcing lifecycle from RFP to contract negotiation. With over 100 enterprise customers including Dropbox, Tyler Technologies, SalesforceIQ, BASF, Box, Biogen Idec, and Intuit among others, Catapult has helped automate over $300M in spending across 20 countries since being founded in 2012.
The company is currently located at Techstars’ 16-acre accelerator campus in downtown Charlotte’s Central Business District with 1-year old co-working spaces. Gavin Stonebraker started this project as he was looking for the best tools available to help manage an RFP process for a previous employer. The software was originally built for in-house use, but when Gavin and his team saw the potential to help other businesses they turned it into a product.
apay is on a mission to help people live a healthy financial life. They start by offering solutions to pay off student loans faster and easier. Some of the features offered include personalized payment plans, automatic payments, low-interest rates, and no prepayment penalties. apay also offers helpful tips and advice articles related to personal finance topics such as budgeting, saving money, and investing. In addition to their student loan services, apay also offers online lending and e-commerce accounts. apay is currently located at the American Underground, a co-working space downtown Charlotte’s Central Business District.
Ekos is a business management tool that enables small businesses such as brewpubs and boutique bakeries to run their operations efficiently.
Ekos integrates three key business functions; Inventory Management, Production Scheduling, and Sales Analysis, into one platform for easy access from any device including tablets and phones.
An integrated Accounting function helps users track cash flow and reconcile transactions quickly and automatically so they can focus on growing their businesses instead of number crunching. Ekos is currently located at The Mill, a co-working space in uptown Charlotte’s Arts District. Tim Johnson founded Ekos as he recognized the pain of managing the production side of his craft brewery business where quick action is critical to success and time is money. Ekos was originally built for internal use but after they saw the potential to help other businesses they turned it into a product for others to use.
4. AmWINS Group
AmWINS Group helps wholesale distributors access more customers, sell more products, close more deals, grow their books of business, increase sales productivity through technology-enabled solutions that are tailored to their specific needs. AmWINS Group offers the most comprehensive suite of insurance products and services in the market, including property & casualty, health, benefits, life, retirement, and specialty insurance. AmWINS Group is currently located in the NASCAR Plaza building in Charlotte’s Central Business District.
Cloosiv offers a convenient order-ahead app for coffee shops, cafes, and bakeries. The app allows customers to browse menus, select their items, and check out quickly and easily. Orders can be placed up to 24 hours in advance and pickups can be scheduled for a time that is convenient for the customer. In addition to the order-ahead feature, Cloosiv also offers the ability to add items and promotions directly from a menu and post updates and photos about products and store events. Cloosiv is currently located in American Underground, a co-working space downtown Charlotte’s Central Business District.
6. Edison Nation
Edison Nation is an online community where inventors can find help bringing their inventions to life through crowdfunding or by providing funding for other inventors’ ideas. Edison Nation has helped over 7,000 people bring their ideas to life by helping them connect with manufacturers who want their invention ideas, patent attorneys who are interested in representing patents, businesses looking for new product ideas, marketers seeking innovative products to promote on social media, and even celebrities who are willing to help promote an inventor’s product by donating their social media influence.
Edison Nation is currently located in South Park, a neighborhood of Charlotte. Edison Nation was founded on the principle that invention sparks progress and every great idea deserves a shot at success.
So there you have it; a few of Charlotte’s top startups. These companies are making a big impact in the city, and they’re only getting started. Charlotte is quickly becoming a hotbed for startup activity. There are plenty of opportunities for talented engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs. If you’re looking to start your own company, or join one on the rise, Charlotte is the place to be.