RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – For many reasons, from wave after wave of new startups to incubators and more, Durham is now widely recognized as the entrepreneurial hot spot in North Carolina. But don’t look now. Charlotte is building up steam.
In a letter to members of the Business Innovation and Growth council, Peak 10 founder and Chief Executive Officer David Jones spells out a number of possibilities that could ignite more startup growth in the Queen City.
Among the items is a potential venture fund that would focus on startups.
Anyone familiar with startups in North Carolina know that seed and early-stage capital has always been scarce. It probably always will be. The thinkers in Charlotte apparently are taking steps to deal with the problem.
Last fall, Charlotte took a big (no pun intended) step forward when Dan and Sara Roselli opened the Packard Place incubator. If you want to see in person reasons why Durham has become a startup boomtown, visit The American Underground and other startup pace in the Bull City.
The latest Charlotte initiative is a data-gathering venture by Jones, who has been a leader in the North Carolina tech community for more than a decade, and BIG Chief Executive Officer Terry Cox, the group’s founder and a human dynamo.
Jones’ letter to BIG members and others on its email list is titled a “person request.”
He wants companies to provide a limited amount of financial and employment data that can be assembled to help Charlotte’s entrepreneurial leaders document their case that their city should be a place where businesses take root.
“I believe the entrepreneurial community (that’s us guys) must provide some point of reference with respect to what we have and are creating in Charlotte in terms of gross revenues, jobs and growth,” Jones wrote.
With more data, Jones believes that entrepreneurs is Charlotte can have “an impact and influence.”
“We have seen a similar focus in several other metro markets in the southeast and elsewhere,” he noted. Durham obviously belongs on that list.
“Initiatives on Several Fronts”
The time is right to strike, Jones said.
“I have been in contact with a variety of ‘players’ over the last 3-4 months, specifically, UNC Charlotte, Queens University, Bank of America, NCTA, the Charlotte Chamber and a couple of smaller venture funds. I suppose these dialogues came to me because Peak 10 has a fairly high level of visibility, and, of course, that I have been around for a decade as somewhat a spokesperson for entrepreneurs here and a supporter of what Terry Cox has poured her life into, BIG. What I am seeing is that there are initiatives on several fronts, from the plans to create a venture fund that focuses on startups and early stage companies (funds that are far less risk adverse that what has traditionally been available), to workshops to help budding entrepreneurs get started, as well as other efforts to start or launch a Charlotte’s entrepreneurial platform (modeled after other cities successful initiatives).”
BIG is asking companies to provide:
1. Last three years gross annual revenue
2. Last three years total number of employees
3. Outlook for 2012 – your forecast for top line growth percentage and employee adds
4. Do you have a) angel, b) venture or c) private equity backing, or d) none of the above
5. When did you start your business?
BIG is offering companies a non-disclosure agreement if asked.
Why is the data important?
As Jones noted: “[A]s economic development groups look for areas of business growth, it comes down to the front line—where we all are.”
BIG puts on development programs throughout the year that target entrepreneurs and its members. Its monthly “BIG Ideas Exchange” is just one of those.
The project that Cox and Jones are working on now just could be the BIG idea of the year.
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