One of the large TVs in the hallway at the Charlotte’s Ritz-Carlton, site of this year’s Southeast Venture Conference, showed the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament. As the conference wound down on its second and final day Thursday, many of the entrepreneurs, investors, and financial professionals in attendance snuck peeks at the games between sessions. Some of them were for sure thinking that an early exit from the conference would help them avoid Charlotte traffic.

But similar to many ACC tournaments in years past, the folks sneaking out early may miss the traffic, but they also run the risk of missing a buzzer beater or even overtime.

The ones who stuck around Charlotte last night were rewarded with overtime in the form of the ExitEvent Startup Social, the “anti-networking” event for entrepreneurs and investors, which had previously been limited to the Triangle.

The first Charlotte Social (the 16th overall) came together when founder Joe Procopio (who has a day job on the management team at Durham-based startup Automated Insights) dragged a couple coolers full of locally-crafted Mystery Brewing beer down I-85 to Packard Place, the Charlotte entrepreneurship and innovation hub and home to accelerator RevTech Labs.

Procopio was hoping that a combination of entrepreneurs and investors from the conference (SEVC was kind enough to sanction and promote the Social) and local entrepreneurs who had been filtering into the ExitEvent network over the last couple months, could produce a crowd about 30-50, the higher end of which would mirror the turnout for the first Durham Social back in 2011.

Current Durham and Raleigh Socials now regularly attract between 150-250 attendees.

To reach even those lowered expectations, Procopio reached out to Adam Hill, director of Packard Place, and local entrepreneurs like Jim Van Fleet, who donated growlers from local Charlotte breweries Triple C and NoDa.

Packard Place regularly hosts events of all kinds in support of the local startup community and Hill was excited to see more than 80 people turn out, many of whom hadn’t visited Packard previously.

Long time Packard Place tenant Alan Fitzpatrick of MailVu only recognized 25 percent of the attendees and with new faces came new energy. It was noisy, unscripted, and useful in that ExitEvent get-what-you-put-in way. Three and a half hours after it began, a small crowd was still lingering, talking ideas and execution.

As any Triangle ExitEvent Social attendee will tell you, the socials bring out a unique, diverse crowd that you don’t see at other events. On this night, a mix of Triangle entrepreneurs and investors got to mingle with the local community, plus a smattering of suits left over from the venture conference. At least one pair of Vibram FiveFingers could be spotted if you kept your head down.

It remains to be seen what it is Charlotte can do with its energetic, diverse startup community running through places like Packard last night. But it also remains to be seen how the game will end when folks sneak out early to beat the traffic. So startup world, stick with Charlotte. What you’ll find is worth the hassle on the way home.

Editor’s note: Devin Kelley is Director if Client Services at Method Savvy, a data-driven marketing company based in Durham, NC. He can be reached at