Layoffs have recently hit several large high-tech firms in the Triangle with Qualcomm becoming the latest to announce job cuts on Wednesday. Now a new survey finds optimism among the Triangle’s booming startup community is cooling.

More firms are planning job cuts and hiring is cooling.

It’s the first time in four surveys launched by the N.C. State Entrepreneurship Clinic that the findings have found less enthusiasm for business prospects over the next six months.

Overall, the “Quarterly Outlook of Triangle Entrepreneurs” produced an index rating of 107.80, including a wide variety of economic data.

That’s down from 121.83 in the survey from the last quarter.

The first three surveys dating back to fourth quarter 2014 had increased steadily:

  • 4Q 2014: 113.67
  • 1Q 2015: 117.68
  • 2Q 2015: 121.83
  • 3Q 2015: 107.80

Optimism and pessimism grew in each of the three major categories compared to the previous survey.


  • Companies expecting to increase hiring fell more than 10 percentage points to 56.7 percent from 67.9 percent
  • Those making layoffs surged to 7.8 percent from 0.8 percent
  • Neutral on hiring rose to 35.5 percent from 31.3 percent


  • Sales optimism declined to 81.1 percent from 86.7 percent of those surveyed expecting growth
  • “No change” grew slightly to 13.4 percent from 12.5 percent
  • “Decline,” however, surged to 5.5 percent from 0.8 percent

Capital spending

  • 10 percent of entrepreneurs plan to reduce capital spending, up from 3.9 percent
  • 58.9 percent still plan to up spending but that’s down from 66.4 percent
  • Capital spending will remain the same at 31.1 percent of startups, up slightly from 29.7 percent

The big issues

But it’s not just the overall economy hurting startups.

Key concerns are access to capital and finding the right people to hire followed by increasing competition and new clients.

“Within these last four quarters of data collection, we have seen a sharp increase and then this new decease in optimism,” said Lewis Sheats, the senior lecturer of entrepreneurship in the North Caroline State University Poole College of Management and the director of the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic, in announcing the latest findings.

But Sheats said he’s not surprised.

“It is not surprising that we are now seeing what might be a leveling off; future data collection can bear this out – or not. This survey can identify trends, and we have had a very positive trend going. It will be interesting to see where the next quarter’s data indicates we are headed. As we have said before, the QuOTE survey provides us valuable feedback to advance, promote and foster a thriving startup environment,.”

Recent economic surveys of business in general have been a mixed bag even as unemployment rates nationally and locally continue to drop for the most part.

But job cuts made at Qualcomm, GSK, Cisco, Lenovo, IBM, NetApp and other large firms show that the economy remains in a state of flux.

Startups across the Triangle have boomed in launch, growth sales and IPOs over the past five years since the end of the 2008-2009 economic debacle.

Now it appears entrepreneurs are sensing that the boom times are cooling.