When Ross Hamilton wedged his startup off the ground 10 years ago, he had to do a lot of traveling to build the network he needed to succeed. 

“Wilmington (NC) has so many advantages now,” he says, but “I’ve been doing this so long, I understand what it’s like to have no advantages.” 
Wilmington was a different place back then. The interconnections of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors hadn’t quite coalesced into the ecosystem it is fast becoming. 
“Now this town speaks my language,” Hamilton says. His Wilmington-based firm Connected Investors has become the world’s largest social network of real estate investors. 

7. DesignLoud 

Wilmington’s own DesignLoud, Inc. is an innovative full-service digital marketing agency and itself a local startup. It offers a range of services including full website design and development, SEO, social-media marketing, graphic design and custom content creation. 

8. Local Market Launch 

Local Market Launch specializes in helping small businesses succeed by revolutionizing the local search space. Its SaaS platform, LaunchPad, helps SMBs efficiently manage critical business data for online and mobile searches, apps and sites. This startup partners with large directories, agencies, national brands and other outlets that provide marketing solutions to local businesses. 

9. tekMountain 

Opened in 2014, a premier SENC entrepreneurial incubator-accelerator and coworking space is our own tekMountain—now with 24 member companies. tekMountain brings creatives and technologists together to scale business and synergize local resources. 
“Until tekMountain open their doors, the brightest and most accomplished business minds in Wilmington were segregated,” says Connected Investors’ Hamilton, adding that “tekMountain serves as a magnet bringing together the action-takers of the area.” 

10. Talent Following the Community’s Growth 

Randy Long, CEO of Long Business Advisors (based in Wilmington), points out that you can now find virtual CFOs in Wilmington through firms like Adam Shay CPA, PLLC and CAP3 if you’re not big enough to have your own full-time CFO but need those services. 
With the success of every Live Oak Bank, Next Glass and nCino, the bar rises. Wages also begin to rise which lets Wilmington lure more specialized talent—coders, programmers, developers, startup executives—who tend to stay. 
“What Wilmington does have is quality of place,” says Roberts of WALE in an interview for Southern/alpha. “A beach and river town where people love to invite their friends to visit, our town also has a ton of retired business executives who can mentor the young startups.” 
Investors would do well to investigate Wilmington, where opportunities abound.
Photos credited to James Willamor via Creative Commons license.