CHARLOTTE—Terry Cox, who has helmed Charlotte’s Business Innovation and Growth Council(BIG) for 12 years, has a piece of advice for Queen City startups: “Go in and re-engineer the business models and processes of mid-to-large market companies.”

She explains why: “We have a lot of them here and their business processes are pretty much antiquated. There is a lot of opportunity to digitize and reinvent them.”

Cox said that may be the way for Charlotte to gain a stronger foothold in a metro she admits remains a conservative, risk adverse, banker city. “We need to connect the corporate world to the entrepreneurs.”

She mentioned that one Charlotte angel investor “Can cite 10 reasons Charlotte entrepreneurs don’t get funding. They’re not well prepared to raise money. I’m a big believer that the capital is out there but we’re still not presenting fundable deals.”

A sexy thing to do, but very hard

It may be the fault of the ecosystem up to now, she suggested. “We have no role models to show these guys what it looks like.”

She traces the current interest in startups to 2008 when the recession hit. “People couldn’t get corporate jobs. I got more calls and people started their own thing.”

She cautions, however, “It becomes like the sexy thing to do but it’s very hard. We’ve had a lot of startups that didn’t survive.”

Cox, who was herself a successful entrepreneur, enlisted the help of others such as Peak 10’s Chair and founder, David Jones, and built BIG into a strong business support group with a venture and innovation focus.

She’s happy to see the increased focus on the venture and startup scene in Charlotte, but notes that “We’re making a very minor, incremental impact doing this individually. We need to come together and consolidate.”

In fact, she notes, BIG and most of the other innovation focused groups have struggled, “Because there’s not enough volume. There’s a whole group of us trying to figure out the ecosystem.

“We’re still a corporate, conservative, risk-adverse city with a banking culture and no acceptance of failure.”

In the startup field, she points out, “You have to embrace it.”

Dan Roselli, a major supporter of the startup community in Charlotte the last six years, founder of Packard Place, said in a separate interview that the Chamber is considering hiring a professional person with part of the $500,000 it set aside to promote innovative ventures in Charlotte.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-part series on the Charlotte startup scene. The first is here: