DURHAM – Six startups, one 16-seater bus and the long, open road.

That’s what life looked like for six Asheville startups over the last few days when they hit the highway for a whistle-stop tour of North Carolina.

The goal: to expose each of the fast-growing startups to 20 angel groups and help them raise a round of funding.

“There are a couple of capital groups in the Asheville area, but they’re generally pretty specific about what they want to fund,” said Venture Asheville director Jeffrey Kaplan. “Here today, we have six very different companies that are all skilled, doing well and need money.”

Venture Asheville director Jeffrey Kaplan at American Underground Campus on Tuesday morning.

It’s the first time the group has hit the road for funds, but they’re ambitious, hoping to raise upwards of $3.5 million in total capital.

The jam-packed two-day tour involved stops in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham and Cary.

On Tuesday, the group got to check out American Tobacco Campus when they stopped for a session co-hosted by NC IDEA in Durham. That was followed by a second appearance co-hosted by Cofounders Capital at The Mayton Inn in Cary. The day before, they had sessions in Charlotte and Winston-Salem cohosted by Hygge and Venture Café, respectively.

Each time, the founders got the chance to make an 8-minute pitch, followed by a short Q&A. Industries ranged from solar energy driven solutions to craft beverages.

Among the startups presenting:

  • Brightfield Transportation Solutions – Delivering commercial Solar Driven® charging solutions for the rapidly expanding electric vehicle marketplace.
  • Char Grow -Probiotics for plants, enabling growers to cut costs, improve yields and move away from harmful chemicals.
  • Burban – Cheap food, drinks, and entertainment, conveniently laid out on a map.
  • Elite HRV – Removing the guesswork from health and fitness by making advanced biomarkers easy and accessible.
  • Adoratherapy – Manufacturer of innovative aromatherapy products
  • Ginger’s Revenge – A craft brewery in North Asheville focused on the production on alcoholic ginger beer.

Startup profiles: The Asheville six – startups touring state looking for funding

“We certainly want to help these companies get their funding. But the second goal is to raise the visibility of the Asheville startup scene,” said Kaplan.

Asheville’s burgeoning startup scene

A private-public initiative of Asheville’s Economic Development Coalition, Venture Asheville has seen more than 100 companies go through its Elevate program in the last four years.

The result: over $9 million raised and upwards of 250 jobs created.

With tech, outdoor gear, food and beverage the “hot” industries, Kaplan estimates that local startups bring in over $52 million in revenue each year to the Asheville area alone, and that figure is only growing.

“I’d say the state of startups is pretty strong and only getting better. There’s momentum where people are getting interested in this space, more angels are getting involved and more people want to mentor,” Kaplan explained.

In part, he credits “the entrepreneurial spirit that’s inherently there in western Appalachia”.

“You have to go more independent, pull yourselves up by your boots straps,” he said.

Coupled with the vibrant retirement community that Asheville attracts, it’s a recipe for a booming ecosystem.

“People want to get involved and have community impact whether it’s through dollars by investing or knowledge through mentorship,” he said.

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