RALEIGH – In 2013, ten years after founding a company with just $5,000 and an idea, Silvia Aguirre’s company was acquired by Avalara. According to Aguirre, one condition of the sale was that the team would remain in the Triangle. Ahead of the CED Venture Connects 2021 Summit this week, WRAL TechWire caught up with Silvia to preview a panel discussion on why founders are moving their companies to the Tar Heel State and why investors ought to consider funding startups across North Carolina.
“The main idea is to share with others how important the decision to move to North Carolina impacted our business,” said Aguirre. The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
- What factors led you to move your company to North Carolina?
Silvia Aguirre: There were several factors, first we needed to be close to the northeast, second we needed a place that was affordable for a start-up business, third we needed a hub to fly in and out of the area, and RDU is one of the best-kept secrets.
- In your two decades here, how has your perspective on NC changed? What has changed around you, and how would you describe that change?
Silvia Aguirre: I really had only good expectations when we moved, since then, I have come to appreciate the area more. This is the longest I’ve ever lived in an area and despite the two decades here, I always find something new, yet the peacefulness of it all continues. The people continue to impress me.
- In your opinion, why should founders consider relocating their companies to North Carolina, and where would they find the best support and community?
Silvia Aguirre: It is stressful to start a business, if you consider North Carolina for the first time, or you are coming back after a few years away, it is easy to get into the ambiance of it all. It helps tremendously that we have wonderful schools in the area, large and small corporations have made their HQs in the area, technology is all around us but most importantly the warmth of the people. When you look around your own community you can see the diversity, the enthusiasm of being part of the community. There is also a lot of support for entrepreneurs, this area is a magnet for new ideas.
- What macroeconomic factors matter, right now, to startups and founders and would-be-founders, and how does the state compare to other regions or states?
Silvia Aguirre: Growth, in my opinion, is the main factor to consider. Any business that is successful makes a decision to accelerate growth. In the current economy, having a successful business will encourage and empower people to feel the impact of that growth. In my opinion, North Carolina has a very good balance compared to other states, there is a sense of wanting to help grow business to share with others, to me this is what makes a difference. One business succeeds, then many people benefit.
- What’s been your personal experience in founding a startup and in moving to North Carolina?
Silvia Aguirre: My story is like many others, I had a desire to start a business and make something in the technology world that would stand through time. Although not sexy, taxes are always present.
I had an idea since the mid 90’s when I was an auditor that there had to be a better solution to help corporations deal with taxes, particularly exempting/not collecting taxes. I am a huge believer in education, I can’t think of a time that I was not working and studying, many times both at the same time.
My background includes information technology, banking, pension plan administration, accounting, tax administrator, auditor, entrepreneur, MBA. I grew up in the mid-’80s and saw the impact technology had on main street, but also the advantages it gave women at the time.
Not many career choices. Fast forward, the opportunity presented itself to start the business and we looked at North Carolina as the main area that made sense from many aspects.
It took 10 years, but starting with $5k and a few printers, we successfully were the leading company when it came to help corporations and their tax exemptions.
In 2013, we got acquired and it was a condition to continue to stay in the area. I can happily say our organization has grown in this area and will continue to invest in staying in North Carolina. After all these years, it is still one of the best areas to accelerate growth.