Packard Place Serves as Hub for Charlotte’s Emerging Startup Scene
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an “eagerness” to get involved with Packard Place’s efforts, whether it’s through direct sponsorship as Bank of America has done with RevTech Labs, or lending talent to provide mentorship.
Justin Gaither, a recent college graduate, is the co-founder of a startup called eCampus Ventures, and he spent some time as a tenant of RevTech Labs this past spring. His company has created three apps targeted toward college students: Room Surf, Text Surf, and Join U. Gaither describes Room Surf as “like Match.com for finding compatible college roommates” that was recently highlighted in a Boston Globe article. Text Surf helps users find the lowest-priced textbooks, and Join U is a private social network for college students that includes a Tinder-like component for matchmaking.
Gaither ended up in Charlotte after his family moved to the city, and he says he was surprised to discover a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem there. “The vibe in Packard is really cool, and it’s the place to be for entrepreneurs,” he says. “I haven’t quite seen anything like it. It was a whole building filled with people like me going through the same challenges. I could build a business or collaborate with others to share ideas. It was a really great experience.”
His company, eCampus Ventures, made history this summer when it was selected as the first startup from the Southeastern U.S. to get on WeFunder, a site that allows accredited investors to put money into startups.
That’s progress, but Charlotte still has a ways to go before it will be seen as a prominent national startup hub. According to the National Venture Capital Association, 50 North Carolina startups received venture funding in 2013; only one of the startups was based in Charlotte. However, it’s clear the city now has the building blocks of a strong innovation community.
Gaither says the best part of his Packard Place experience was participating in RevTech’s demo day because “it was such a great feeling to have everyone in the community supporting us.” He’s staying in Charlotte for now, which means his stint at Packard Place had the effect organizers were hoping for.