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 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.

“Before, we were sending all of our startups to San Francisco and New York,” Smith says. “But now, they’re staying here to work at the hub.”

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