In mid-September, I attended the conference of the Southeastern members of the Angel Capital Association in Durham to represent the Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) and to play the role of the fox in the hen house for the entrepreneurs of Wilmington to meet more regional investors.
I had the “luck” of intentionally sitting next to the leaders of the Charleston, South Carolina, ecosystem, which is 10 years ahead of Wilmington.
John Osborne leads the local investor group and also started the entrepreneur development support organization and ecosystem. John started the Harbor Entrepreneur Center and is an executive of the Charleston Angel Partners.
I asked him how Charleston flipped the switch to ignite the funding of startups in what was considered a very conservative region with an older demographic with inherited wealth or wealth made through real estate. Sound familiar?
Where is Wilmington now?
Well, it is no secret that the Live Oak Bank family of companies is succeeding without the help of an existing entrepreneur ecosystem prior to 2013.
nCino is now a “unicorn” of being valued at over a billion dollars from the last round of funding. The next Live Oak Bank branch of startups includes Apiture with well over 100 employees who are making great salaries in a very nice office environment.
And we are all very aware that NextGlass, now known as Untappd, was listed in 2018 among the fastest-growing privately held companies by the Inc. 5000 listing. When I met NextGlass in 2013, they were basically a father-and son team with a co-founder friend who worked in Charlotte. They have participated more in the local ecosystem and Coastal Corridor between Raleigh and Wilmington with appearances at statewide investor pitch events.
There is now a secondary wave of Wilmington startups that have been very active in the ecosystem built since 2013.
Among those startups that are scaling and hiring include Lapetus Solutions, EasyVote Solutions and Connected Investors.
So as the density of startups grows in Wilmington, those entrepreneurs will need capital as the fuel for growth. The ecosystem is maturing with three-and-a half angel networks and funds.
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