Nov 4, 2015 - News

The 25 most important people in Charlotte’s startup community



(Note: this list was put together in collaboration with Abby Clark. I also consulted with many entrepreneurs, investors and startup community leaders.)

Here are the names and faces of the human beings who support, invest, advise and launch Charlotte startups. These are the 25 most important people to Charlotte’s startup community. They’re listed purely in alphabetical order.

(1) Jill Bjers – Foodles


Jill is the organization extraordinaire (plus so much more) behind a lot of Charlotte’s favorite creative events: TEDxCharlotte, Geek Girl, and Code for Charlotte to name a few.

(2) Jeff Brokaw – SierraMaya360 & Startup Grind


Director of the popular Startup Grind event series and co-founder of financial technology company AppVested. CA Story: Behind Jeff Brokaw’s tattoos.

(3) Greg Brown – Cardinal Finance


Greg is a CFO for hire with clients that include investors and entrepreneurs. Beyond his day job, Greg founded the Charlotte Angel Fund; a group of investors interested in early stage startups in a variety of industries. Charlotte Angel Fund is constantly screening applicants and has a fairly straightforward process.

(4) Terry Cox – BIG


Serves as president and CEO of Business Innovation Growth (BIG), a nonprofit membership organization that helps entrepreneurs.

(5) Bryan Delaney – Skookum


Between Nightshift, Friday Tech Talks, and other community initiatives, Skookum is a solid ally to the Charlotte entrepreneur and intrapreneur alike — and shout-out to Brian Robertson for leading many of these initiatives. The Space Volcano (office nickname) continues to be a place where out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged and where resources often spill out into the community.


(6) Ric Elias – Red Ventures


Sure, we’re all familiar with Red Ventures, but it’s exciting to see Ric enable RV’s entrepreneurial employees to bring ideas to market. For example, Red Ventures has backed GoodCall (a startup that helps students find scholarships) led by Eppie Vojt.

red ventures main charlotte office

(7) Tyler Ford – Industry Coworking


Leader of Industry Coworking (located at NC Music Factory) where he provides space, community and resources to a diverse group of startups. CA Story: Industry Coworking continues to build community while becoming sneaky huge (25 photos).

charlotte startups at industry coworking

(8) Louis Foreman – Enventys and Edison Nation


Did you know we have a world-renowned, Emmy-winning-show-producing company in Charlotte? Second question, are you an inventor? The team at Eventys can help you figure out if your product has legs, help you create it with their arsenals of 3D printers, and even produce your infomercial. CA Story: Cribs – 29 photos from inside the Innovation Factory.

charlotte startup innovation office

(9) Juan Garzon – Garzon Company


A constant resource and advocate for local startups, Juan helps our community with communication and pitch strategy. He’s also behind Pitch Breakfast. Fun fact: Juan has four children.

(10) Chris Halligan – Payzer and IDEA Fund Partners


Chris acts as a formal and informal advisor to many Charlotte startups. Very successful track record with companies like Dell and webMethods. Watch: Why OtherScreen failed? (outstanding presentation)

(11) Vic Howie – Merrill Lynch and U.S. National Whitewater Center


Engine behind Pitch Breakfast and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Watch: Whitewater, wine and the napkin (TEDx talk).

(12) Betsy Idilbi – Tech Talent South


Tech Talent South trains wannabe-developers and (after 8 weeks), gives them the ability to build their own MVP (minimum viable product).

(13) Renee Hode – CPCC


Serves as the executive director of the Small Business Center at Central Piedmont Community College.

(14) David Jones – Peak 10


Chairman and CEO of Peak 10, angel investor, Charlotte technology advocate and Board of Trustees at Queens University of Charlotte. David was one of our city’s first highly successful technology entrepreneurs.

(15) Mac Lackey – KYCK


Mac has founded, Mountain Khakis, ettain group, and served for six years on the LendingTree board of directors. He advises Charlotte entrepreneurs and writes about startup topics on his blog,


(16) Hannah Levinson – Davidson College


Serves as the director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Davidson College. Passionate leader of student entrepreneurship.

(17) Henry Rock – City Startup Labs


City Startup Labs is a 15-week bootcamp for adult African American men to learn how to research, plan, launch and operate their own ventures. The one thing that stands out about Henry and CSL is how accessible he and the business is: With one click, you can schedule a meeting with Henry himself.

(18) Susan Patterson – The Knight Foundation


The Knight Foundation is a huge supporter (read: funding resource) for entrepreneurs in the arts, community, journalism and media space. The Knight Cities Challenge just closed their application window, however that isn’t the only way to get their attention. Susan is retiring and the Knight Foundation has posted her job (incredible opportunity).

(19) Don Rainey – Grotech Ventures


General partner at Grotech Ventures (VC firm). Startup author on Business Insider and other media outlets.

(20) Dan Roselli – Packard Place


Co-founder and managing director of incubators QCFinTech and RevTechLabs. Co-founder of Packard Place, which hosts all type of entrepreneurial programming. Arguably the most influential member of the Charlotte startup community. CA Story: How I work, Dan Roselli.

demo day startups charlotte

(21) Paul Solitario – Cerium Capital, LLC & International ThermoDyne, Inc.


Paul helped start Charlotte Entrepreneurial Alliance (CEA) and Charlotte Regional Fund for Entrepreneurship (CRFE). Paul also started both Wed3 (angel group) and Charlotte Regional Technology Executives Council.

(22) Charles Thomas – Queen City Forward


Queen City Forward runs multiple accelerators every year for social entrepreneurs that attracts attention (and potentially investment). On top of that, Charles and his team host consistent events to help those looking to start something of their own get inspired, connected and motivated.


(23) Jim Van Fleet – Startup Weekend and Levvel


Jim’s been a part of Charlotte startups like TradeKing and OtherScreen. If you’re in the Charlotte startup community, you know Jim (and you miss his newsletter).

(24) Paul Wentenhall – UNC Charlotte and Venturprise


Behind UNCC’s entrepreneurial programing, VenturePrise hosts a selection of programs for the entrepreneur ranging from funding opportunities to physical work space (shout-out to Devin Collins for making this happen). Also, here is a great list of startup resources that the UNC Charlotte team has put together. 

(25) Keva Walton – Charlotte Chamber


Leads strategic partnerships and diversity at the Charlotte Chamber.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Charlotte.

More Charlotte stories