Jan 24, 2017 - Business

The 13 CEOs that matter in Charlotte’s high-growth technology scene



While Charlotte’s early stage startup scene continues to try to find its footing, high growth technology companies are growing, fast.

Charlotte’s elite will change from bankers to technologist over the next decade.

Being a business town, these technology business leaders will be recruiting talent, developing talent, increasing our city’s wealth – and leaving their imprint on Charlotte’s culture.

For example, Hugh McColl has given his time, treasure and talent to Charlotte’s art scene. Where will somebody like Ric Elias give his time, treasure and talent?

Here’s a list of the 13 CEOs that matter to the future of Charlotte. You probably don’t know them, but you should.

Tresata’s office in South End

Abhishek Mehta | CEO at Tresata

What does Tresata do? Monetize big data with smart software to crunch all your internal data and all your social data.

Approximate # of Tresata employees: 40

Age: 38

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Current neighborhood: Dilworth


  • Undergraduate Degree – Bachelors in Economics, Statistics, Accounting & Law
  • Professional Degree – Chartered Accountant (what we call CPA in the US)
  • Masters – Banking Management (UVA + CBA)
  • Research – MIT (Mobile Payments, Consumer Behavior Analytics)

1st Job: Associate at Arthur Andersen

Job before current position: Managing Director, Bank of America

Top thing to look for when hiring: Hunger to learn

Agenda story: Inside Tresata’s stunning new office in South End

Bob Youakim | CEO at Passport

What does Passport do? Technology company that specializes in business applications and payments for the public and private sector. Their product lines include parking payments, transit payments and enforcement and permit management.

Approximate # of Passport employees: 50

Age: 38

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Current neighborhood: Steele Creek on Lake Wylie


  • Undergraduate – University of Illinois, B.S.
  • Graduate – Northwestern University, MBA

1st Job: “I started my career in consulting helping companies integrate systems and processes
resulting from a merger or acquisition”

Job before current position: Vice President in the Investment Banking division of Wells Fargo Securities

Top thing to look for when hiring: A track record of perseverance

Agenda Story: Charlotte startup Passport lands $8 million funding round

Daniel McCollum | CEO at Torrent Consulting

What does Torrent Consulting do? Help organizations align their culture and business processes with technology to best serve employees and customers.

Approximate # of Torrent Consulting employees: 50

Age: 38

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Current neighborhood: Wilmore


  • Undergraduate – BS in Computer Science at Liberty University

1st Job: Repairing computers in high school

Job before current position: Consulting Director at Apparo

Top thing to look for when hiring: “Core value alignment – I’m looking to see if someone aligns to our 6 core values that we have at Torrent. I’m also looking to see if someone is interested in coming to Torrent because they want to make an impact in the world through business.”

Agenda Story: This consulting firm plans to double in size in its South End office

Jon West | CEO at AddShoppers

What does AddShoppers do? Make on-site marketing easy and measurable as email marketing and simplify the process for marketers to distribute campaigns on their digital properties.

Approximate # of AddShopper employees: 30

Age: 32

Hometown: Army brat, closest thing is Cherryville, NC

Current neighborhood: Uptown


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems from Appalachian State University

1st Job: Office Assistant turned Web Designer at FleetNet America

Job before current position: Co-founder of 3tailer

Top thing to look for when hiring: “When hiring leaders in functional areas it’s ‘I would work for this person.’ When hiring role players it’s all about hustle.”

Ric Elias | CEO at Red Ventures

What does Red Ventures do? Technology driven marketing and sales services.

# of employees at Red Ventures: 3,000+

Age: 49

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Current neighborhood: Quail Hollow


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Accounting from Boston College
  • Graduate – MBA from Harvard Business School

1st Job: General Electric’s financial management program

Job before current position: CUC International/Cedant (NOT SURE POSITION?)

Top thing to look for when hiring:

Fun Fact: He was a survivor of Flight 1549

Agenda Story: Go inside Red Ventures with our 31 photo campus tour

Michael Praeger | CEO at AvidXchange

What does AvidXchange do? Help companies pay their bills by automating invoice and bill payment processing

# of AvidXchange employees: 800+

Age: 49

Hometown: Sheboygan, WI

Current neighborhood: Lake Norman


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Finance from Georgetown University
  • Executive Entrepreneurship Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

1st Job: Lifeguarding on Elkhart Lake, WI

Job before current position: Co-Founder and Managing Directory of MTS / Planet Resume (software company helping companies streamline the hiring of technology skill set workers).

Top thing to look for when hiring: Passion to make a difference.

Agenda Story: Go inside AvidXchange to learn about paying bills, ping pong and exec meetings

James Hartsell | CEO at Skookum

# of Skookum employees: 60

Age: 36

Hometown: Locust, NC

Current neighborhood: Concord, NC

Education: UNC Charlotte

1st Job: Worked on my dad’s framing crew as soon as I could swing a hammer.

Job before current position: Worked for a DoD contractor, Titan, building software.

Top thing to look for when hiring: “At Skookum we look for employees that embody our core values. Choose to be happy; people who believe life is too short to be unhappy and won’t tolerate negativity. Embrace change; people that believe we live in a fast changing world, and that what works today will not work tomorrow. Own it; people who never say “That’s not my job.” and who take responsibility. Simplify and go; people who ship.”

Joe Giordano | CEO at Payzer

What does Payzer do? All-in-one financial tool that offers mobile and online payments, automatic payment plans, instant financing and more.

Approximate # of employees at Payzer: 40


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Information Systems and Economics from James Madison University
  • Graduate – MBA from George Washington University

1st Job: Mobil Oil

Job before current position: Payments Strategy and Development Executive at Bank of America

Agenda Story: Payzer, the fast-growing Charlotte startup you’ve never heard of, is hiring in sales and tech

Mike Feldman | CEO at T1V, Inc

Approximate # of employees at T1V: 40

Age: 54

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Current neighborhood: Huntersville, NC


  • Undergraduate – Bacherlor’s in Electrical Engineering from Duke University
  • Graduate – PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of California, San Diego

1st Job: “Working for my parents at their clothing store, sorting hangers (I got $1 per box!)”

Job before current position: CTO, Digital Optics Corporation (DOC)

Top thing to look for when hiring: “Enthusiasm, their ability to see the big picture, and being a team player. We’re trying to build something special here, so it’s important that they understand that.”

John Stewart | CEO at MapAnything

What does MapAnything do? Develops a suite of Geolocation Software for Field Sales & Service

Age: 42

Hometown: New York City


  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute, BS Mechanical Engineering

1st job: Dishwasher in a Pizza Restaurant at 13

Job before MapAnything: President of Saber Design & Analysis Services

Top qualities you look for in a new hire: Creativity and Work Ethic. I like hard working people that can think independently and “outside the box”

# of employees at MapAnything: 145

Agenda Story: MapAnything is making a killing by being the best app in the business world

John Espey | CEO of Levvel

# of employees at Levvel: 90 (including their Australia team and paystream advisers subsidiary)

Age: 40

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Current Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood


  • Undergraduate – Bachelors in Decision Sciences/MIS from George Mason University
  • Graduate – MBA from Duke University

1st job: Cook at Fast Food Restaurant

Job before Levvel: Founder of Reward Summit, a credit card marketing platform that I ultimately shut down

Top qualities you look for in a new hire: “I look for intellectual curiosity, professional pride, and a passion to solve business problems with technology.”

Doug Lebda | CEO at LendingTree

What does LendingTree do? Online loan marketplace with one of the largest networks of lenders in the nation.

# of employees at LendingTree: Less than 500

Age: 47

Current neighborhood: Quail Hollow


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Bucknell University
  • Graduate – MBA from University of Virginia

1st Job and the job he held before his current position: Auditor and Consultant for PwC

Fun Fact: Doug’s annual salary is $1.67 million (Y Finance).

Agenda Story: LendingTree: 2 kegs are cool, but the stock price growth is cooler

Dan Rutledge | CEO at SignUpGenuis

What does SignUpGenius do? Takes away the hassle of organizing groups with online sign up tools

Approximate # of employees at SignUpGenius: 30

Age: 44

Current neighborhood: Ballantyne


  • Undergraduate – Bachelor’s in Communications and Film/Video Studies from University of Michigan
  • Graduate – Masters in Communication: Directing & Editing from Regent University

1st Job: Web Development and Video Director at Spotlight Media

Job before current position: VP of Film & Internet at Skylark

Fun Fact: Dan built the first version of SignUpGenius after failing to organize snacks for his kids’ soccer team


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