Jan 21, 2024 - Business

Why a clean-tech unicorn, with investors like LeBron James and Billie Eilish, chose South End for its new HQ

Palmetto's headquarters in South End in Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Palmetto

Palmetto, a tech company that specializes in software that helps customers adopt renewable energy sources like solar power, has moved its corporate headquarters to South End from Charleston, S.C.

  • Here, it plans to grow its footprint and help position Charlotte as a leader in clean technology.

Why it matters: Palmetto joins a small but growing startup scene in Charlotte. The company’s move here is a nod of confidence in the city’s tech talent pool, too.

  • Palmetto’s selection of South End underscores how the neighborhood remains one of the most intriguing office submarkets in the country. It joins major tech-focused employers in the neighborhood, including Lowe’s.
  • Plus, Palmetto is now one of the city’s few unicorns, meaning it has a valuation of at least $1 billion. Others here include Red Ventures and Tresata.

Driving the news: Late last year, Palmetto began the first phase of opening its offices at 1616 Camden Rd., in a building along the light-rail line that’s also home to tenants such as Leroy Fox. Palmetto is operating in a space that’s just under 7,000 square feet, with plans to expand to more than 16,000 square feet this year, per the company.

  • Palmetto wants to have 100 Charlotte-based employees by the end of this year, too, Charlotte Inno reported. The company currently has about 400 employees overall, per Charlotte Inno.
  • Palmetto is now hiring locally for roles in data science, account management and financing operations.

Of note: Palmetto counts several celebrities among its high-profile investors via the firm Main Street Advisors, Variety reported. Among them: LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter, Drake, Jimmy Iovine and Billie Eilish.

  • Palmetto has raised over $674 million to date, according to the company.

Between the lines: Several things drew Palmetto to Charlotte, including its proximity to universities, talent pool (especially in fields like software and engineering) and transportation/logistics offerings, such as the airport and light rail, according to Chris Kemper, the company’s founder, chairman and CEO.

What they do: Founded in 2009 Palmetto builds technology to help residential and commercial customers start using renewable energy sources in the most cost-efficient way possible, per the company. For homeowners, the goal is to save money on projects like solar installations.

The big picture: Kemper says he hopes Palmetto planting its flag in Charlotte will help the city become a destination for companies that focus on clean energy adoption.

  • “As a starting point, there is not a clean tech center in this country. What we see as a need to start to anchor a presence in the U.S. that can be dubbed as a clean tech center,” he told Axios.

Zoom out: Over the years, the Charlotte region has attracted a growing number of companies focused on clean energy — including EV maker Alpitronic Americas and EV charging company Atom Power. All have cited the area’s tech talent pool as a reason they’re here.

What he’s saying: “I just want to build something valuable by way of our mission,” Kemper told Axios.

Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with more details about how Palmetto operates.

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