Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Charlotte, NC


Charlotte, NC, nicknamed the Queen City, tops the charts as one of the best cities to start a business in with #3 rank on both Wallethub and CNBC in 2017.

Charlotte, NC is the largest city in the state of North Carolina. Known as the Queen City, it also earned the nickname “The Hornet’s Nest” during the Revolutionary War. The city is also one of the nation’s best for entrepreneurs: in 2017, Charlotte ranked #3 on WalletHub’s list of the best large cities to start a business and on CNBC’s list of the 15 best cities in America to start a business.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Charlotte’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

This branch of the nationwide 1 Million Cups Network organizes meetups to educate entrepreneurs and provide networking opportunities over great coffee.

A branch of Business Network International, Ballantyne at 9 is industry exclusive, so once you become a member, your competitors cannot.

A group with 2 monthly meetings for members to connect with like-minded professionals, centered around the concept of “Giver’s Gain”.

Networking group for Charlotte business professionals to meet over lunch and make valuable connections.

Designed for people running businesses on their own to meet and discuss topics specific to micro-business and solopreneurs.

Facilitates connection between entrepreneurs and business owners in the Charlotte area with the goal to contribute to mutual success.

Offers education to anyone, from kids to entrepreneurs, with an interest in the tech industry.

Active networking group for entrepreneurs in the Queen City area that meets regularly but does not require annual dues.

Regular meetups for members, who are referred to as “GRIT”, to network and help one another reach their goals.

Men and women alike are welcome to join these female-focused networking events.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Charlotte is one of the host cities for Digital Summit, a conference series focusing on new and emerging technologies.

Teams use technology to solve a problem in a competition for cash prizes at this annual event.

On the second Wednesday of every month, several companies have the chance to give a 5-minute presentation about their business and get feedback from a panel of experts.

The Charlotte chapter of Startup Grind hosts monthly events where successful entrepreneurs hold a “fireside chat” to help others find the same success they did.

Charlotte organizes several independent TED events. While speakers are not allowed to give speeches plugging their businesses, many speakers have entrepreneurial experience.


Startup Competitions:

Organized by Girls Pursuing Science, BOS helps girls from ages 9-21 improve their entrepreneurial skills and compete for investments.

Entrepreneurs with technology-related business ideas compete for cash prizes awarded by the judges or through the audience choice award.

An annual startup competition in which early-stage high growth companies compete for over $150,000 in cash prizes.


Co-working Spaces:

In addition to co-working space, Advent also offers free yoga classes, an art gallery, and a podcasting studio.

Located 15 minutes away from Uptown, alt-biz offers a different location than many of Charlotte’s co-working spaces.

Bijou sets itself apart from other workspaces by encouraging members to bring their dogs to work.

Blanq Canvass offers co-working space and hosts regular events to facilitate networking and growth opportunities.

Offers several membership levels and includes a lounge with a ping pong table for members.

Hygge has 3 locations around Charlotte. The West Charlotte location boasts a professional podcasting studio for rent.

Industrious Office has locations across the country, including one in Charlotte just down the road from Spectrum Center.

8,000 square feet of offices and co-working space located in a renovated textile mill.

Members at any level enjoy access to The Launch Factory’s regularly scheduled lectures and workshops.

Just as with Industrious Office, Uptown Charlotte is home to one of Level’s many locations nationwide.

Their mission is to “Put Charlotte First” by providing co-working areas, private offices, and event space.

The WeWork location in Charlotte includes an on-site fitness center.


Maker spaces:

Located in UNC Charlotte’s J. Murrey Atkins Library, the Atkins Makerspace is open to UNCC students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to co-working space, C3Lab also offers an artist studio/makerspace to give people a chance to create.

A place for technology-focused people and entrepreneurs to meet and collaborate.

A makerspace in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library that encourages visitors to get “creatively messy”.

Hosts regular events for makers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and creative types to learn and work on projects.



Helps students at UNC Charlotte start and grow their startups through an incubator program that lasts up to 18 months.

A small business incubator in Charlotte that fosters a sense of community for its clients.

A 3 month incubator program for early-stage mobile, software, and web companies in the Charlotte area.

A combination incubation program and competition, SEED20 helps nonprofits grow over a 2 month period, after which the nonprofits compete for funding.


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A hybrid between an accelerator and incubator, CSL helps young African-American men and women create and grow their startups and small businesses.

A 90-day accelerator program for post-revenue cleantech startups around the southeast United States.

Accelerator program aimed at financial technology startups that provides mentorship, networking, and capital.


Find My Accelerator Tool can help ease the confusion related to the selection of an accelerator for your startup. It’s FREE, try it now!



CPCC’s Small Business Center offers courses, seminars and workshops, counseling, and a certificate program.

Located just north of Charlotte, Davidson College offers a number of resources to aspiring entrepreneurs through their Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

JWU offers a bachelor’s degree in Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship.

Queens University offers a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the McColl School of Business offers several resources to students interested in entrepreneurship.

UNCC’s Belk College of Business offers a graduate certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Charlotte is home to one location of the Capitala Group, which provides capital to lower- and middle-market companies throughout North America.

Located in Charlotte, Carousel Capital is open to investing in business, consumer, and healthcare service companies around the southeastern United States.

Invests in early-stage companies located in North Carolina and its contiguous states.

Headquartered in North Carolina, Dragonfly Capital works with companies in a variety of industries in both the United States and Canada.

Invests in software tech-enabled business service companies that have a revenue between $10 and $30 million.

Invests in lower middle market businesses in the industries of business and technology services, communications, and healthcare.

A middle-market private equity firm focused on companies in the energy, healthcare, and technology and telecommunications industries.

A venture capital firm that looks to invest in early- and seed-stage companies in technology or technology-enabled business sectors.


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Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Their goal is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners network and make connections.

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization has 170 chapters across the world, including one in Charlotte.

A weekly newsletter from StartCharlotte, an organization that covers startup news in the Queen City.

Ventureprise is UNC Charlotte’s effort to help local entrepreneurs succeed, and it is home to the 49er Foundry Student Incubator.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Charlotte not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

San Diego, California, Cincinnati, OhioAustin, Texas

Article by Quinn Pilkey

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.