Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Winston-Salem, NC


Winston-Salem, NC is North Carolina’s fifth-largest city. The City of Arts & Innovation, as it is sometimes known, is also home to a number of successful businesses outside of the tobacco industry, including Krispy Kreme, Hanesbrands, and BB&T.

Winston-Salem, NC, perhaps best known as the home of Wake Forest University and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, is the state’s fifth-largest city. The City of Arts & Innovation, as it is sometimes known, is also home to a number of successful businesses outside of the tobacco industry, including Krispy Kreme, Hanesbrands, and BB&T.

As a whole, Winston-Salem is a promising place for entrepreneurs, ranking 34th on WalletHub’s 2018 list of the best large cities to start a business. In 2016, both Winston-Salem and nearby Greensboro, NC made the list of the top 10 cities with the lowest startup costs. Greensboro also made the 2017 edition. Finally, in 2017 the online Verizon newsletter ranked Winston-Salem as the third-best US city for young IT professionals.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Winston-Salem’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Located in Greensboro, the Business LifeStyle Club is a way for business-minded people to make personal and professional connections through meetups and travel.

Innovators & Entrepreneurs of Winston-Salem is a large networking group that meets on a monthly basis to help professionals and entrepreneurs grow their networks.

Winston-Salem is home to one branch of Startup Grind, a global community that hosts monthly events supporting entrepreneurs in a number of locations.

There are a number of Real Estate Deal Makers Session meetups in the Triad area, including Winston-Salem, High Point, Kernersville, and Greensboro.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Hosted by the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, the Annual Meeting Luncheon is a collection of entrepreneurs and businesses during which a pair of awards are given out.

A joint venture between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Wake Forest University, the Entrepreneurial Librarian Conference is held on a semi-annual basis.

Salem College, a women’s college in Winston-Salem, hosts an annual single-day event to support women’s personal and professional growth.

The Triad Developers Conference is a large annual conference in which software developers from the Triad area and beyond gather.

Held annually, the Triad Minority & Women’s Business Expo supports small business and entrepreneurship from minorities and women.


Startup Competitions:

Every year, students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro compete for cash and in-kind prizes by pitching their business ideas for just two minutes.

The New Ventures Challenge is an annual competition that awards up to eight winners with investment as well as enrollment in the Flywheel New Ventures Accelerator program.

The city of Winston-Salem hosts an annual competition in which two area entrepreneurs can win grant and loan money to start their small businesses.


Co-working Spaces:

Hosted by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, Collab offers over 4,000 square feet of desk space as well as conference rooms and classrooms.

With locations in Davidson, NC as well as Winston-Salem, Flywheel offers a number of flexible membership plans as well as events and benefits for members.

HQ Greensboro is a co-working space that places an emphasis on community and helping its members grow through networking and collaboration.

Regus’ Winston-Salem location is in St. George Square and offers flexible membership plans including offices of varying sizes.


Maker Spaces:

Forge Greensboro is a large maker space that has a number of dedicated labs, including 3D printing and electronics, a metal shop, a woodshop and more.

Mixxer is a community maker space open to the public five days a week, with additional days and hours for registered members.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Jackson Library offers a number of spaces available for reservation, including one with a 3D printer and other 3D design equipment.



An incubator program for both branding and business, 100watt works with startups and entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground and promote them successfully.

The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship is a Greensboro-based incubator that provides working space and a number of services to help support entrepreneurship and small business.

The Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation is a non-profit that aims to support business leaders build the area around Winston-Salem State University.

The city of Wake Forest’s Small Business Center offers a number of services to support and grow local small businesses.



Rather than focusing on one specific idea, Creative Startups’ 8-week accelerator program is designed to help creative entrepreneurs grow and create long-term.

With the members chosen through a competition, the Flywheel New Ventures Accelerator is an exclusive and prestigious startup accelerator located in Winston-Salem.

StartUp Lab at Wake Forest University connects student teams with coaching and mentorship as well as class credit and potential access to capital.



In addition to their entrepreneurship curriculum, Forsyth Technical Community College offers a number of programs and offices to support entrepreneurship and small business.

Piedmont International University offers grants to students and alumni that plan to launch a non-profit organization in Winston-Salem.

Salem College’s Center for Women in Entrepreneurship hosts a number of programs and events designed to support the women of Salem College and the community as a whole.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an undergraduate major in entrepreneurship as well as other resources to support student innovation.

The Wake Forest Center for Entrepreneurship provides students with a number of opportunities and resources both inside and outside of the classroom, including a minor.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Open to investing throughout the United States but focusing on western North Carolina, Diōko Ventures targets early-stage healthcare services and technology companies.

Five Points Capital is a private equity manager that supports the capital needs of lower-middle-market companies in the United States.

The Piedmont Angel Network that invests in early-stage companies in the southeast region, with a particular focus on the Piedmont Triad in North Carolina.

Piedmont Venture Capital is a privately-owned investment firm that funding to early-stage and growth-stage companies in the technology, SaaS, medical device and energy industries.

A member of the VentureSouth network of investors and venture capital firms, VentureSouth Piedmont’s regional focus is the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Business North Carolina, a major magazine covering business news from around the state, offers a daily digest with headlines and news.

The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce has three online newsletters, each focusing on specific aspects of the chamber’s business.

Piedmont Local offers a number of e-mail updates on a variety of topics in the region, including business news and events.

The Triad Business Journal offers a variety of newsletters covering business news and events from the Piedmont Triad region.

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

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Louisville, KY, Tulsa, OK, Raleigh, NC

Image source: flickr.com/photos/tweber/2914950511 

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.