As Charlotte, NC continues to grow so does its perfect ecosystem for entrepreneurship and startups. These resource-rich meeting spots meet all kinds of startup needs- places to network, places to gather new ideas, places to meet, and places to unwind and let loose.
Most everyone in Charlotte’s business world would agree that Packard Place is the place to begin immersing oneself in startup culture. There are tons of resources and social events at this innovation hub, but a great place to start is PitchBreakfast. Join the most active seed stage investors in the southeast as they listen to two-minute elevator pitches. This is a great place to catch up-and-coming ideas and hear valuable feedback. Think of it as a bullpen for startups.
UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise is Charlotte’s newest business-growth hub, and the sleek design of the new PORTAL building makes this a great place to spend time and do work. They also host CEO luncheons where attendees can meet local entrepreneurs who are involved with UNCC in some capacity and hear startup CEO’s speak. Plus, as Blair Rubio of local startup T1Visions said, “It’s nice to stay connected to the local university in any way you can.”
Industry is a shared office environment designed for creatives, technology professionals, freelancers, small businesses and other independent workers. The flexible space offers private offices as well as open workspaces for people to get out of their home office or the coffee shop. This unique atmosphere offers the opportunity to feed off the energy of a dynamic community of people. If your startup doesn’t have a home office yet, or even if you want to schedule a meeting in an impressive spot, Industry Coworking can probably meet your needs. The space also hosts weekly happy hours for members to socialize and let loose.
Skookum Tech Talks
These business technology experts who operate in a spirit of collaborative innovation host the largest technology meetup group in Charlotte. The bi-weekly Tech Talks are laid-back and provide a free lunch to attendees. These topical talks on everything from robotics to Drupal are a perfect opportunity to network and stay up-to-date on what all the local techies are talking about.
Binary Ventures’ Quarterly Tech Mixer
These guys began their quarterly networking night this past May and plan to repeat the event again soon. This mixer offers a more pumped-up version of a networking night with live music and an open bar for those who RSVP.
As the historic arts and entertainment district, the NoDa neighborhood of Charlotte is a social and work hub for startups. The iconic Amelie’s French Bakery focuses on creating a community of patrons where everyone is welcome, which provides a sociable and friendly atmosphere. Creatives, tech types, businessmen and employees all gather together here to unwind and create community. Amelie’s also has a private event space and meeting rooms that can be reserved, and even catered by the bakery. And of course, free WiFi.
Whether a techie or a communicator, everyone needs to get those creative juices flowing now and then. Stop into MoNA Gallery in the NoDa area to clear your head and expand your mind. The gallery features fine art photography by local, regional, national, and international artists, and contemporary art and studio craft by local and regional artists. If you’re lucky, you might pop in and have the whole gallery to yourself. But be sure to also check out the dates of the opening and closing receptions for specific exhibits if you want the vibes of a larger crowd of art aficionados.
Coffee is the lifefuel of any busy entrepreneur, and Dilworth Coffee has it brewed to an art. It’s a great place to swing by and grab a cup to go, but there is also peaceful outdoor seating area for taking a break from the grind. Inside offers a professional but comfortable atmosphere with room for groups. Plus, free WiFi for those who truly never slow down.
To truly get away from the tech talk dip into this small, cozy boozer and be instantly inundated with sports. This international sports bar has a large import and craft beer selection, and full liquor bar. The people around here are truly passionate about soccer, but there’s also plenty of TV’s on which to catch the NHL, NFL, NBA, or MLB. If you want to invite the whole office you can also rent out a private party area on the second floor.
Food Truck Friday in Southend
You’ll want to eat lunch twice at this weekly gathering of some of Charlotte’s best food trucks. After a long workweek, this gathering of local food offers the perfect opportunity to get out of the office and break up a Friday that’s dragging on. The trucks change from week to week depending on availability and offer varying styles of cuisine, so everyone in your group can find something to make them happy. If you really want to celebrate the Friday, you can stop by the Common Market and grab a beer to accompany your lunch.
NoDa Brewing Company
Every Tuesday, this local brewery rolls out a “NoDable” small-batch beer that is exclusive to their taproom, and it is never the same beer twice. This makes for an extensive variety of beers in a local atmosphere that is sure to impress visitors. They also hold regular food truck lunches, live music, and brewery tours. The brewery has limited hours, but the intimate and creative atmosphere makes it impossible not to stop in for a pint.
NoDa Alley Rally
Area 15, at the intersection of 15th Street and North Davidson Street, is another small business incubator and the site of a new, regularly occurring food truck rally this spring and summer. NoDa Alley Rally takes place the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month. Besides the food trucks there is craft beer, live music and plenty of free parking. It’s family-friendly and pet-friendly so you can bring the whole house along. Plus, the rally benefits community organizations such as the Free Store, Optimist Park and Community Gardens.
Though the spaces listed above are widely varied, they all offer a range of benefits to Charlotte startup workers. Sometimes all it takes to get past a brain block is getting out of your standard work space- whether that involves listening to someone else’s ideas, networking, or a grabbing cup of coffee.
Big thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts and ideas for this post: Blair Rubio of T1Visions, Fred Sexton of Mouse and Man, Steve Nolan of Binary Ventures, Steven Sacks of Podanize, Lenore Vassil of The Torch, Paul Wetenhall of Ventureprise Inc., Scott Jermyn of Shomo Live, and Juan Garzon of The Garzon Company.