And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this.
Much like Raleigh was, well, picked on over and over again for trying to build a startup community around its foundation of corporate suits and public sector roots, Charlotte has to bring what it has to the table and build something different. It's not going to look like Silicon Valley, or New York, or even Durham. And that's totally the way it should be.
There is no direct path or step-by-step plan to build a startup community in a place where one doesn't exist. In fact, technically, there's no such thing as building a startup community. It's already there. Any added involvement should go into identifying, connecting, assisting, and then strengthening the players.
A pat on the back and declarations of "you are the future of this economy" are one thing. Seed money and a bunch of mentoring given to young people based on the viability of their business model is another.
Guess which one is inherently far more valuable. Hint: It's the one with the money.
So with that I bring you the SHAPE Charlotte business model competition for 18-30-year-old entrepreneurs living and working within the confines of Charlotte's Meckelenberg County. There's an information session Tuesday, September 25th at 6:00 p.m., and applications are due October 10th.
The basic premise is for aspiring entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to the table, and I like the fact that they tie this competition to tackling the problem of youth unemployment, since my premise is that this whole startup thing is not a craze, but an evolution.
The collection of ideas will then be whittled down and converted to plans and/or models with the help of mentors. Videos will be made and five-minute presentations will be delivered to a panel of judges that include Peak 10's David Jones and Yap's Igor Jablokov. The top two get the cash and additional help to launch their business.
So it really doesn't matter what the makeup of the organization is, or for that matter what the city is known for or not known for. The startups are there, and they need every little bit of support they can get. This is that.
Therefore, it shouldn't make a bit of difference that there aren't enough T-shirts and hoodies in the mix.
Why, I remember just a few short years ago, seriously, like 2009, when outside of the NC IDEA Grant (which is state-wide anyway), the only way an early-stage startup in the Triangle got any attention was through these same types of business plan competitions where the prize was a few connections to lawyers, accountants, and maybe an investor or two.
Today, entrepreneurs are flocking here from all over the country to be a part of a vibrant, inclusive, and seriously passionate startup community.
You've got to start somewhere.
A great place to start is spreading the word about events like these and anything else that remotely smells like this. Sure, it's our job at ExitEvent to be on top of startup stuff in developing startup communities before anyone else -- so we'll jump the gun at the first gun-jumpable moment. But a word to all you friends of the startup community in Charlotte, $15K and mentoring sure sounds legit to me.