Charlotte entrepreneurs graduating from the City Startup Labs program took the stage to pitch their businesses last night.
The budding entrepreneurs pitched eight business ideas to a panel of judges looking for five winning ideas. The five winning ventures received cash prizes, co-working space at HQ Charlotte, tech and legal support, as well as a spot in City Startup Labs’ final phase of the program — the incubator module.
Henry Rock, the program’s founder and executive director, moderated the evening at UNC Charlotte’s uptown center. Rock presented graduating students with certificates at the end of the night to mark the end of the 2016 program.
City Startup Labs is a program designed to help black male millennials succeed as entrepreneurs — or to think like an entrepreneur within a larger company. The program plays a role in Charlotte’s larger entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is in need of millennial talent and diversity.
Rock launched the program originally as a pilot with the Urban League of Central Carolinas in 2014. Since then, the program has gained support from multiple sponsors and partners including the Knight Foundation, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Google Fiber, HQ Charlotte, Trinsik Labs, HB5 and others.
Community leaders including Mayor Jennifer Roberts; Paul Wetenhall, Ventureprise president; Charles Thomas, program director of the Knight Foundation; and Dan Roselli, co-founder of Packard Place came to hear the business pitches.
The startups ranged from an apparel company for poker players to a ride-sharing platform.
But Aaron Galloway stole the show with his startup Infinigift. Galloway took home the top prize of $5,000 Wednesday night for his platform that makes giving financial investments as gifts easier. Travis Jackson won the “fan favorite” prize in addition to one of the spots in the incubator for his company HBCU Pride Nation, a platform to increase support of and awareness for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities communities.
The other three ventures chosen to partake in the incubator were Sponsoon, a tool for event managers founded by Issa Hall and Quentin Williams; Beautictionary, founded by Cortney Crape; and MarketMadness, an investing tool that “demystifies the stock market,” founded by Lee Cooley.
The evening’s judges were Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund administrator; Jay Bendis, Bendis Management; Manwell Bynum, Connectivity Concepts; Marilyn Carpenter, Product Stack; and Sid Bernstein of Score.
To kick off the night, Davon Bailey, co-founder and CEO of EatWorkPlay CLT, shared his experience as a City Startup Labs alum. He says the program helped his city guide and lifestyle brand take shape and lift off the ground. Today, his brand for millennials has over 36,000 followers on Instagram.
“Henry Rock is an amazing instructor and one of the best teachers I’ve had in my life,” Bailey told me earlier this summer. “You can tell he really cares about what he is doing. He holds students accountable.”
For more about City Startup Labs, check out our Q&A with Rock here.
From the Charlotte Business Journal:
Hilary Burns, Staff Writer
Charlotte Business Journal
Aug 25, 2016, 12:40pm EDT Updated: Aug 25, 2016, 12:54pm EDT