Good ideas can be found in many places. Unfortunately, the process of making a good idea into a successful company requires capital, which has historically been limited for the majority of people both in Charlotte and across the nation.
"The community is ready to invest in Charlotte."
A recent report by Babson College found that only 2.7% of VC funded companies were led by a female CEO. Other research shows that a very small fraction of VC funded companies were founded by African Americans. There is a also a lack of diversity among angel investors. In 2014 only 26% of angels were women, while minority angels accounted for less than 10% of the angel population.
Moreover, Charlotte has its own unique challenges. In the 2015 Report on the Impact of Innovation sponsored by the CRFE, the following issues were identified regarding the Queen City:
- Charlotte's innovation capacity substantially lags behind benchmark metros: at $17 per capita, it is about one-tenth of the lowest benchmark, Kansas City. If Charlotte matched Kansas City per capita results, Charlotte would have an additional $280 million of R&D spending.
- Charlotte's angel investing is happening at smaller scale than is seen in several nearby metros.
- If Charlotte companies obtained venture capital at a rate similar to Atlanta, Charlotte metro companies would receive an additional annual investment of $158 million.
One hypothesis regarding the roots of the issue is that Charlotte's history as a corporate and banking town makes it less open to innovation and to early stage investing. Often described as risk averse, this culture may create misalignment and misunderstanding of the motivations and incentives among key players to include business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. This unfortunately, lends itself to a clear disconnect between the risk-driven culture of entrepreneurs and the risk-averse environment of some established companies.
This gap between corporate and entrepreneurial ecosystems makes it difficult for small businesses and investors to cross-pollinate and share ideas and resources. There undoubtedly needs to be more intentionality and opportunity in connecting these ecosystems.
We strongly believe that the community is ready to invest in Charlotte. Our job is to make sure that this readiness will transform into action.