Up until about five years ago, Charlotte wasn’t a place many people considered as logical to launch a new technology company. “Some tech leaders came forward. They said, ‘We have this tech community, and no one knows we’re here. We’re bleeding talent,’” says Dan Roselli, co-founder and managing director of Queen City Fintech, a business accelerator for financial-technology startups.
Fast forward to 2018, and homegrown companies such as LendingTree and AvidXchange have put the Queen City on the map for financial technology. Roselli, who in 2010 co-founded Packard Place, Charlotte’s original co-working space, wants to promote the city’s developing fintech scene with his latest for-profit venture. Fintech is one of the hottest tech sectors, with more than $12 billion invested in financial-related startups through the third quarter of 2017, according to research firm CB Insights. Queen City Fintech has lined up more than two dozen sponsors, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial.
Here’s how it works: Startups from all over the world apply to become part of a cohort, usually about 10 companies. The startups each receive a $20,000 grant and space in Packard Place for a year. More than 200 mentors advise the startups, including bankers, business-development professionals, venture capitalists and attorneys. Participants attend a 12-week onsite program, ending with a demo day when they pitch their ideas to potential investors. Partner Extended Stay America, a Charlotte-based hotel chain, provides housing, while American Airlines offers flights. Queen City Fintech takes a 6% equity stake in the startups, standard for business-accelerator programs. The group is now recruiting for its eighth class, which will start in March.
Roselli leads a paid staff of four who are hired through the Venture for America program, a fellowship for recent college graduates who want to work at startups. At its inaugural Southeast Fintech Venture Conference in November, 18 companies from across the Southeast and about 10 startups affiliated with Queen City Fintech pitched their ideas to representatives from about three dozen investor firms. In June, Queen City Fintech will hold its third annual Fintech South conference at AvidXchange’s headquarters.
Charlotte still has a long way to go to catch up with tech hotspots such as Boston, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas. “We have a lot of later-stage funding,” Roselli says, adding that fewer firms are willing to make riskier early-stage investments.
“A lot of people don’t understand,” he says. “There’s literally a world-class accelerator for financial technology companies in Charlotte.”
CHARLOTTE — Frontier Capital raised $700 million in its fifth fund, exceeding its initial target of $500 million. The private-equity firm has raised $1.5 billion since it was started in 1999. Frontier invests in middle-market software and business-services companies.
CHARLOTTE — Ally Financial named Jennifer LaClair chief financial officer. She comes from PNC Financial, where she was head of the business bank. LaClair, 46, succeeds Chris Halmy, who is retiring. She will be based in Charlotte, where the Detroit-based lender employs about 1,700.
CONCORD — PreGel will invest $14.4 million to add 110,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space at its local facility. The Italy-based company makes ingredients for gelato, soft-serve ice cream and other confections.
KING MOUNTAIN — Porter’s Group closed its metal-fabrication plant, idling 133 workers. Previously based in Bessemer City, Porter’s Group was acquired by Cleveland-based private-equity firm Resilience Capital Partners in 2015.
MOORESVILLE — Richard Maltsbarger, 42, was named chief operating officer of Lowe’s. He succeeds Rick Damron, 54, who is retiring Feb. 3.