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New investor fund to benefit local startup incubator

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com

Three years ago, Charlotte’s entrepreneurial leaders united with a common goal: Stop the bleeding, said Dan Roselli, founder of Packard Place.

The Queen City was regularly losing entrepreneurs to cities such as San Francisco, New York City and Boston – places flush with startup infrastructure and early-stage investors.

But at a roundtable Monday afternoon at uptown startup hub Packard Place, it was evident that the tables had turned: Not only are local startup founders hunkering down in Charlotte, founders of promising ventures – and the investors that fund them – from around the nation are giving the city a shot.

Look no further than the third class of RevTech Labs, Packard Place’s 12-week startup incubator and accelerator program. For the first time, eight of the 10 participating companies are from outside the Charlotte region, hailing from Silicon Valley, New York, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

And now, accredited investors eying RevTech companies have a new way to fund their operations: a 506(c) index fund created by Dan Roselli of Packard Place and Amish Shah of Sierra Maya Ventures. Shah, who moved to Charlotte in 2008, runs a venture capital firm that was recently ranked as one of the top early-stage firms in the world.

The fund will allow accredited investors – with either an annual income of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million – to invest a minimum of $2,500 across all 10 companies, increasing their chances of a higher return, Roselli said.

Companies are allowed to use the funds however they’d like, Shah said.

“For office space, to hire, for product development, for marketing ... or any other aspect for fundraising,” Shah said.

The RevTech program offers participating startups 4,000 square feet of free shared workspace, mentorship and programming, such as speaker sessions with local business leaders.

The program will culminate with a Demo Day on May 20, where the startups can connect with local and regional investors and customers.

RevTech is designed to be intensive.

“For those of you who don’t like working on the weekends, that’s going to change,” said Shah, who emphasized the importance of responding to messages from potential investors and advisers quickly – as in, within the hour.

Jake Farmakis of New York City applied to the program after he saw Shah on CNBC.

“There’s a lot of chatter about Charlotte up in New York,” said Farmakis, whose startup, Paradine, is designed to change the way professionals save and share restaurant recommendations.

More than 130 startups from a dozen countries applied to the RevTech program, Roselli said.

“This is a game-changer for our ecosystem,” he said.

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045; Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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