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Charlotte’s Demo Day lets startup talent shine

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/20/19/48/XSOfu.Em.138.jpeg|447
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Kate McCarthy, CEO of ItsYourVet gives her company's presentation during DemoDay at Packard Place's RevTech Labs on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/20/19/48/1t6F6n.Em.138.jpeg|218
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Dan Roselli, center, co-founder of Packard Place, talks with Bill Craver, financial adviser for Circle River Advisors in Charlotte, and Bob Dunn, strategy adviser and investor for Dunn Growth Investors in Waxhaw, during a break in DemoDay at Packard Place’s RevTech Labs on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/20/19/48/QZuLf.Em.138.jpeg|419
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Reg Gabriel, CEO of SKoolAide Academic Performance program gives his company's presentation during DemoDay at Packard Place's RevTech Labs on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Nine startups, hailing from around the nation, came to Charlotte for training under Amish Shah, a venture capitalist who helped create an index fund for people to invest in the early-stage companies -- the first of its kind in North Carolina.

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At Demo Day last year, Amish Shah saw potential.

At Demo Day this year, he saw polish, resonant pitches and nine companies poised to make it big.

More than 200 entrepreneurs, potential investors and corporate-types gathered Tuesday afternoon on the fifth floor of uptown startup hub Packard Place to see the third class of companies emerge from the intensive 12-week RevTech Labs program.

The program, which got more than 100 applicants, entitles a select group of startup founders to four months of free workspace and mentoring, as they develop their products, nail their presentations and shore up their business models.

Shah, founding partner of Charlotte-based Sierra Maya Ventures, one of the world’s top-ranked seed venture funds, is their lead adviser.

Shah says after Demo Day last year – his first introduction to Packard Place – he saw in RevTech an opportunity to raise the profile of Charlotte’s up-and-coming startup scene. And this year’s class didn’t disappoint.

The companies ran the gamut from a mobile-gaming platform founded by a developer and Hollywood screenwriter ( Kydaemos) to an app that helps professionals save and share restaurant recommendations ( Paradine) to a company that lets veterinarians offer tele-medical services and conduct consultations for cash ( ItsYourVet).

Many of them already have customers and a revenue stream.

Three of the companies attended TechCrunch Disrupt, a NYC-based conference that’s a magnet for angel investors, venture capitalists and the strongest up-and-coming tech startups.

And, announced at Demo Day, Charlotte-based eCampus – an online tool that helps college students find compatible roommates, sell textbooks and connect with classmates who have similar interests – will be only the 20th company and first in the Southeast to make it on WeFunder, an exclusive crowdfunding platform for accredited investors.

Thousands of companies apply to be on WeFunder every month, Shah said, because more than 28,000 accredited investors use it to fund promising companies.

The companies like eCampus that make it through the vetting process are “like a Porsche,” Shah said. “Got to be good.”

And now, accredited investors eying RevTech companies have a new way to fund their operations: a 506(c) index fund created by Shah and Dan Roselli, founder of Packard Place.

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 $10,000 across all nine companies, increasing their chances of a higher return.

The fund will be open until Friday, Shah said.

Companies are allowed to use the funds for everything from office space and hiring, to product development and marketing.

After eCampus co-founders Justin Gaither and Dan Thibodeau, the final presenters, stepped out of the spotlight, the audience gave all of the RevTech companies a round of applause that echoed in the room.

And Shah, watching from the sidelines, teared up.

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