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CNN shows Charlotte woman's dot-com plan

A Charlotte woman's innovative strategy for nurturing technology talent is the topic for Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America: the New Promised Land - Silicon Valley" at 8 p.m. Sunday on CNN.

Angela Benton, a 30-year-old single mother of three, worked in various Internet ventures in Charlotte, including Lending Tree and American Business Journals.

"I really started becoming more interested in the entrepreneurial end of things and where African-Americans were in that space," she says. "In many of my jobs, I was the only African-American, and the only woman."

O'Brien notes that less than 1percent of venture capital investment in 2010 went to digital start-ups with African-American founders.

Benton founded the NewMe accelerator program, an initiative that brings in people with dot-com ideas and helps them develop them through mentoring and finding venture capital backers.

Her plan, though, came with a twist: In addition to working together, the participants would also live together in a modest home in Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley.

"Not many people got the concept of a start-up house," she says. "We put that residential piece into it."

Benton grew up in Northern Virginia and moved from suburban Washington to the Steele Creek neighborhood of Charlotte six years ago because of the region's lower cost of living.

CNN's cameras followed the experiment in Silicon Valley for nine weeks. Among the participants were a man from Newark who was interested in developing computer games and an Ivy League dropout from New York who founded a music-sharing platform. Other North Carolinian entrepreneurs in the accelerator program were Wayne Sutton of Raleigh and Tiffani Bell of Fayetteville.

Benton says the accelerator experiment was successful. Supported by Google, her program is now accepting applications from entrepreneurs for two cycles next year.

She is now moving to Silicon Valley, where the nation's technology community is centered. Charlotte, she says, has a strong social media community, but doesn't have the structure to support many technological entrepreneurs.

"Good entrepreneurs tend to be relentless and persistent. Many of the people in our program in their own lives have been really persistent in what they want to achieve," she says.

Media Movers

Mark Mathis, former Fox Charotte meteorologist and morning show host, has joined the NBC affiliate in El Paso, Texas, as morning host. After leaving Charlotte last year, Mathis worked briefly at a station in Sacramento before returning to his native Texas. ...

New traffic team rides into WBTV (Channel 3): Katie Garner will take over morning duties, replacing Liz Horton, who has moved to a station in Orlando. Horton, a native of Salisbury, interned in the station's Salisbury bureau with reporter David Whisenant in 2008 while a student at Meredith College in Raleigh. Most recently, she has been working as a stand-in during the filming in Charlotte of the Showtime series "Homeland." Taking over afternoon traffic duties is Charlotte radio personality Tonya Rivens. She replaces Jacinda Garabito, who is moving to Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18). She will take over as weekend meteorologist, replacing Chris Justus, who is moving to Nashville, Tenn. ...

Charlotte adds another homegrown radio show to national syndication. Morning team Erica Parkerson and Eric Calhoun on WRCM-FM ("New Life" 91.9) were picked up this week by a chain of nine stations reaching southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. They show is also carried by a Columbia station. Other morning shows syndicated out of Charlotte include "Bob and Sheri," "Ace & T.J." and "John Boy and Billy." ...

Charlotte's Fonda Bryant will be featured in an episode of "The Will: Family Secrets Revealed," 9 p.m. Wednesday on Investigation Discovery network. Bryant became embroiled in a family dispute over the estate of her father, R&B singer Johnny Taylor. ... Indian Trail champion pizza dough spinner Joey Post was featured Wednesday on Hallmark Channel's "Emeril's Table." ... Stokes County banjo player Sammy Shelor performs on "The David Letterman Show" tonight. Shelor was recently honored with the $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Martin played on the show with The Lonesome River Band, which has another local connection - the band's fiddle player, Mike Hartgrove, is from Albemarle. ...

Adam Richman, host of Travel Channel's "Man v. Food Nation" was in Charlotte last week taping an episode for next season at the Penguin in Plaza Midwood. ... Hiddenite native Annabeth Barnes, 16, has been Kart racing since age 6 and is the focus of "Born to Drive," airing 10 p.m. Wednesdays on Great American Country.

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