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Tech startups showcase their ventures for investors

Kaitlin Krogh, Co-founder and President of Phyrefly starts her presentation as part of Demo Day. The event at UNC Charlotte’s uptown campus spotlighted entrepreneurs who are members of the fourth class of QC FinTech and RevTech Labs, Packard Place's 12-week startup incubator and accelerator program.
Kaitlin Krogh, Co-founder and President of Phyrefly starts her presentation as part of Demo Day. The event at UNC Charlotte’s uptown campus spotlighted entrepreneurs who are members of the fourth class of QC FinTech and RevTech Labs, Packard Place's 12-week startup incubator and accelerator program. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Pacatio is just one of the growing number of tech startups that see big growth opportunities in Charlotte.

Executives of the marketing platform – which combines mobile payments with promotions with loyalty rewards – are moving the company’s headquarters from Panama to Charlotte thanks to investment and educational opportunities here.

“The access to a mentor in the financial services industry is No. 1,” said Caleb Lamb, CEO and co-founder of Pacatio. “They’re really starting to spearhead the entrepreneur scene here, so we’re excited about that.”

Pacatio (Latin for payment) was one of 10 digital startups showcasing their business plans and pitching to a group of investors Wednesday at UNC Charlotte’s uptown campus. They were part of Packard Place’s latest class of QueenCity FinTech and RevTech Labs, an intensive startup incubator and accelerator program.

Among them were two Charlotte-based companies: Phyrefly, a restaurant marketing company, and VeriFreight, which connects freight brokers with safe motor carriers.

The 12-week program is designed to help young companies refine their business models and prepare for investment. The program’s culmination, called Demo Day, doesn’t pick winners and losers, but rather is “kind of like the collection basket at church,” said Dan Roselli, co-founder of Packard Place.

Instead of investing in one specific company, about 60 accredited venture capitalists can invest in an index fund, which distributes capital to the companies.

“It’s kind of a way to get your toe in the water if you’re interested in startup investing. For startup investing, it’s lower risk because you’re spreading the risk among 10 companies that have already been vetted,” said Rachel Heath, a manager at North Highland, a brand management consulting firm.

The types of companies in the program ran the gamut – from an educational platform that streamlines the business startup process for aspiring entrepreneurs to a digital alternative to the traditional bulletin boards found in cafes, supermarkets and gyms.

This year’s class was the most competitive yet, Roselli said, and the program received over 120 applications. Besides Panama and Charlotte, companies in the program came from Romania, Silicon Valley, Southern California, South Florida, Knoxville and Portland, Ore.

“The access to these professionals (in Charlotte) that live and breathe their business every day and the open doors I’ve been able to have are unprecedented,” said Joey Prather, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Dyme, a modernized financial planning app targeted at millennials.

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Twitter: @katieperalta

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