The 50 most powerful startups in Charlotte

The 50 most powerful startups in Charlotte
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Charlotte’s startup scene may be early in its development, but it’s already produced some powerful companies.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Charlotte’s startups have definitive clusters in financial tech, healthcare and energy. But there are also plenty of companies flying under the radar locally but making huge impacts in their industries.

Looking to get involved in Charlotte’s startup scene? Jump down to our section on how to do just that.

Who’s on this list?

“Startup” can be a loosely defined term, and the companies on this list vary widely in age, financial structure and headcount. We use startup to mean an innovative company with high growth and scaling potential.


You’ll notice a few companies that are so big now that they hardly count as startups anymore. We include them here because they’re key to understanding Charlotte’s startup scene.

Power, too, is a broadly defined term. This list takes into account the company’s size, scope, traction, funding and growth trajectory. Being accepted to a well-known accelerator program helps, as does being a consumer-facing business that lots of people know about.

This article doesn’t encompass everyone and is presented in no particular order.

The list also, unfortunately, misses great Charlotte startup success stories like Yap, the voice-to-text tech company scooped up by Amazon a half-decade ago. They also leave out very cool boutique small businesses making a splash in Charlotte.

This story was originally published in November 2017 and was updated in August 2019. Think we missed a deserving startup? Email us at


Year founded: 2000
Headquarters: AvidXchange Music Factory
CEO: Michael Praeger
What they do: Accounts payable automation. In other words, they help companies pay their bills.

While the company is one of the oldest on this list, they’re now experiencing the hypergrowth characteristic of a startup. They’ve gone from about 80 employees in 2011 to more than 800 today. They’ve moved into a gleaming new headquarters at the Music Factory (which now carries the company’s name). Last month, the company announced that they’re expanding it.

In 2016, AvidXchange was recognized as the most well-funded startup in North Carolina and is now valued at more than $1 billion.

Red Ventures

Year founded: 2000
Headquarters: Indian Land, South Carolina
CEO: Ric Elias
What they do: Marketing — everything from paid search to inbound call centers.


Red Ventures is the other OG in the Charlotte startup scene and now has an estimated valuation north of $1 billion. They, too, have a spectacular new headquarters and have raised at least $250 million. They now employ more than 2,700 people and have been on an acquisition spree as of late.

Movement Mortgage

Year founded: 2008
Headquarters: Indian Land
CEO: Casey Crawford
What they do: Home lending platform

Movement started with four employees and has grown to more than 4,000 in 650 locations. They recently launched a charter school through their philanthropic arm and the CEO acquired a bank.

SmartSky Networks

Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: Near Charlotte Douglas International Airport
CEO: Haynes Griffin
What they do: In-flight broadband internet

Here’s a benefit of Charlotte being an American Airlines hub. This company has flown under the radar for the last few years but raised $170 million in Series B to bring their product to market — bringing their total money raised north of $300 million.


Year founded: 2010
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Bob Youakim
What they do: Mobile payment systems for parking and transit


Passport office via Passport

Passport is one of the best examples of Charlotte as a fintech hub. Led by a former Wells Fargo exec, the company raised $43 million in 2017 and has signed contracts in the cities of Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, Cincinnati, Sacramento, and Salt Lake City.

Passport gets a big leg up on this list as a customer-facing business. You’ve probably even used the service. They power the mobile ticketing app that Charlotte Area Transit System just rolled out and some parking lots near Uptown are on the system.


Year founded: 2013
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: John Espey
What they do: IT consulting


Break room/lunch room at Levvel’s office in Uptown’s NASCAR building.

Levvel signed a big lease at 101 North Tryon and is growing super fast.


Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: 615 S. College Street
CEO: JP Rosato
What they do: IT services for Fortune 500 companies

The company raised more than $25 million in 2018.

Photo by Sitehands via Facebook


Year founded: 2009
Headquarters: Near I-77 and Tyvola Road
CEO: John Stewart
What they do: Operate one of the most popular apps in the Salesforce ecosystem

They raised more than $41 million and tripled in size in just one year. Salesforce announced in April 2019 that they planned to buy the company — marking a major exit for Charlotte’s startup ecosystem.

[Agenda story: MapAnything is making a killing by being the best app in the business world]


Year founded: 2008
Headquarters: SouthPark
CEO: Stephanie Alexander
What they do: Healthcare data company that helps doctors diagnose at-risk patients more quickly

The company has raised $14 million to date and is currently in use in about 80 hospitals.


Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: FreeMoreWest
CEO: Derek Wang
What they do: Data analytics that can mine unstructured text

The company raised another $9 million earlier this year on top of last year’s $20 million raise to ramp up sales and marketing.


Year founded: 2014
Headquarters: Ballantyne
CEO: Joe Giordano
What they do: Mobile platform for contractors to manage their business

The company has raised more than $19 million and hired rapidly.

Torrent Consulting

Year founded: 2012
Headquarters: South End
CEO: Daniel McCollum
What they do: Help companies implement Salesforce

Torrent has plans to double in size in its new office over the next two years. Their revenue growth rate is crazy fast.


Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: South End
CEO: Abhishek Mehta
What they do: Predictive analytics software

Tresata has a major client in Harris Teeter (Tresata does their suggested shopping list feature). The company grew from Packard Place to a swanky new office on Camden Road. In 2018, the company became Charlotte’s third unicorn — worth more than $1 billion.


Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Meggie Williams
What they do: On-demand dog walking company


Skipper used to be known as The Waggle Company, and was one of three local companies to get invited to Techstars Austin. Before that, they spent a year building out a powerful management team in a high-growth category. Earlier this year, they inked a major deal with apartment developer Northwood Ravin.


Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Jon West
What they do: Marketing platform that targets customers online

Their revenue growth is among the fastest in Charlotte.


Year founded: 2004
Headquarters: Lower South End
CEO: Bob Potter
What they do: Help Microsoft users manage data.

Photo via Facebook

SentryOne moved its headquarters from Huntersville to South End in spring 2019, right next to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Brewers at 4001 Yancey. They also opened an office in Ireland in 2018.


Year founded: 2005
Headquarters: Ayrsley
CEO: John Heyman
What they do: Manufactures and distributes audio/visual, networking and security technology.

Photo by SnapAV via Facebook.

SnapAV was acquired by Hellman & Friedman in 2017.

Elements Brands

Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: South End
CEO: Bill D’Alessandro
What they do: Consumer product eCommerce

Elements Brands buys mom-and-pop consumer product lines and turbocharges their sales with their online expertise. This company is poised to rocket up this list, with a handful of acquisitions lined up for the next year. CEO Bill D’Alessandro was Axios Charlotte’s Small Businessperson of the Year in 2019.

[Agenda story: This Charlotte startup is building the Procter & Gamble of 2050]


Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: West Charlotte
CEO: Haley Bohon
What they do: Pop-up in-person classes


This bootstrapped company has a devoted Charlotte following and has since expanded to Raleigh, Greenville and Nashville with more cities in the pipeline.


Year founded: 2007
Headquarters: Cotswold
CEO: Matt Sellers
What they do: Online law study tool and test prep

Ask any law student and they’ll be obsessed with this company. They’ve been on the Inc. 5000 list.


Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Dina Carey
What they do: Produces lactation bars that help breast-feeding moms.

via Facebook

Milkful was one of three Charlotte companies to get invited to Techstars Austin, a prestigious incubator.

Tech Talent South

Year founded: 2013
Headquarters: Belmont neighborhood
CEO: Betsy Hauser Idilbi
What they do: Coding bootcamp and training program

Photo via Tech Talent South

They have campuses in 11 cities across six states and recently landed a multi-million-dollar investment to build out their corporate training program.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Emir Dukic
What they do: Manages Airbnb and VRBO listings and properties on behalf of their owners.

Rabbu raised $1.5 million in 2019 to build out its platform and scale.


Year founded: 2010
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Rick Kushel
What they do: Deal management software for private equity companies and investment banks

The company landed a $5.3 million investment in 2015 after being founded by Ben Harrison of Falfurrias Capital Partners. They recently got acquired by Silicon Valley’s Intapp.


Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: South End
CEO: Alex Smereczniak
What they do: Outsourced laundry and dry-cleaning

After making a splash in Charlotte, 2ULaundry has been accepted to a prestigious startup accelerator program and raised nearly $3 million to expand to other markets.


Year founded: 2009
Headquarters: SouthPark
CEO: Mark Briggs
What they do: If you’ve ever asked people to sign up for an email list, you realize that people make mistakes all the time. BriteVerify integrates on a webpage and catches typos in real time and lets people know that their email isn’t correct. The company was acquired by Validity in June 2018.

Eat The Bear

Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: SouthPark
CEO: Jude Colangelo
What they do: Protein powder

ETB protein

ETB brought on Panthers star Luke Kuechly as a partner and spokesman and recently inked a deal with the Spartan Race series.


Year founded: 2014
Headquarters: Music Factory
CEO: Charlie Mulligan
What they do: Beer delivery service for offices


Brewpublik was accepted to the 500 Startups accelerator program and has expanded from Charlotte to the Bay Area, Raleigh and Charleston.


Year founded: 2008
Headquarters: Ballantyne
CEO: Dan Rutledge
What they do: Online sign-up and volunteer management

SignUpGenius is one of those companies that everybody uses but few realize they’re headquartered here in Charlotte. They’ve added some heavyweights to their management team over the past year and took on a majority investment.

POLICY Handbags

Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: Plaza Midwood
CEO: Jen Ugland
What they do: NFL-friendly and stylish handbags


Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: Myers Park
CEO: Melissa Bodford
What they do: Mobile fundraising app


The company closed a $2 million Series A round in 2017 and already has more than a quarter-million nonprofits on the platform.

Atom Power

Year founded: 2014
Headquarters: Northlake
CEO: Ryan Kennedy
What they do: Build technologically advanced circuit breakers

They closed on a $3 million funding round in 2017.


Year founded: 2013
Headquarters: University City
CEO: Nick Maglosky
What they do: Inventory management software


Ecomdash team photo via Facebook

Fuzzy Logix

Year founded: 2007
Headquarters: University City
CEO: Partha Sen
What they do: Big data analytics

They raised $5.5 million in 2015.

Jackrabbit Technologies

Year founded: 2004
Headquarters: Huntersville
CEO: Mark Mahoney
What they do: Class management software for gyms and dance studios

Fit To Rent

Year founded: 2015
Headquarters: Huntersville
CEO: Sean Healy
What they do: Software that helps landlords vet tenants

Fit To Rent raised a $500,000 angel round and counts military veterans as founders.

Ekos Brewmaster

Year founded: 2014
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Josh McKinney
What they do: Software to manage beer breweries

Ekos Brewmaster serves 1,000-plus companies and is branching out into cideries and wineries as well.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Garrett Tichy, Mike Bifulco and Sean Rogers (cofounders)
What they do: Coworking space management

Founded by Hygge owner Garrett Tichy, they have plans to reach 100 coworking spaces in the next year.

Novarus Healthcare

Year founded: 2011
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Tom Hearn
What they do: Create apps to manage hospital employee benefits

The company landed a $750,000 investment last year.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Tim Griffin
What they do: Starbucks-style mobile ordering for breweries and pop-ups

Cloosiv now counts more than 200 businesses as clients.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: North End
CEO: Ramy Serageldin
What they do: Financial management app for couples

via GooglePlay

This fintech startup has apps for Apple and Android.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Uptown
CEO: Matt Rose
What they do: Uber for golf caddies


ClubUp caddies during training day at Quail Hollow via Facebook

They’ve offered service at Charlotte Country Club, Quail Hollow, Carmel and Myers Park Country Club.

Virtual StrongBox

Year founded: 2012
Headquarters: Ayrsley
CEO: Ron Daly
What they do: A data security company, Virtual StrongBox helps companies protect and exchange user information.

TruPoint Partners

Year founded: 2010
Headquarters: Ballantyne
CEO: Trey Sullivan
What they do: Helps community and regional banks manage lending compliance.

The company was acquired by Ncontracts in 2019.


Year founded: 2007
Headquarters: Mallard Creek/Concord
CEO: Riaz Syed
What they do: Helps banks manage online banking.

Zenmonics has appeared on the Fast50 and several rankings of top fintech companies. The company landed a major investment from Fidelity National Information Services in 2018.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Charlotte
CEODanny Florian
What they do: Search engine that lends human power to Google- and Pinterest-like results.

Looqsie has been featured at PitchBreakfast.


Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: Montford
CEO: John Dillard
What they do: Develops software that helps companies manage compliance.

ThreatSwitch has raised at least $1.6 million, according to Crunchbase.


Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Charlotte
CEO: Justin Witz
What they do: Helps companies navigate the RFP process.

Catapult was part of a QCFintech class and has won awards from the Carolina Fintech Hub.


Year founded: 2014
Headquarters: AvidXchange Music Factory
CEO: David Stedman
What they do: Offers financial wellness tools to corporate employees.

Axe Club of America

Year founded: 2017
Headquarters: Belmont neighborhood
CEO: Scott and Ashleigh Gadd
What they do: Axe-throwing bars

Formerly known as LumberJaxe, the company has expanded to Lower South End and Winston-Salem.

Owner Scott Gadd

How to get involved in Charlotte’s startup scene

Luckily, Charlotte’s startup scene is very welcoming to newcomers. You just have to jump right in.

Packard Place. This Third Ward building is Charlotte’s entrepreneurial capital. They host regular startup events and are home to some of Charlotte’s fastest-growing companies. Its owner, Dan Roselli, is the top person to know in the city’s startup scene.

Charlotte Angel Fund. This group of Charlotte investors hears pitches monthly. Get more info.

PitchBreakfast. Think Shark Tank for local startups. During this free monthly event, you’ll nosh on breakfast at Packard Place while hearing entrepreneurs give 5-minute pitches, then get feedback from a panel of experts. Networking comes before and after. Get more info.

1 Million Cups. This networking group is less about competition and more about coaching. Get more info.

Queen City FinTech. This incubator for fintech companies is based in Packard Place and regularly jumpstarts successful firms. Get more info.

Skookum Tech Talks. One of Charlotte’s top development firms brings people in for pizza once a month to hear from leaders on the top trends in tech — like cryptocurrency, email marketing or civic hacking. Get more info.

Startup Weekend. This 54-hour event at UNC Charlotte helps nascent entrepreneurs get from idea to execution quickly. Get more info.

Charlotte Venture Challenge. This showcase connects startups with customers and investors. Get more info. 

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