This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.
From one Carolina to the next! The Rise of the Rest tour stopped in Charleston, South Carolina today - a mid-size coastal town known for its well-preserved historical architecture, renowned Southern cuisine and a lively college atmosphere.
But are there startups here? At a breakfast with Charleston’s mayor of 39 years and local business leaders, John Osbourne, director of the local entrepreneur center, noted how the city’s evolved over the past few decades. It’s become a place where people come not only to vacation, attend school or even retire, but also a place people build businesses. “We’re at a tipping point,” said John, suggesting the city’s myriad entrepreneurship-centered activities are beginning to coalesce into a wider movement.
In addition to the region’s larger technology presence - with companies like Boeing - a number of newer and thriving technology companies set an example for the what’s possible here. We visited People Matter, a human resources software company that’s grown to over 200 employees since 2009. Levelwing, a data analytics firm, was originally founded in New York, but relocated to Charleston when it decided to expand.
The afternoon’s pitch competition showcased a diverse array of earlier stage companies, all with viable business strategies and creative approaches to developed industries. Eatabit built a product for online food ordering, OpenAngler has created the first online reservation system for fishing charter reservations and Dynepic’s devices turn standard kids’ toys into digitally connected smart toys. The winning startup, Bidr, offers solutions for fundraising event organizers to automate the bidding process. The hope is that $100,000 in new capital will ensure the company’s continued growth and serve as a catalyst for other entrepreneurs and investors to turn their attention towards Charleston.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also joined Steve Case for a conversation about economic development in her state and the key role entrepreneurs play in that growth. She’s excited about the momentum in Charleston and hopes it spreads throughout the state. While the Charleston startup community is still young, it could soon give even more entrepreneurs reason to visit and to stay.