What do people mean when they talk about startups in a town like ours? As we all know well, Charlottesville is a town of many identities and realities, and the local startup scene is no exception.
The Charlottesville metropolitan area (such as it is) has fewer than 200,000 people, a tiny fraction of the roughly 4.7 million who live in the San Francisco and Boston areas. At the same time, our start-up ecosystem found a way to be named “the fastest-growing venture capital ecosystem in the United States” by the National Venture Capital Association in 2016. Credit goes to the students and professors at the University of Virginia, high net worth angel investor networks like the Charlottesville Angel Network (CAN), start-up champions like CBIC, Tom Tom, and Cville Bio Hub, and of course to every entrepreneur who has poured their blood, toil, tears, and sweat into turning dreams into reality while making time to attend Fridays After Five and run in the Charlottesville Ten Miler.
To dig a little deeper into the startup scene, it’s important to distinguish between tech startups and lifestyle startups. Tech startups tend to look toward IPO after rounds of investment and global marketshare success. Lifestyle startups, however, are more like a local coffee shop or salon. You’re doing this because you have an expertise or a passion for what you’ve selected, you like being your own boss, and you love connecting in with your community.
An early tech startup success was Credit Source USA, a mortgage marketplace that got its start in Charlottesville before moving to Charlotte and becoming better known as LendingTree. A more recent example of a tech start-up that’s found success is Chart IQ, a software company serving financial companies that recently closed a $17 million round of Series B funding.
On the other hand, Charlottesville remains a great town for people to launch a community business. Many lifestyle businesses (such as High Tor Gear Exchange and Camp4Real) got a boost from the Community Investment Collaborative, a local service that provides workshops, microloans and mentoring for people looking to get started. Local folks love to support and frequent these home-grown initiatives to ensure that Charlottesville stays dynamic and interesting.
There’s no doubt that Charlottesville works well for tech startups and for lifestyle startups. In fact, being a great place for both is what helps the town get its reputation as the happiest city in America. I’ve got more thoughts about startups, and you can read more at my website.
To learn more about startups and law, visit https://www.shurulaw.com/updates/