First-ever Southeast Fintech Venture Conference showcases power of regional startup scene

The first-ever Southeast Fintech Venture Conference kicked off today inside the new Barings headquarters Uptown.

Five Charlotte startups are part of the lineup for the day’s event, organized by Queen City Fintech. The conference kicked off with remarks from Dan Roselli, co-founder and managing director of local accelerator Queen City Fintech, and from Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

“I talk about Charlotte being the greatest secret in terms of a place to start a business. Well, it’s no secret anymore,” Roberts told the crowd. “We are the No. 1 magnet for millennials, which might have something to do with all these breweries that are popping up. But it’s also all about disruptors and people who think outside the box.”

The conference brings together 17 startups from around the Southeast. The Queen City startups include: uBack, HoneyFi, Payzer, ThreatSwitch and Catapult.

There is also strong representation from the investor community. A panel discussion to start the day included investors from TTV Capital, Fintech Ventures Fund and Charlotte Angel Fund. They solidified the interest and energy around the region when it comes to the burgeoning startup scene. They also talked about the potential partnerships between longstanding financial institutions and emerging fintech startups.

“There’s a lot of elements to banking that are not really advantageous to an entrepreneur to try to take on,” said Gardiner Garrard, co-founder and managing partner of TTV Capital. “I think [fintech startups] are more and more moving to selling their marketing technology … and enabling banks to use that to acquire customers for themselves.”

As if to illustrate that point, uBack, a Charlotte-based startup focused on the giving space, announced during its pitch that it had formed a partnership with Bank of America to bring mobile giving to the banks 24 million customers, beginning on Nov. 21.

In a press release, Michelle Moore, head of digital banking at Bank of America, said the partnership made sense because it addresses customer needs head on.

“One of our customers’ top priorities during the holiday season is giving back to their communities and favorite charities,” Moore said. “That’s why we’re making it more convenient for them to make donations through mobile banking while they’re managing their financial lives.”

Rob Cummings, co-founder and director of DealCloud, said the conference represents a significant change in the Charlotte startup scene, particularly since DealCloud started in 2010.

“I think it’s tremendous progress,” Cummings said. “And there’s a lot of success stories.

Walter Frye, executive director of the Charlotte Regional Fund for Entrepreneurship, said the conference speaks to the ability of Charlotte to bring people here to start this conversation.

“This, for me, is a demonstration of the Charlotte community coming to coalesce, and to be able to attract investors and companies that are of a high profile,” Frye said.

The conference comes on the heels of eight startup events in the Queen City in the past week alone.

“It’s a vibe of growth,” Frye said. “I’m excited about this for what it represents as much as anything else.”

Dan Haight, an angel investor and co-founder of Ranger Investment Group, agreed. Companies are trying to develop a product, but you need someone to buy that product.

“It’s called making a market,” Haight said. “And this type of conference is critical.”

The conference will culminate with Demo Day for Class 7 of Queen City Fintech.