Startup Demo Day Highlights Diversity in Charlotte’s Budding Companies

The twenty Charlotte startups selected to participate in the first Seed the South on January 9 at the Foundation for the Carolinas provides a rare opportunity to see the diversity and promise of the Charlotte ecosystem.  Over 65 percent of the South startups have at least one underrepresented founder.

The early-stage investor symposium and startup pitch competition was created to encourage new and current investors of the Carolinas, as well as community leaders and local government, to engage and assist the Charlotte’s most promising founders.


Fourteen of the Carolinas’ top early-stage investors and startup lawyers will begin the event by discussing strategy and first-hand knowledge of angel and seed investing in the South. In the afternoon, six of the 20 startups will take the main stage to pitch to the panel of three judges.

Seed the South attendees will get a chance to meet the founders and vote on their favorite startups at the event.  Although Charlotte is known as a financial-focused town, the Seed the South startups exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and the many promising industries the ecosystem holds.

  • Real Estate & Hospitality
  • E-commerce and Retail
  • FinTech
  • Augmented Reality
  • Mobile Commerce
  • Pet
  • Travel
  • CleanTech
  • EdTech
  • SaaS
  • Agribusiness
  • Beauty
  • Wearables
  • Wealth Management

Collective Hustle, a Charlotte-based startup and investor group, and SoGal Foundation, the largest global platform for diverse entrepreneurs and investors with 35+ chapters around the globe, partnered to co-host Seed the South. Both groups are focused on the inclusion and elevation of underrepresented founders and investors.

To improve the startup climate, the organizations hold events to support and encourage diverse founders and investors, as well as provide one-on-one feedback to improve the likelihood of both parties success.

“Prioritizing diversity, particularly in fast-paced early-stage startup environments, is not only a moral obligation, but it’s also a good business decision,” said Kelley Henry, Global Director of the SoGal foundation. “Diversity in a startup’s early days has proven essential to understanding true product/market fit, innovation, and avoiding the long-term accrual of compounding diversity debt.”

According to TechCrunch, female-only founded startups represent only six percent of seed investment, with $277 million invested in 2017. Female-and-male co-founded teams hovered between 11 and 13 percent. Male-only founded teams raised between 85 and 83 percent of all seed invested dollars.

Women control over 80 percent of consumer spending and make 85 percent of their family’s healthcare decisions — historically, this has been a huge missed business opportunity. The data is clear. Investing in and amplifying diverse founding teams simply makes sense,” Henry said. “SoGal is proud to support and champion the emerging diverse Charlotte entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Although there are billions of dollars being distributed every year, studies show that less than 1 percent of VC-funded startup founders are black. Between 2007 and 2016, there was an increase of 2.8 million companies owned by women of color. These businesses receive 0.2 percent of all funding. 

The goal of Seed the South is to introduce investors to all of the promising startups in Charlotte, showcasing how the Queen City can grasp an opportunity to become one of the most inclusive startup cities in the country.

Workplace diversity isn’t just great for company PR, it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

That’s why we are proud to announce that of the 20 startups participating in Seed the South, 30 percent have at least one female founder and 50 percent have at least one non-white founder.

Introducing the startups of Seed the South:

  • Rabbu
  • Vishion
  • Cloosiv
  • Lucid Travel
  • Botsplash
  • AVO insights
  • Skipper
  • Leaf Burrito
  • JouleScout
  • XChange Post
  • PodKeeper
  • ThoughtPost
  • BatteryXchange
  • Queen City Farms

Pitching on the main stage:

  • Groove Watersports
  • Freeman Capital
  • Maze Services
  • Honeyfi
  • Curu
  • Jam

Seed the South is January 9th at 10 a.m. at the Foundation for the Carolinas.  Get your tickets now.