October Startup Social Recap

On Thursday, October 18th, 60+ student entrepreneurs, local business owners, aspiring startups, and community members gathered at the HOW Space for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social. This collaborative networking event brought together three local organizations and their followers; Startup High Country, High Country Local First, and Appalachian State University’s Association of Student Entrepreneurs (ASE).

The ASE provided snacks from Carolina Pizza Co. and Appalachia Cookie Co. for all to enjoy. Tim Herdklotz from Booneshine Brewing Co. was in attendance serving local beers along with Jeremy Bollman & team members from Hatchet Coffee serving cold brew and hot coffee!

Several Student Entrepreneurs presented their startup businesses to the crowd. Erich Schlenker, from Appstate’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship announced the upcoming 15th Annual Carol Moore McLeod Entrepreneur Summit. This event is happening Friday, November 2 on the campus of Appalachian State University. No matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey, this Summit has something for you. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER.

Other pitches were made by members of the Silicon Hollar/Startup High Country Team including Madelyn Hjertmann, Chris Grasinger and Sam Glover. The team announced and unveiled new branding, logo and t-shirt designs for the organization. They also announced that Startup High Country recently received a $100,000 grant from NC IDEA. With this grant funding Startup HC will be able to host the Velocity Labs 12-week Accelerator Course for the next 3 years!

John Austin from NC IDEA was in attendance and pitched to the crowd about the recent grant and other great entrepreneurship opportunities through his organization.

Angela Heavner from 180 Float Spa pitched her startup company to the room and announced her Local Public Offering. 180 Float Spa is offering you the opportunity to invest in your wellness and our community through a Local Public Offering (LPO). Local Public Offerings became effective in 2017 under the North Carolina PACES Act to help provide access to capital for new and early stage businesses. 180 Float Spa is only the second LPO to be approved for Investment crowdfunding in NC. Investment crowdfunding has been growing significantly around the nation, with over 100 million dollars raised. Now it's our turn North Carolina! Learn more and invest here!

Everyone enjoyed this collaborative event at the HOW Space and many solid connections were made! Special thanks to all those who attended and helped plan this event!

Stay tuned for information about our next Startup Social happening in November!

Click below to view photos from October’s Startup Social!

The Places With the Youngest Entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurs may spend years gaining experience and resources as they wait for the right time to finally take the leap and start a company. As it turns out, entrepreneurial hopefuls might be able to achieve their aim of founding a business years sooner — if they live in the right place.

A new study from LendingTree reveals which 10 major cities in the U.S. have the youngest business founders. Using anonymized data from business owners seeking funding through the LendingTree small business marketplace, the study compared ages of business founders on their companies’ dates of origination in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Average founder’s ages when starting their business ranged from 37 to 42 years old, the study found. This five-year gap in average ages might seem small, but it can represent many factors that work for — or against — entrepreneurs in each city.

Here are the 10 cities where young entrepreneurs are making their mark and forming the next wave of million- and even billion-dollar businesses.

Key findings

  • Salt Lake City, Buffalo, N.Y. and New Orleans have the youngest business founders, on average. Entrepreneurs in these cities, along with Oklahoma City, were younger than 38 years old on average at the time they started their businesses.

  • Providence, R.I., San Jose, Calif. and Hartford, Conn., fell on the other end of the spectrum — business founders were 42 years old on average when starting their companies.

  • Gen Xers helmed nearly 42% of new businesses founded in the last five years, followed by millennials who founded almost 38%.

  • Louisville, Ky. had the highest proportion of millennial founders, at 44.8%.

  • Providence, R.I. and Philadelphia had the highest proportion of Gen X founders, at 48.7%.

  • Baby boomers founded more businesses in Silicon Valley (San Jose, Calif.) than anywhere else, at 24.1%. As one of the most expensive communities in the country, it may take budding entrepreneurs longer to save up starting capital.

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs are likely to have some of the lowest barriers to enter entrepreneurship.

A closer look reveals that booming local economies, along with low local costs and taxes, may be fueling startup growth. These cities also have strong support systems in place to help founders and their startups succeed, from business incubators and accelerators to networking events and opportunities to apply for small business grants or attract venture capital.

In short, these are the cities where young entrepreneurs are more quickly reaching their goal to form a business of their own.

1. Salt Lake City

The youngest business founders in the country can be found in Salt Lake City, Utah. Entrepreneurs here achieve their dreams of starting a business at just 37.8 years old.

The area known as “Silicon Slopes” encompasses the Salt Lake City metropolitan area and nearby cities; it is home to billion-dollar tech companies such as, PluralSight and Qualtrics.

These big players have helped established a steady, growing economy in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah. The area also has an established (and growing) pool of qualified talent. Combined with the relatively low cost of living, and entrepreneurs in Utah have few obstacles — and plenty of opportunities.

2. Buffalo, New York

In Buffalo, the typical business founder is just 37.9 years old, and a decent portion of the city’s entrepreneurs belong to Generation Z (3.6%).

Buffalo’s business climate has improved in recent years, thanks in part to a billion-dollar economic development package proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012. This money has since flowed into the state’s second-largest city, and Buffalo has seen some gains from the program, even in the wake of some false starts and scandals.

On top of the “Buffalo billions” initiative, this city offers a relatively affordable cost of living and a strong support system for budding entrepreneurs. This includes business education and support through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at The State University of New York at Buffalo, and local business incubators like Launch NY and 43North.

3. New Orleans

The dream of entrepreneurship is within reach for many New Orleans founders — the average age of founders is just under 38.

Not only is New Orleans a cultural giant, it’s also a standout when it comes to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups.

A hallmark of New Orleans’ business landscape is the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Started by entrepreneurship-focused nonprofit Idea Village, this major event gives would-be founders a chance to learn, grow and even pitch their business ideas.

On top of strong community initiatives to support new businesses, New Orleans also provides twin benefits of affordable local costs and business tax incentives that can help lower the economic barriers to starting a business.

4. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma is the last city that can boast an average founder age under 38 years old, and it’s also the city among the top 10 with the largest share of millennial founders, at 43.7%.

These young entrepreneurs can thank the solid network of support found in Oklahoma City and throughout the state, too — for instance, a business incentive act offers a tax break to Oklahoma businesses participating in certified business incubators.

Lastly, a low cost of living will help ensure founders can put their capital toward starting and growing their Oklahoma City startups — and not just keeping the lights on.

5. Charlotte, North Carolina

The average age of founders in this rapidly growing city is 38.21. In 2017, most of the $1 billion in venture capital raised by North Carolina entrepreneurs went to Charlotte-based companies. The flow of money into new Charlotte businesses is just one sign of the city’s healthy startup ecosystem.

Another is Charlotte’s large cohort of Generation Z entrepreneurs: a full 5.0% of Charlotte’s business founders fell into this college-aged (or younger) group. This could be thanks to the support and influence of UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise entrepreneurship program, which provides business resources, trainings and certifications to students and Charlotte community members alike.

6. Minneapolis

Entrepreneurs are able to get a headstart on their startup goals in Minneapolis, where the average age of a business founder is 38.7 years old. The costs of starting a business here are kept low, thanks to the competitive living costs in the area and attractive tax incentives such as “angel tax credits,” which provide up to $1 million in for new, tech-centered businesses.

Minneapolis-based events, like Twin Cities Startup Week, can also give local entrepreneurs and businesses the perfect venue to network, promote and pitch themselves, and even raise capital. Another local initiative is the MN Cup, a statewide startup competition sponsored by the University of Minnesota — since its establishment, it’s seeded $2.4 million to local businesses.

Female entrepreneurs should also check out Women Venture, a local small-business nonprofit that helps women start and grow businesses in Minneapolis.

7. St. Louis

For young entrepreneurs, St. Louis provides a fertile environment in which business ideas and entrepreneurial ambition can grow — that’s thanks to a strong local startup scene and robust support network for new companies.

Local business investment foundations such as the Missouri Technology Corporation, Arch Grants and St. Louis Accelerator provide vital investment and grant dollars to attract and grow leading young businesses.

These are just a few of the incubators, accelerators and initiatives that provide enough support to young entrepreneurs to allow a typical founder to start a business as young as 38.8 years old.

8. Portland, Ore.

When inspiration strikes, young entrepreneurs in Portland, Ore. aren’t afraid to strike out on their own. But they don’t have to go it alone, thanks to incubators and accelerators such as Prosper PortlandPortland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and Portland Seed Fund.

The average founder in Portland is just under 39 years old. Home to campuses for leading brands such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel, Portland and the state of Oregon offer business-friendly corporate tax structures. New entrepreneurs should investigate tax incentives that can help lower their new business’ property and income taxes.

9. Milwaukee

The secret for Milwaukee’s young entrepreneurs, just under 39 years on average, could be the city’s low costs for businesses. Milwaukee’s lower cost of living combines with attractive tax incentives, exemptions and credits to make it more affordable for founders to start and ramp up a new business.

Entrepreneurial hopefuls can find plenty of backing in the Milwaukee area. Startup Milwaukee, for example, provides education and networking through Milwaukee Startup Week and similar initiatives. BizStarts offers further resources for local entrepreneurs, while other incubators like Milwaukee 7 can provide capital and funding for young companies.

10. Austin, Texas

Last on the list is Austin, the only city on this list in which the average new business founder is over age 39. From hosting innovation-centric conference South by Southwest (SXSW) to a booming local economy, this fast-growing city is a hub of entrepreneurship in Texas.

Several startup accelerators and incubators in Austin can help local founders grow a business at an stage. A bevy of newer venture capital firms in the area, like ATX Seed Ventures and LiveOak Venture Partners, could be spell good news for young businesses hoping to attract funding.

For young entrepreneurs, the right location can help a new business thrive

If you’re hoping to become a full-time entrepreneur, you’re not alone. Nearly a third of Americans have thought about starting their own businesses in the past year, according to a recent LendingTree survey.

Before launching a business, however, it’s worthwhile to consider your location and how friendly it would be to a new and growing company. The better the location you choose, the faster you can work toward founding and building your business.

Based on the top 10 cities above, here are some trends to watch for when researching where to start your startup:

  • Growing local economy: A startup will need a healthy economy and other businesses to survive. Check key economic indicators in cities you’re interest in — low unemployment and high consumer confidence in your area are positive indicators of a healthy economy with room for new companies to take root.

  • Business-friendly tax policies: Among the top 10 cities, a common thread is business-friendly tax policies. Many of these cities charged lower taxes to local businesses, and some even provided tax incentives to attract new and expanding companies.

  • Low cost of living: With lower expenses, you’ll need less capital to get your business up and running. These low costs can also keep your bottom line growing faster and keep your new business lean and competitive.

  • Strong startup network: Most of the cities with the youngest entrepreneurs were also home to robust support systems and networks for new entrepreneurs and startups. Research your area of interest to see if it’s home to business incubators or accelerators, entrepreneurial networks or events or even a coworking space. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Administration office can be a great starting point to find business resources and organizations.

  • Availability of business funding: Lastly, research opportunities you might have to access or raise funds for your business. See if your city of interest is home to venture capital firms or programs that offer small business grants or other funding. Check out potential sources you could turn to for small business loans, too.


Being picky about finding the best place to start your business can really pay off later. This study shows that a good balance of low costs and a strong startup ecosystem can help young entrepreneurs found a business years earlier. Even better, these factors can set a new business up for continued success in the quarters and years to come.

Anonymized data of borrowers seeking business loans on the LendingTree platform was limited analyzed to determine the average age of business founder in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The data was limited to businesses founded within the last five years, and founders’ ages are from the date they founded their businesses. Generations are defined by the Pew Research Center as follows: members of the Silent Generation were born between 1928 and 1945; the Baby Boom generation between 1946 and 1964; Generation X between 1965 and 1980; the millennial generation between 1981 and 1996; and Generation Z after 1996.

Where is the capital for startups?

Where is the capital for startups? A view of the funding landscape in WNC:

Chris Grasinger, Mountain Bizworks High Country Regional Manager

As many of us know, successfully launching a business takes an immense amount of energy on the front end. Research and development, building your team, creating a minimum viable product, crafting a marketing strategy – all of these elements take time and hard work. There are an infinite amount of road maps and influencers that are telling you how to reach launch, but sorting through different strategies and advice can push you to capacity as well. All the while you have to keep cash flowing into your household and paying for your own personal bills. You can peak 14 hour days pretty quickly if you are not effectively prioritizing your actions.

In many cases, your business will reach a stage where you have to find money to launch or grow the business to a desired point. There are many triggers that can lead to this moment - whether that is finally paying the people doing the work, buying a crucial piece of equipment, or hiring a developer to build the software you need. So where does this capital come from?

Self-funding or Bootstrapping –

Sourcing funds from savings of the founders or pulling the needed capital from your own excess cash that the business is generating.

Friends & Family –

This source of capital is just what it sounds like. Sometimes you may receive money from folks within your natural network as a donation or maybe it will come with certain terms. A word of caution is to always be very clear on the expectations of all parties with this type of funding – you don’t want to get to a point of misunderstanding that could taint a relationship with someone close to you.

Crowdfunding –

Utilization of a traditional donation based crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or using one of the new equity-based crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder.

Angel Investment –

Angel investment can come in a number of forms but is typically defined as an individual or group of individuals that make early investments into companies, to fund the startup or early growth stages. An angel investor could actually be someone in your friend or family network. A new angel investment group specifically serving our area is the High Country Impact Fund. This group was formed to invest in entrepreneurs and companies, with high growth and local economic impact potential.

Traditional Debt Capital -  

These are the traditional lenders that we all know, such as Wells Fargo, First Citizens or BB&T. Many of these banks have excellent services for startup businesses, such as checking and mobile deposit. But they oftentimes lack the ability to fund a startup, due to federal regulations and risk grade.

Alternative Debt Capital –

There are a number of different types of lending institutions that are designed to make high risk loans. A localized version of this type of lender is Mountain Bizworks - a community development financial institution, focused on funding Western North Carolina startups and existing businesses.

July Startup Social Recap

Last Thursday, July 19th, 50+ local entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, technology professionals, and community members gathered at Hatchet Coffee's new roasting facility on Den Mac Dr. in Boone for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social. 

Three local breweries were in attendance and provided beer for the event including, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing Co., and Lost Province Brewing Co. Hatchet Coffee also provided a nice selection of hot coffee and nitro cold brews. 

Attendees were able to socialize and network among each other and then everyone came together to learn more about Startup High Country and our wonderful event sponsor, Mountain Bizworks. Several Mountain Bizworks representatives were in attendance including Matt Raker, Director of Community Investments & Impact. Matt shared information about business courses and investment opportunities through Mountain Bizworks. Their upcoming Foundations Course will be held in Boone August 6th – Sept 17th on Mondays from 1-4pm, with Madelyn Hjertmann facilitating. To learn more and register please visit,

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When the floor was open to discussion, several pitches were made by those in attendance including, PubCycle of Boone, High Country Radio, 180 Float Spa, Wilderness Yoga, ChurchLEARN, Appalachian Enterprise Center, boonies, Appstate Student Careers, and several others!

Jeffrey Scott, team member of Startup High Country, discussed Silicon Hollar's upcoming Velocity Labs, a 3 month startup accelerator for founders & partners of pre-revenue and/or early stage high growth companies focused on accelerated growth of $5-7M in three years. The course will begin on September 4, 2018 and run through November 16, 2018. For more information and to apply please visit,

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As always, a big thank you to our sponsors, our host, and all of those that attended and contributed to the July Startup Social. We invite you to join us for our August Social at Booneshine Brewing Co.'s new facility on Industrial Dr. in Boone! Stay tuned for the date to be announced soon!

Check out these awesome images below courtesy of Gladco Media!



June Startup Social Recap and July Startup Social THIS THURSDAY

June 2018 Silicon Hollar Startup Social Recap

On Thursday, June 21st local business owners, entrepreneurs, technology professionals, investors, and community members gathered at The Greenhouse in downtown Boone for the monthly Startup Social. 

Lilly Steele from Artemis Independent shared information about their new TV series, boonies. "Artemis Independent is now in production on a short-form video series featuring unique business owners in Boone and throughout Watauga County, North Carolina. We love Boone & the High Country, and boonies is our way of introducing the online & TV world to this unique community and the warm-hearted entrepreneurs who have chosen to call these beautiful Appalachian Mountains home. Production begins September 2018. To expand the love, we're launching the social media "Insta Boonies" campaign, showcasing entrepreneurs in the area. If you're interested in being featured, visit boonies_series and DM us." -Lilly Steele

Beer was provided by Booneshine and Appalachian Mountain Brewery while coffee was provided by Hatchet. Several representatives from local businesses were in attendance including individuals from Valle Crucis Lavender House, Center 45, Hatchet Coffee, Booneshine, Vixster, and more!

July 2018 Silicon Hollar Startup Social

Thursday, July 19th from 5:30-7:30 PM at Hatchet Coffee's new Roasting Facility

Join us THIS THURSDAY for our monthly Startup Social! We will be hanging out at Hatchet's brand new roasting facility on Den Mac Dr. in Boone. Join us for networking, learn what folks in the area are working on and help us build the High Country's Startup Ecosystem!

Enjoy beer from Booneshine & Appalachian Mountain Brewery and of course coffee from Hatchet! Special thanks to Mountain Bizworks for sponsoring this month's event! 

Find our event on Facebook, also be sure to Follow us on social media!

Twitter: @startup_hc  Instagram: @startup_highcountry  Facebook: Startup High Country