Until recently, Asheville wouldn’t have been considered a hotbed for startup activity. To outsiders, the city’s arts culture, world-class dining scene and growing roster of notable craft breweries precedes its startup reputation. That’s why Asheville’s recent appearances on lists of America’s best startup cities alongside the heavyweights Boulder, NYC and Austin may come as quite a surprise.
An Underground Startup Scene Emerges in Asheville
A closer look at the bohemian mountain town reveals a more diverse and ingrained entrepreneurial culture that’s tinted with an interest in sustainable business. In just the past two years, in my role managing communications and events through Venture Asheville, it’s evident that Asheville’s startup scene has been hiding underground for years, and now it’s emerging.
This development is led by a number of new accelerators, entrepreneur and mentor programs, an angel investor group, Venture Asheville (an initiative by the Economic Development Coalition), and an increasing number of startup events like 1 Million Cups Asheville (pictured above.) There, every Wednesday you’ll bump elbows with startup founders, seasoned executives and tech professionals.
Let’s explore a number of ventures making national headlines within the city’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.
Asheville’s poster child for the city’s cluster of green tech businesses is FLS Energy, an industry leader in megawatt solar farms with over 100 U.S. installations. Co-founded by Dale Freudenberger in Asheville in 2006, the solar innovator is a two-time Inc. 500 company with explosive revenue growth—from $8 million in 2009 to about $150 million last year.
A versatile payment solution integrating Bitcoin, credit cards, cash and more, Sonic Payments addresses the rent payment headache for property managers nationwide.
Coeo is a new app that connects you with the right people in the room at professional networking events.
Other new startups worth mentioning are Taggd’, a global street art app, UGoTour, a mobile tour guide app, and MobRocket, a social media marketing platform for small businesses.
It seems Small Business Trends was on to something went it named Asheville among the 7 Best Cities to Launch a Startup in 2016, adding “Asheville is quickly earning its stripes as an east coast startup hub.”