What's the secret to attracting startups to the region? Excellent resources, coworking spaces and launchpads.
Like everything, all companies have to start somewhere. And for many entrepreneurs, this is one of the biggest decisions they face – where to launch their business, as it can impact the amount of support they receive, their customer base, whether they stay in business, etc.
Winston-Salem is home to several businesses that decided to set up shop here, and its entrepreneurial scene continues to grow.
What’s the region’s secret to attracting startups? Winston-Salem entrepreneurs enjoy a wide selection of resources, from coworking spaces that provide a number of other benefits to enterprises that offer mentorship and scale-up assistance.
What Is the Innovation Quarter?
The Innovation Quarter (iQ) is a district in the region that works to drive economic growth through collaboration among individuals, startups, global companies and academic enterprises. Click here for more information.
One of the most recent resources announced is Sparq, a new venture and small-business launchpad, which will feature programming and coworking space and provide startups with access to certain resources and connections within the Innovation Quarter (iQ). Sparq will be the “front door,” if you will, for companies looking to participate in the iQ, and its grand opening is expected in early 2022.
“We know from research and community conversations that there has been a barrier of entry to people who want to participate in everything happening here at the Innovation Quarter,” says Damiqa Golden, community development director for Sparq. “As the new front door to the Innovation Quarter, Sparq will help small businesses and entrepreneurs get connected, access resources and find space that will help them succeed.”
Startup Support in Winston-Salem
In addition to Sparq, a number of entrepreneurial assets are housed in the 500 W. 5th building downtown. Previously the headquarters for GMAC Insurance, this 18-story building sat vacant for a few years until Don Flow, chairman and CEO of Flow Automotive Cos., purchased the building in 2017. After a $10 million renovation, the building now allows multiple tenants to occupy prime Class-A office spaces in the heart of Winston-Salem’s central business district.
Meet Winston Starts
One tenant at 500 W. 5th is Winston Starts, a nonprofit group that accelerates the growth of startups by providing programming and expert mentorship.
The group provides space to tenants on the building’s fourth and fifth floors. Winston Starts officials say they hope to eventually have more than
40 startup tenants on-site.
Another tenant of the building assisting entrepreneurs is Flywheel Coworking, a provider of office space that occupies the eighth floor of the tower. Flywheel was founded in 2014 and provides startups with much more than space.
“We provide the beginning infrastructure for entrepreneurs, including affordable, fully-furnished workspaces,” says Peter Marsh, Flywheel co-founder. “We also provide programming that helps entrepreneurs meet each other and potentially become co-founders of innovative companies.”
Marsh says Flywheel is currently assisting about 60 startups in Winston-Salem. Those 60 entrepreneurs are either resident members at the 500 W. 5th building, or they are receiving off-site coaching and advisory services.
Funding Growth and Greatness
Also available to companies in their early stages is the Winston-Salem Partners Roundtable (WSPR) Fund. It invests in promising startups – providing seed-stage funding that typically ranges from $100,000 to $300,000 – to companies based in, or committed to relocating to, the region.
And the resources don’t just stop there. Yet another example is the Center for Creative Economy, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. “We specifically focus on helping tech-enabled creative startups that feature art, design and technology all coming together,” says Margaret Collins, Center for Creative Economy founding executive director.
A number of successful companies have come out of the center. Live Furnish, for example, uses software and CAD files to illustrate furniture concepts in 3D and color so furniture makers can visualize pieces before building them.
“A lot of organizations throughout Winston-Salem are working together to build the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we all share information with each other,” she says.