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Why Winston-Salem is a Great Place to Build Your Startup

Winston-Salem ranks among the nation's top cities for startups. 

By Wesley Broome on January 3, 2023

Phase II Master Plan of Innovation Quarter
Innovation Quarter

As a midsize city with abundant entrepreneurial resources, Winston-Salem is uniquely positioned as an ideal location for startup businesses. It was even voted the No. 1 city for startups in 2019 by WalletHub, tying with Austin, Texas. 

CPB Forum's Recharge in Winston-Salem, NC.
Shelley Holmes

Abundant Resources

Steve Lineberger, a founder and general partner of the Winston-Salem Partners Roundtable (WSPR) Fund, says, “We’ve still got the operating intimacy of a small city, even though we have the resources and corporate density of a large city.”

Greater Winston-Salem, Inc. leveraged this corporate density by assembling a group of investors within the community to form the WSPR Fund, an effort to expand the amount of capital available to early-stage Winston-Salem-based companies. In addition to WSPR’s general partners — Lineberger, David Neill, Hal Eason and Todd Johnson — the group comprises about 70 investors. Since 2021, WSPR has invested more than $1 million in total into six successful early-stage companies in Winston-Salem.

According to Clay Johnson, director of entrepreneurial initiatives for Greater Winston-Salem, Inc., what WSPR’s success reveals is that “a city’s size isn’t necessarily indicative of the amount of capital available to early-stage companies, nor is it indicative of the number of companies in need of this type of funding.” He goes on to say, “In the case of WSPR, it took an organization working with key stakeholders to help bridge the divide between available capital and early-stage companies.”

Part of what makes the WSPR Fund unique is its willingness to invest in physical goods businesses such as food, apparel and household items. Some of the businesses the WSPR Fund has funded include BEAM Dynamics, Smoodi, Village Juice Company and NVOLVE. 

Team from BEAM Dynamics work together in their Winston-Salem offices.
Courtesy of BEAM Dynamics

Making Moves

For David Kaszycki, BEAM Dynamics founder, the move to Winston-Salem from Atlanta was a risky move that has paid off.

“I don’t look back for a second,” Kaszycki says. “It’s been a great opportunity for starting a business.” Partnering with the WSPR Fund was an essential step in growing his business, Kaszycki says.

“Money in this area at our stage of the company is really hard to find, particularly in the Southeast,” Kaszycki says. “There’s not a lot of people writing checks of that size that can really help foster early-stage startups.”

People pose at the Wake Forest University’s Center for Private Business in Winston-Salem, NC.
Sheryl Kuczynski

Early-Stage Support

At Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), the Brilliance Lab is another resource helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Assisting entrepreneurs while still in school, the Brilliance Lab provides mentorships and funding for prospective business owners. 

This year’s WSSU Innovations Festival featured departmental showcases, faculty presentations and networking opportunities that bridged students with members of the wider Winston-Salem community.

Resources like the Center for Creative Economy and the Wake Forest University Center for Private Business, as well as accelerators like the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center, can also provide entrepreneurs with the tools needed to start their businesses.

Group of people sit around a table with beers at a downtown spot in Winston-Salem, NC.
Natalie Sahloff

The ‘Goldilocks’ City

Lineberger refers to Winston-Salem as a “Goldilocks city,” meaning everything is “just right,” from the size of the city to the abundance of resources. Kaszycki calls it the “10-minute town,” praising the fact that it takes about 10 minutes to get anywhere he needs to go.

There is no shortage of community support for entrepreneurs seeking to enter the startup space in Winston-Salem.

“It’s not easy to start a business,” Lineberger says. “You’ve got to have a lot of tenacity, but the city has put the resources in place to make it as easy as possible for you.”

Businesses that put in the work will likely see those efforts pay off. Kaszycki stresses the importance of forming relationships with the surrounding community, including business leaders and local government.

“We can call up anyone in the community, and they’re always willing to help,” Kaszycki says. “We truly feel like people are vested in what we’re doing and hope that BEAM, as well as the other startups here, become a huge part of Winston-Salem in the years to come.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Winston-Salem, NC, area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Greater Winston-Salem

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