Bloomberg Businessweek touts Greenville’s rising, successful startup scene

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Will Crooks/Upstate Business Journal

Greenville’s recent success in transforming its historically industrial economy into one of innovation and startups was recently spotlighted in a June 21 Bloomberg Businessweek article, “The New Startup South,” and a June 25 podcast episode of Bloomberg’s “Politics, Policy, Power, and Law.”

“Startups … have pride of place in Greenville, whose downtown is sprinkled with young businesses the way coffee shops now dominate the main drag in other cities,” reported Bloomberg’s Craig Torres and Catarina Saraiva, citing companies such as Zylö Therapeutics and ChartSpan Medical Technologies Inc.

“Displaced factory workers were receptive to Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ message during the 2016 election campaign,” the article said. “Yet the president’s policy prescription of lower taxes, higher tariffs, and fewer immigrants is untested, while Greenville’s leaders can rightly claim they have a success on their hands. In per capita terms, the city’s rate of new business creation approaches that of Boston, one of the country’s hotbeds of innovation. Here’s another marker of economic dynamism: Greenville’s population grew almost 20 percent from 2000 to 2016.”

Torres visited Greenville to uncover how the city, once economically reliant on the textile industry, has developed into a hub for startups and early stage business investment, and he discussed his findings with Bloomberg’s Peter Barnes and Nathan Hagar.

“What we found was an entire community aligned toward fostering new businesses, be they biotech, be they high-end manufacturing, or be they technology companies,” Torres said on “Politics, Policy, Power, and Law.”

The presence of top management from world-class companies such as BMW and Michelin has also helped propel the local startup scene, Torres said.

“You get a manager out of there, and he can probably run anything,” he said.

When asked why small businesses have a chance to succeed in Greenville, Torres said, “I think it’s the network, the local network of angel investors who are willing to fund good ideas, and they get a hefty 30-some-odd-percent tax credit just for doing that. So that’s a big state incentive, and I think it keeps a lot of money in the state funding new businesses.”

Torres’ article cites VentureSouth, a Greenville-based angel investment group, as one funding resource for early-stage businesses. “Its 230 angel investors in North and South Carolina have funneled $28 million to 61 companies,” he said.

The Bloomberg article and podcast episode also highlighted Danville, Va., whose economy was once dependent on tobacco production and textiles. Members of that city’s business community, it turns out, have paid close attention to what has worked in Greenville over the years.

“We look at Greenville as where we want to be — what they created downtown and all the startups,” said Eva Doss, CEO of The Launch Place, an organization working to transform Danville’s regional economy through entrepreneurship development and business consulting services.

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