Have you ever met a unicorn?
If you attended UNCC’s Belk College of Business Entrepreneurship Decisions discussion on August 29, then you had the privilege to listen to Chris Elmore, one of the founders of AvidExchange (currently valued at $1.4 billion) and North Carolina’s only unicorn (tech startup that reaches $1 billion valuation). Also leading the discussion was Rob Cummings, co-founder of DealCloud, which was founded in 2010 and just recently sold for an undisclosed amount to Silicon Valley-based Intapp Inc. Together, the two fintech entrepreneurs discussed the intricacies and difficulties that the two startups encountered when raising capital and the different exit strategies they utilized to capitalize on their hard work.
Whether or not you are familiar with financial jargon such as angel investors, venture capitalist or private equity, most people have seen or at least heard of the show “Shark Tank.” The show's premise is to provide startup companies the opportunity to raise capital from a panel of investors, which in turn receives a stake (equity) in the startup. The difficulty arises in the early funding stage due to no one (including the company) having any idea what the true inherent value of the company is. Value is predicated on the future value of the cash flows that the company produces and without a track record to help forecast, it is more or less at best an educated guess. This valuation process and the eventual raising of capital can often be to the detriment of the entrepreneur due to the future implications that Chris and Rob discussed throughout the evening.
These two leaders shared the trials and tribulations they endured on their journey to fulfill their individual visions. Whether it was getting a car repossessed or having to be on call 24/7 due to the inability to afford a call center, these two gentlemen put in the blood, sweat, and tears to create DealCloud and AvidXchange into what they are today.
One thing is for certain, these two fintech startups will not be the last to find success in the Queen City. Charlotte, the third largest banking hub in the United States, will continue to foster and incubate fintech startups and hopefully more unicorns for years to come.
To learn more about the speaker series, which is open to the public, visit the Entrepreneurial Decisions website. Three public sessions are scheduled for Fall 2018, and more academic opportunities are available.
William Propst, student in the Belk College of Business Master of Science in Real Estate program, serves as the Student Ambassador for his graduate program.