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Innovate Charlotte Ignite Grant Pitch Competition

The city's inaugural Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by Innovate Charlotte, has positioned itself to become a long-standing event for the local tech and startup ecosystem. Global Entrepreneurship Week was launched in 2008 by Global Entrepreneurship Network to help people across the world cultivate their ideas and scale their businesses. It ran earlier this month with more than 40,000 events and impacted millions of entrepreneurs worldwide.

Juan Garzon, executive director of Innovate Charlotte, said the each of the local events throughout the week had solid turnout, both in person and virtually. "For a lot of people, these events were the first time they’d been out in a while, so they were excited to be out with other ecosystem people," he said. Garzon said one highlight of the week was the Ignite Pitch Competition during which 10 early-stage underrepresented startup founders presented their companies in front of a panel of local ecosystem leaders. The finalists were chosen out of a pool of about 80 applicants. Four startups — Just Her Rideshare, Coresnatcher, BLKResumes and Seniors in Transition — were selected as the recipients of $5,000 microgrants.

"These aren’t companies that have been part of local accelerators ... So at the beginning of the event, there were a lot of nerves," he said. "Everybody was pretty excited, and they were all very encouraging with each other, which tends to happen when you have early-stage founders together." Garzon added, "Our panel of judges were very supportive and passionate about helping underrepresented founders, specifically." Other noteworthy events throughout the week included the Innovation Workshop for Girls, which Garzon said sold out, as well as a Funders and Founders happy hour and the chance to sit in on a Charlotte Angel Fund meeting.

"A lot of it is brining attention to organizations and programs that people might not be aware of," he said. "There were a lot of lessons learned ... We're applying these lessons to all of our Innovate Charlotte events, not just Global Entrepreneurship Week." Keep scrolling to learn more about the Ignite Pitch Competition winners.

Just Her Rideshare, founded in 2019 by Kimberly Evans, is a Charlotte-based ride-share platform for women, by women. The platform is currently acquiring drivers and is scheduled to launch this month. It is designed to give women peace of mind that other, similar services might not. Most recently, the startup won a $5,000 microgrant through Innovate Charlotte’s Ignite Pitch Competition.


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