4 Takeaways: Charlotte’s Elite Unicorn Club

Friday, April 23, 2021
CEO panelists offer insight into their first-hand experience leading billion-dollar startups

The Dean’s Leadership Series, a lunchtime online series for UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, explored “The Unicorn Club: A Conversation with Two Founders of Charlotte’s Billion Dollar Startups” on Thursday, April 15. 

The session featured a conversation with the founders and CEOs of two of Charlotte’s unicorns, entrepreneurial ventures that have reached a valuation of $1 billion or more. 
Here are four takeaways from the session.
1. Grow your team.
A company should maintain a level of scalability, said Michael Praeger, CEO and co-founder of AvidXchange, a provider of on-demand accounts payable and payment automation solutions that was founded in 2000. Leaders should keep developing your team for the next step in your company’s growth.
“There has to be a healthy balance between developing our existing team along with bringing in new talent that has new experiences in new skillsets,” Praeger said.
2. Becoming a unicorn is not the end goal.
While becoming a billion-dollar company may be a goal for a startup, it is not the end, said Abhishek Mehta, founder, chairman and CEO of Tresata, a data and analytics automation company founded in 2011. There will always be more work to be done and more goals to crush.
“Getting to unicorn status is just a step in the journey; it’s not the end of the journey,” Mehta said.
3. Keep being innovative.
As startups become more successful, Praeger said, it can be easy to stop innovating and just rely on what has made you successful. However, your biggest goal should be to become a leader in innovation.
“If you’re going to continue to be an industry leader, you have to continue that innovation cycle over and over again,” Praeger said.
4. Value and celebrate entrepreneurs.
Mehta said Charlotte tends to celebrate industries like commercial real estate or corporations that relocate to the city but not the stories of startups building themselves from the ground up. 
“In Charlotte, we don’t celebrate entrepreneurs,” Mehta said. “We just don’t.” 
The session was moderated Justin Webb, Belk Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation. 

The Dean’s Leadership Series launched in September to give back to the Charlotte business community and celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary. More information to come on the Dean's Leadership Series for next semester.