Cary, NC – As Cary’s economy and community grows, more companies and start-ups are looking for ways to keep the town moving. And to help, Cary’s Cofounders Lab has given advice to entrepreneurs and just completed its first year.
Investing in Cary
Cary’s Cofounders Lab, located in the third floor of the Cary Theater, works as an “accelerator” for businesses, giving them the resources they need, including possible investment capital if they reach that stage in their development.
David Gardner, who runs both the lab and Cofounders Capital, the Triangle-focused seed fund, said the lab is a partnership with the town – started off of Cary Downtown Development Manager Ted Boyd’s idea – to give Cofounders Capital free office space while giving the town a business accelerator without having to hire a manager.
“It’s smart development. In North Carolina, we normally bribe companies to stay but this way, we invest in them locally so they want to stay,” Gardner said.
Since opening the Cofounders Lab in 2015, Gardner said they have invested in 11 companies with $6 million so far, not to mention 25 companies Gardner has personally invested in over the past 4-5 years. Gardner said it usually takes a few years to know if an investment was successful but said the first year has gone very well.
“The Triangle is the best kept secret in venture capital,” Gardner said. “We’re in a constant state of being overwhelmed. I get four to five business plans a day. You don’t have to go outside the Triangle to find investment opportunities.”
Right now, Gardner said he is taking the lab one step at a time, moving month to month with different businesses that come in.
“It’s not about one home run. We just keep moving the ball down the field,” he said. “If the town continues to renew it, we’ll continue to stay here.”
Access to Advice
At the Cofounders Lab in Downtown Cary, companies can come in for free to meet with Gardner and his team to help guide them or give them the resources they need.
“We have desks, Internet access, interns who will work with them,” he said. “And most importantly, access to us.”
Cofounders Capital only invests in B2B or business-to-business ventures, specifically software companies, and also works with startups to reach a point where they can start taking capital.
“They were instrumental helping us form our monetization and financial strategies. We worked together to create a system to manage our financial needs as well as a strategy to track our metrics in order to understand how our assumptions were changing over time,” said Monica Woods, CEO and cofounder of Myxx, a local startup that uses recipes to connect food retailers with customers. “Their insight and hands on approach is demonstrative of what I see them doing every day at Cofounders Capital. We all feel lucky to have them as investors as well as integral members of our team.”
And as more businesses come into Downtown Cary, Gardner said their location is a win-win because they get the office space while the town has a resource dedicated to further improving area businesses.
“I’m at a point in my life where work, leisure and charity are all one,” he said.
Gardner also said towns that do not have a downtown center do not do as well and that Cary has been strategic in how they have developed a walkable downtown.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Michael Papich and Jessica Patrick.