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Online Platform For Real Estate Investors Takes The Surfboard At CEA Awards Event

By Jenny Callison, posted May 22, 2019
Connected Investors' founder and CEO Ross Hamilton accepts the Entrepreneur of the Year award. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
A fast-growing online social platform for real estate investors was named Entrepreneur of the Year at Wednesday’s Coastal Entrepreneur Awards. 

Connected Investors came away from the event with the CEA wooden surfboard, created by Kids Making It, that is passed from winner to winner each year.

The annual event is co-sponsored by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Todd John, referring to the company’s upward trajectory in terms of participating investors, revenues and lenders. John, founder and CEO of PlayerSpace, introduced Connected Investors as one of two Internet-Related category winners to the audience of about 300 people at UNCW’s Burney Center. He also served as one of this year's CEA judges.

PlayerSpace was the overall CEA winner in 2017.

Hamilton said that, as a young real estate investor, he created the company to help himself find and complete more deals.

“I didn’t set out to create a technology company,” he said afterward. “It was the result of trying to solve a problem, and I found that technology was the best way to solve it.”

Hamilton describes Connected Investors as “a LinkedIn for real estate investors.”

In his remarks from the podium Wednesday, Hamilton reflected on the growth of Wilmington’s entrepreneurial community since 2006, when he launched Connected Investors.

“Wilmington was a desert. I traveled just to surround myself with people who would speak my language,” he said of the local environment little more than a decade ago. Then came the CIE, tekMountain, and the influence of entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh and Charlotte, all of which, he said, help Wilmington area entrepreneurs pursue their dreams and ideas.

“If you love your state, your city, invest in startups,” he told the audience in conclusion.

In announcing Connected Investors as the overall winner, Live Oak Ventures principal Timur Davis noted that Connected Investors was the first tenant at tekMountain. The company had revenues of $10 million in 2018 and, currently, sees $3 billion in loans flowing through its portal every month.

And its growth can be charted in other ways. Connected Investors moved in March to newly rehabbed urban chic space downtown and has just hired its 22nd employee, according to Bill Brinkley, the company’s CFO and COO. The other members of CI’s executive team are Adam Steinberg, the company’s lending expert, and Marty Coyne, the chief technology officer.

“Those represent our core competencies,” Brinkley said Wednesday. “We complement each other.”

Commenting on the company’s $10 million in 2018 revenues, Brinkley and Hamilton said that number was double the revenues for 2017. Revenues in 2016 totaled $2 million.

In addition to Connected Investors, which was one of two winners in the Internet-Related category, other category winners for 2019 were Cardinal Foods (Manufacturing & Distribution), Coastal Stormwater Services (Professional Services), Compass Bracelets (Retail), Good Shepherd Center (Nonprofit), Hensler Surgical Technologies (Health Care), KWHCoin (Emerging Company), myBeeHyve (Internet-Related), SportGait (Technology) and Tri-Tech Forensics (Biotech).

Several businesses, nominated by their area chambers of commerce, were also honored for their entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Carolina Sisters Monogram & More - Burgaw Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Integrity Merchant Partners - Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce
  • Coastal Land Trust - North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce
  • Noel and Ron Stevens, owners of HopLite Irish Pub & Restaurant, Lake Park Steakhouse, ChristmaSea and CB Cigar Box - Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce
  • Inspirations Dance Centre - Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Leath HR Group - Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
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