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Entrepreneur Brings Young Tech Startup From Triangle To Wilmington

By Audrey Elsberry, posted May 3, 2024
Matt Cimino (pictured) moved his family to Wilmington last year while running a young startup, Amped. While growing the company, Cimino wants to grow the Wilmington startup ecosystem as well. (Photo courtesy of Matt Cimino)
Startups in Wilmington tend to have a love-hate relationship with the Triangle. Wilmington’s technology entrepreneur ecosystem benefits from its proximity to the Triangle, but its behemoth ecosystem dwarfs Wilmington's by comparison. 
 
Tech talent and startups often leave Wilmington for the Triangle, among other cities, in search of more venture dollars and access to better resources. But Raleigh native Matt Cimino did the opposite last year when he moved to Wilmington in the midst of establishing his direct-to-consumer software company, Amped.
 
Amped is a service for e-commerce direct-to-consumer companies that helps secure repeat customers, Cimino said. The software creates pop-ups on e-commerce websites, incentivizing customers to sign up for a text message or email newsletter.  
 
“If they’re doing email and SMS marketing effectively, that translates to sales,” Cimino said.
 
He founded the company three years ago and had a team of about 15 employees scattered across the Southeast and in Austin, Texas. Several members of the team are in Raleigh, one in Missouri and three employees in Wilmington, Cimino said.
 
Amped is growing — the company has 425 customers and grossed just over $2 million in revenue in two-and-a-half years. Much of that revenue accumulated over the past nine months, Cimino said. Now the team is focused on horizontal expansion, adding customers with one product before they expand into more products.
 
Cimino’s decision to live in Wilmington wasn’t a business move, he said. He was drawn by quality of life, as many others are, and went to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has a soft spot for Wilmington, so he moved away from the Triangle, an area that received more than 40 times more venture capital than Wilmington in 2023, according to CED’s 2023 Venture Report.
 
He’s networked through entities in Wilmington like the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and fostered a new friendship with Nathan Snell, who helped found nCino and is working on his new startup, Raleon. Cimino is working to integrate himself into the ecosystem here but it’s much smaller than what was available in Raleigh, he said.
 
“There just a larger, quantity wise, just more entrepreneurs,” he said. “I’m in a group called EO (Entrepreneurs Organization), there’s also YPO (Young Presidents Organization).”  
 
These spaces provide a forum for entrepreneurs in similar financial and professional stages of their company’s growth to connect and give advice to one another, he said.
 
“I'd like to do that in Wilmington, but I'm struggling to find the quantity of people to put into a forum,” Cimino said.
 
Wilmington does have groups like NEW and Port City Young Professionals that meet consistently. And Cimino is encouraged by the other tech startups around town finding success like Snell with nCino and Raleon and Ohanafy, a beverage supply chain software company that raised about $6 million in two seed rounds over the past year.
 
“Everybody’s starting to find out about it,” Cimino said about Wilmington.
 
Cimino’s sentiment echoes Raleigh-based startup investor Tim McLoughlin, managing partner of Cofounders Capital, who remarked about the Wilmington ecosystem when he spoke to the Business Journal in November.
 
“The secrets kind of getting out,” McLoughlin said. “People are realizing that Wilmington has to be a territory that they need to cover for new startup activities and investment opportunities.”
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