The “Five Ventures” conference taking place at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) April 18-19 isn’t going to be your typical seminar for entrepreneurs.

Instead of young and aspiring business owners spending hours listening to successful ones tell how they did it, participants will have a chance to engage in dialogue with entrepreneurs publicly presenting their business plans for the first time. They also will hear business professionals and angel investors critique the presentations.

“We at UNCC recognize that it is not just money that makes a business successful — it takes the entire community,” explains Mark Wdowik, director of technology transfer at the university. “Charlotte is our community, and it makes sense that UNCC take a role in the process. We don’t want to compete with what others are doing, so because our core competency is education, that’s our focus.”

Adds Wdowik, “We have designed this conference to be as interactive and educational as possible.”

The “Five Ventures” name refers to the five new and aspiring companies that will present their business plans on the first day of the conference. They were chosen from dozens of plans submitted to a committee made up of representatives from the event’s sponsors, which include Academy Funds, Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP; Andersen; Capital Strategies; Ernst & Young; Wakefield Group; and Helms Mullis & Wicker. These firms will also provide the five selected ventures with mentoring and education in such areas as legal services, intellectual property, public relations/marketing and financing.

Each of the five finalists will make a 15-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute critique by a panel of business advisors. Then the floor will be opened to participants — expected to number almost 300 – to ask questions.

A diverse, high-tech group

There were only two requirements for those submitting plans: that the venture be spun out of UNCC and that it not have received any institutional funding.

According to Wdowik, the single criterion used in choosing the five finalists was business viability.

The five paint a diverse picture of what’s occurring in today’s high tech industry:

  • Analytica, Inc. is developing an AI-based tool to help pharmaceutical companies optimize their lab experiments and clinical trials.
  • MindValve, Inc. is a software company that is developing proprietary software that sifts through a company’s database to help users make smarter business decisions.
  • OpSource, Inc. manufactures precision components for the aerospace industry, including Boeing and Bell Helicopter.
  • Photonics, a business idea from a group of UNCC engineering students, involves using gallium nitrate to manufacture opto-electronic components.
  • U.S. Metrology has developed a software training and online service that addresses the metrology (measurement) needs for large corporate customers.

In keeping with the conference’s interactive approach, lunch will be accompanied by a give-and-take session between investors and the participants. The afternoon will feature two speakers, John C. Yates of Morris Manning & Martin, speaking on the anatomy of a billion dollar tech deal, and Nic Heinke of the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association.

“Nic will speak on how Charlotte fits into the state’s technology strategy,” Wdowik says. “Despite what’s been said, the city will be more than just a source of money.”

Who will survive?

The half-day program on April 19 is closed to the public and open only to UNCC students and faculty., About 100 — mostly students — are expected to attend the open Q&A session with seven young entrepreneurs. Presented in a ‘Survivor’ format, panelists will vote each other off the panel until only one remains.

Although this is the second year for the conference, this year’s format is new. “We hope the interactive exchanges will motivate potential entrepreneurs and encourage them to take risks,” Wdowik says.

Registration costs $150 and is still open. For more information, or to register, contact Ruth Burnett at 704-687-4144 or