CHAPEL HILL,For Nadine Carozzi, the Springboard: Southeast 2002 conference is another chance for her company to get before venture capitalists. For Monica Wooden, it’s an opportunity to launch a search for her firm’s first outside investment.

For organizers, the Friday event at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business is a way to showcase the growing number of female executives at technology companies across the region.

The conference is the eighth venture forum conducted by Springboard Enterprises, a Washington, D.C., organization that tries to involve more women in the private equity markets, both as entrepreneurs and investors, though various networking events and training seminars. But this is the first time the group is featuring Southeast tech companies.

“This is a big honor for the Triangle to have this (event) here,” says Anne Wein, spokeswoman for the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, which is co-hosting the event. “It gives women who typically aren’t involved in the venture capital process some exposure and a chance to network and learn from each other.”

Springboard decided to hold the event in the Research Triangle area after CED President Monica Doss assisted with an earlier venture forum in the Washington area.

Take it or leave it

Sixteen companies have been selected to make presentations, including eight from the Triangle and one each from the Charlotte and Atlanta areas. The rest are from Maryland and Florida.

Close to 300 people are expected to attend Friday’s event, about a third of whom will be venture capitalists or angel investors, Wein says. A reception is set Thursday night at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Wooden, chief executive of MercuryGate, an Apex, N.C.-based online logistics management firm, hopes to find some investors with a long-range vision in the crowd who are willing to make what she calls a low-risk bet for a fairly stable return.

“It’s not going to be the end of the world if we don’t get any funding,” she says. “We think we can still grow 50 percent year over year. But with outside funding, we could grow 200 percent.”

MercuryGate was founded two years ago by a group of software developers who used to work at IBM and Sapiens International. It has been self-funded so far and already has a number of major clients, including Siemens and Hickory Farms. But Wooden says the company could really ramp up sales and support with about $2.5 million in venture capital.

“We’ve built the business ourselves in a down economy following the dot-com bust,” she says. “Think what we could do when the economy starts to improve.”

Closing the round

While MercuryGate could take or leave the money, Athenix is trying to close a $15 million second round of venture capital by next summer, says Carozzi, who co-founded the Durham biotechnology company last year and now serves its vice president of product development.

Athenix, which uses microbes to genetically modify plants to be more insect and weed tolerant and to be used in the production of plastics, also made a pitch to investors in May at CED’s annual venture capital conference. Carozzi says the more often the company can get in front of investors, the better.

“We’re always talking to investors,” she says. “We just need to add to the syndicate of people we already have behind us.”

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