The judges gathered on Tuesday to pick the five finalists for the “Five Ventures 2003” conference coming up in the Queen City later this month. And they did not have an easy task.

“The competition was fierce,” said Mark Wdowik, executive director of the office of technology transfer at UNC Charlotte, which puts on the event. But he wasn’t complaining.

“This is good news,” he said. “It was a tough process, but that’s good because it indicates the quality of the businesses out there.

“Entrepreneurship is alive in the Carolinas.”

Four of the business plans selected for review at the March 27-28 finals are affiliated with UNC Charlotte and another has ties to UNC Chapel Hill. They represent a variety of specialties, and all aren’t high tech. Each also was not selected just because it could create buzz in the venture capital community and generate some funds.

“This isn’t your typical type of business competition. A lot of the others are focused on the ability to raise venture capital,” Wdowik explained. “We are looking for diversified entrepreneurship in order to impact economic development in the long run, companies that will have high impact.

“We put the emphasis on business viability — not just in technology but in services, and marketing – all different types of companies. And that’s a good thing for the economy.”

A selection committee made up of service providers in the legal, intellectual property, public relations, accounting and finance helped screen the contenders to 10 semifinalists last week and then to the final quintet.

The five finalists are:

  • Singras, Inc.: Affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill, the company is exploring a carbon dioxide process for removing oil/fat from fried foods such as chips.

  • InsituTek, Inc.: An all-student team winner from UNC Charlotte which is focusing on the manufacture of nano-positioners for semiconductor and metrology
    equipment. These would be capable of atomic precision movement using new type of ceramic materials.

  • Calyptix Security: Affiliated with UNC Charlotte, the company is working with security products and systems. These included multiple enterprise and Internet-based intrusion detection and dynamic access enforcer capability.

  • IntePoint, Inc.: Also affiliated with UNC Charlotte, IntePoint is a “war games” developer for critical infrastructures, such as power companies, using advanced “what if” scenario and dynamic interaction models.

  • Bilingual Children Resources: Affiliated with UNC Charlotte as well, the company concentrates on bilingual products and services that assist Hispanic families through communication and innovative storytelling with children. They are exploring “a more effective approach to relaying critical safety information to Hispanic families, such
    as the recent problems with families burning charcoal in their fireplaces and
    use of indoor grills that caused CO problems suing the ice storm,” Wdowik said.

Five Ventures is more than a business plan competition. The event features a variety of panel discussions and guest speakers, which will address issues facing the entrepreneurial community.

Tom Fisher, chief information officer of Qualcomm will discuss his experiences as an entrepreneur and venture capitalists in a keynote speech. And separate panels will discuss not only VC funding but how to survive in a tough economic climate.

The business plans will be presented on the 27th before a panel that includes investors and venture capitalists.

For registration information, contact Ruth Burnett at 704-687-4144 or go online to:

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.