CHAPEL HILL, NC — Karyogen, about as new as new gets, was a late addition to the presenting companies at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s 20th annual venture conference.

Michelle Hoffman, vice president for corporate strategy and business development, briefed Venture 2003 attendees on the firm’s genetic technology. Karyogen was just incorporated in March and is based on technology developed at UNC Chapel Hill by professors Terry Magnuson and David Threadgill.

The company is focused on cell and animal models that reproduce genetic mutations associated with human diseases.

Karyogen is seeking both money (up to $750,000 for a seed round) and a chief executive officer. Hoffman signed on after serving as an early-stage technology and venture analyst at Becton-Dickinson.

Venture 2003 concludes Wednesday.

A salute to Dennis Dougherty

Dennis Doughtery, one of the original board members of the CED, helped put on the first of now 20 annual Venture events back in 1984 – even before he launched Intersouth Parnters the next year.

For his efforts over the years, the CED saluted Dougherty at an inviation-only dinner Tuesday night at the Carolina Inn. Dougherty delivered an often funny, tongue-in-cheek overview of Triangle VC since 1984 and even predicted that hard-charging Christy Shaffer, chief executive officer of Inspire Pharmaceuticals would be CEO of Inspire-Glaxo-Smith-Knline in 2013.

Sibling rivalry

Stewart Alsop, venture capitalist and technology columnist for Fortune Magazine, couldn’t resist during a panel discussion asking Dr. Joseph DeSimone – founder of Micell Technologies — what triggered the UNC and NCSU professor’s interest in chemistry.
“My sister got the chemistry set,” DeSimone responded. “I did not.”

Politicos on the prowl

Congressman David Price, the Democrat from the 4th District whose shiny white hair stands out in any crowd, was a busy man Tuesday afternoon at a reception following the opening day’s events at Venture 2003.

Price, a big supporter of technology, spent time talking with all sorts of people, among them high-profile tech attorney Walter Daniels. Price also shared a bit of time with Local Tech Wire, talking about the recent FCC hearing at Duke University concerning the possible lowering of rules against further mergers in TV stations and networks.

Price adamantly opposes the relaxation as proposed by FCC Chairman Michael Powell. But he’s worried the FCC is leaning Powell’s way — especially after bucking Powell on FCC rules regarding telecom regulations.

“There’s still hope,” Price adds should the FCC move to allow more TV consolidation. He thinks there’s a good chance Congress will step in.

Hunt’s pep talk

Also working the crowd was another man known for white, white hair – former Gov. Jim Hunt, who gave entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists from around the country a pep talk at a private dinner later that evening.

“This is where the future is, my friends,” Hunt said.

In the money —

Scott Albert was a mixture of emotions all day. He was excited, given that Aurora Funds, the firm where he works, had announced on Monday the closing of its new $85 million fund. He also was a bit frazzled.

“We have been quite busy,” Albert said in a bit of an understatement.
Led by founder Jeff Clark, Aurora closed on $10 million more than originally intended. Five companies that have drawn investment from Aurora also were among the 24 presenters. At a dinner for 240 invited guests at the Carolina Inn later Tuesday night, Albert was a whirling dervish, working the tables, greeting folks and accepting congratulations for the closing.

But despite the influx of cash, Albert said no one should expect a flood of new business from Aurora. Recent angel deals, one of which involved Richard Holcomb’s latest startup “StrikeIron,” are all on Aurora’s plate for the time being — at least until the firm’s annual meeting in the next few days is passed.

Quick start for MEC’s new director

Terry Thoroson isn’t scheduled to start her new job as executive director of Charlotte’s Metrolina Entrepreneurial Council until May 1. But she was among the first to show up for Venture 2003 and quickly huddled with Monica Doss, who runs the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

Heard and seen on the floor —

A Triangle company should be announcing another acquisition any time — perhaps today. —

Is the economy turning? Anastasia Pucci of recruiting firm Carlyle & Conlan reports that within the past four weeks activity has spiked. She is fired up about how busy the phones are with news of senior positions opening up for sales, finance and marketing professionals with a background in IT, healthcare and IT. Even more energizing are the recent conversations she has had with investors moving into the area and putting down roots. —

Jim Roberts, head honcho of the Mountain Council for Entrepreneurial Development traveled from Asheville with Eric Dobson, president of Navigational Sciences, a promising technology company that delivers real-time, global asset tracking using radio frequency ID. Dobson is convinced the timing couldn’t be better. The entire roster of mandates proposed for private sector homeland defense initiatives is estimated to cost $4.5 billion and he has his eye focused on the top ten players in the international cargo shipping industry. —

Another company thriving from mandates is InfoStrength. President Rita Geiger says the recent HIPAA regulations imposed upon the healthcare industry has spurred sales of its flagship product SmartEnterpriseSuite. Upgrading systems and processes came at an investment of nearly $100 million industry wide. While the product is not industry specific, it does have modules built in to comply with the secure exchange of information and privacy protection that users are brag are the most simplistic in the marketplace. —