PINEHURST — Saying it was broadening support of the entrepreneurial community across North Carolina, MCNC Ventures formally announced a company restructuring and rebranding to North Carolina Innovative Development for Economic Advancement.

The NC IDEA concept was outlined by Dave Rizzo, the firm’s chief executive officer, as the Venture 2005 conference put on by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development opened its two-day run in Pinehurst.

The company’s new identity is focused on a renewed commitment to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in NC, Rizzo said. The organization will now provide grants, loans and traditional venture capital to early-stage technology companies based in NC.

Further support will be given to portfolio companies through partnerships with key players in the entrepreneurial community, he added.

“The partnerships we’ve established and can leverage are one way NC IDEA is distinctively different from a traditional venture firm,” Rizzo explained. “NC IDEA’s mission is to ensure innovation and success by infusing North Carolina’s entrepreneurial companies with needed capital and support-these alliances allow us to further this mission by providing our portfolio companies with an expansive resource network.”

MCNC recently sold off its MCNC research and development group to RTI.

Wireless to the Max?

WiMAX executives are looking for $5M – $6M in funding. They are very hopeful.

“We have large plans and we are seeking large funding,” said Karl
Schlatzer, the company’s CMO. “Our relationships with investors have been developed in parallel with the (Venture) conference and we have planned this to be our jumping off point.”

In fact, the company is young and knee deep in assembling the pieces needed to make WiMAX, the standard for large wireless networking, user friendly.

The firm, formally organized in December of 2004, is actively developing products and specifications for wireless networking that covers 30 miles, instead of shorter distances like traditional WiFi.

“WiMAX standards are there, but they do not yet allow for the value-added benefits the end user needs,” says Schlatzer. He explains that soon, businesses will see one converged network flow across a large wireless network. Even tradition PBX switches will be housed elsewhere.

Randy Choplin, CEO of Windchannel Communications, a provider of WiFi
solutions, added: “If they make it happen, I’d look at being a customer.”

WiMAX leadership is confident. Schlatzer told Local Tech Wire that a
wireless Chapel Hill could be within reach-first or second quarter 2006.

WiMAX, like many other presenting companies, is excited about the buzz that out-of-town investors are making over the NC companies.

Out of Town Investors Taking Second Look

Think RTP is still on the investor snub list? Those at Venture 2005 will say otherwise.

Washington, DC venture firm, The Grosvenor Funds, has a 12-year history with $90 million in early expansion dollars. It’s the fifth fund to date.

Will Thierbach, the fund’s VP says today he was most impressed with Liquidia Technologies, a company founded in 2004 that develops and markets The Liquidia Material Platform, an enabling material platform allowing the production of custom-sized and shaped nanoparticles. Liquidia has secured first round financing in excess of $2 million from Firelake Capital and other private business.

Different from what he thought, Thierbach’s seeing a healthy mix of information technology and biotech.

Roland Oliver, president of Virginia-based Monumental Venture Partners, LLC, arrived late Monday and said he is excited about expanding their search area. Oliver says the company is best served by partnering with a lead investor in biotechnology and healthcare convergence. Additionally, they’ve brought the assets of the partnerships with the Federal Government and the intelligence community to the table.

The Buzz

Local Tech Wire hears from Hutchison and Mason attorneys John Fogg and Robert Tyler that 18 of the 30 presenting companies at the conference are
H+M clients.

Why?

“We believe it’s the support we offer clients-truly becoming a part of the team,” says Tyler.

Richard Brown of Aurora Funds is representing Covelight Systems, Inc. and StemCo Biomedical Inc. and says there’s “tons” of interesting companies that have been bootstrapping and are ready to roll. “I am impressed with the professionalism,” he says.

Qualyst CEO Scott Neuville is looking for $2.4 million in Series B funding. To date, the company has been funded from private international investors. “We’re looking to reintroduce ourselves to the investment community,” says Neuville.

As senior advisor to the Governor for science and technology, Dr. Robert McMahan, who just returned from California with other NC leaders, has a lot to report on when he gets back to the Capital. “I’ve had a hard time getting to presentations because there is so much talking going on in the hallways. Capital is the engine for business and that’s what these two days are about.”
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Cindy Stranad, is director of sales and marketing for Local Tech Wire. She frequently contributes as a freelance writer and is president and founder of Articulon, a boutique PR and marketing firm in Raleigh.

Laura Childs is a freelance contributor to Local Tech Wire and is director of client relations for Articulon.