Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

DURHAM, N.C. – March Madness gives way to “Startup Madness” on Thursday in Durham. —

With both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke out of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament, the madness at the American Tobacco Historic District will be generated by the third in a series of startup company events put on by Scott Kelly, an investment banker.

Startup Madness also has its own sports play with Jeb Terry, a former NFL player, set to launch “Gridiron Grunts.” A former player with the 49ers and Buccaneers, Terry is currently an MBA student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

His new company will be among several that share the spotlight with several other companies who are ready to launch and are looking for advice and counsel – plus investors.

Rather than focusing on Twitter and “tweets,” Gridiron Grunts focuses on what Kelly says are “real time updates from your favorite pro athletes via voice messages.”

The Madness event kicks off with a lunch at noon and some wise counsel to be delivered from veteran entrepreneur Jud Bowman, the founder and CEO at mobile apps store Appia.

Terry will match startup pitches in a so-called “Tobacco Road Challenge” with an NCSU related startup (“Nighttime Nanny,” a device that monitors glucose levels) and a Duke linked firm (“Sidewalk,” which is described as a technology that delivers mobile advertising “via time sensitive deals.”)

Also scheduled to demo on Thursday are:

• “Ripple,” a venture focused on providing support to entrepreneurs
• “Fitsistant,” which provides on-call physical training, coaches and scheduling assistants with custom tailored fitness software
• “Obsidian,” which is promising “the first, and only, fully integrated, single source system for revenue cycle management” to the healthcare industry

Kelly, who works at KeySource Bank in Durham, put on two “Launch Day” events last year, which featured 12 companies.

For more details about the event, read here.

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