The Research Triangle Foundation brought new energy to a tired research park Tuesday night with its new entrepreneur and innovator event called 180° – referred to mostly by the Twitter hashtag #RTP180 – which showcased the people in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area as a diverse audience in T-shirts, sweaters and skinny jeans instead of older men in suits.

I am not sure how all of these new startup organizations and entrepreneur and innovations are going to coexist when they start looking for community funding but for now they all seem to like each other. With RTP, CED, American Underground, HUB Raleigh, Triangle Startup Weekend, EntreDot and the university programs, there will be a fight for financial resources and entrepreneurial attention. I have seen some territorial concern on a recent project to bring a federal conference to the Triangle in 2014.

But there was little of that friction at #RTP180, where the heavily-caffeinated young members of the RTP Foundation staff kept the energy high even though they were exhausted from their recent trip to the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference in Austin, Texas. The staff, humbled by the global hipster Austin tech tourists at SxSW who were unaware of the economic and innovation resources and strengths of the Triangle, admitted that RTP and the overall Triangle need a stronger marketing push. The Foundation had a silly competition of timing the speeches with a TEDx-like five minute maximum with a triangle chime. But what really impressed me was the new set of leaders and new set of companies.

Who are the Triangle’s next innovators?

I was particularly impressed by two youngish entrepreneurs and their off-the-radar companies. In post-speech discussion, both entrepreneurs were willing to admit they needed help connecting to additional resources to help their companies succeed within the region and beyond.

Tethis is focused on creating a new product that solves a problem in the red-hot fracking industry. The Tethis technology, licensed from North Carolina State University, uses biomaterial to soak up the brine solution left over as wastewater from the fracking process. Tethis, which won a small award in a recent business competition of NC State spinouts, has won a few grants and is now looking for clients in the water treatment industry. The Tethis technology could also be used for desalination in areas where fresh water resources are scarce. The Tethis representative was quick to give some credit to the Blackstone Network and to ReachNC for its recent success.

QuantAire was another young company chosen to present at this talent showcase. William Vizuete admitted he was a hesitant entrepreneur but he saw a solution to a problem. His new portable machine measures air quality, including hard-to-detect nanoparticles. The machine can also measure drug efficacy, Vizuete said. Vizuete is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC Chapel Hill. He has been able to connect to the entrepreneur resources at the university but is looking to plug into regional resources for entrepreneurship and nanotechnology.

Did you know? Get to Know

Did you know…

  • Google has a staff of 20 in Chapel Hill led by a serial entrepreneur who has sold two of his four exited companies to Google.
  • IBM has a startup division with a presence in RTP. Did you know that IBM is also a funder of the Top 50 VC funds?
  • The funder behind HUB Raleigh is the founder of ShareFile who sold to Citrix.
  • One of the new angels/VCs in the area, Scott Moody of First Talent Ventures, sold his company to Apple and is a native of the North Carolina mountains and an alum of NC State.
  • The RTP Foundation HQ on Davis Drive hosts Food Truck Rodeos to make up for the lack of food options in the park.

And I am so happy to reinforce that I know that open source software company Red Hat is now the major venue sponsor of the downtown Raleigh music amphitheater!

And finally do you know what a BearODactyl is? Ask @ErinMonday or @TheRTP.

So how can you be in the know? The next #RTP180 event is scheduled for April 16 and I think it will need a bigger venue. If not, you’re going to have to RSVP faster than your hands can type.

Jim Roberts is founder of RedSpire Connections, a consulting firm for business development, lead generation, marketing and a leader of industry related events. Roberts was involved in starting technology entrepreneur boot camps in Charlotte in 2000, started the entrepreneurial council and angel investor network in Asheville. Since moving to the Triangle in 2008, he has worked for the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Center of Innovation for NanoBiotechnology (COIN). Roberts can be reached at and @RedSpireUSNC.