The stakes were high for 18 Triangle startups at the 1776 Challenge Cup Durham last Wednesday. The American Underground joined organizers in 50 cities around the world in hosting the preliminary round of the pitch competition aimed at identifying the most promising startups in highly-regulated industries like transportation, education, health, energy and sustainability.

Only three of the local pitching companies were selected to advance to the regional competition in NYC, where they’ll have a chance to advance to the world competition in DC next May. There, they’ll pitch for the chance to win $1 million in prizes along with coveted networking opportunities.

Last year’s global winner was Twiga Fruits of Kenya, a fruit exporter creating a fair and sustainable way for farmers to sell more produce and eliminate middlemen. RTP startup BaseTrace was a semifinalist in the global competition, taking home $50,000 for its DNA-based tracer that identifies leaks and hazards in industrial fluids.

The three startups selected for the 2016 competition were Tom and Jenny’s, Seachange Technology and Neuro+. All 18 pitches were solid, but these three companies’ approach to problem-solving stood out among the rest.

Read about each of the three winners from Durham’s Challenge Cup competition on ExitEvent.