Five startups, including four from across the Triangle, will receive an injection of funding up to $50,000 from the NC IDEA Foundation. They are the latest emerging companies to win grants through a competitive process that dates back a decade.

The winners as selected from more than 170 applications from across the state are:

  • Gryppers, Raleigh
  • MicroSIO, Durham
  • ProAxion, Apex
  • Roobrik, Durham
  • Sandbar Oyster Company, Morehead City

“These grantees reflect the diverse economic potential of the state,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA. “Some of our companies are building new products for very large markets, and some are defining new markets with their innovations.”

Gryppers is a sports technology play, as Ruhe told WRAL TechWire.

“We see Gryppers sitting at the intersection of technology and sports. This is a team that has demonstrated a desire to compete with the Under Armours and Nikes of the world. They have the ability to capture significant market share through patented and disruptive technology born from their experience as football players at NC State.”

Sandbar Oyster’s technology gives it international impact potential, he added.

“Sandbar Oyster is a company that we immediately identified as being a good fit for an NC IDEA grant. The eclectic team of field experts and academics has developed a platform technology that could have international reach. The company’s patented substrate and strategic location allow them to farm the coveted Atlantic Emerald Oyster, with huge branding potential.”

MicroSIO’s product formulation release technology could have a big impact

“This technology out of Duke is at an early stage, but has exhibited strong preliminary data with infinite upside potential,” Ruhe explained. “Positioned in a growing market with multi-billion dollar players, the company has a range of opportunities with widespread product applications.”

As for Roobrik, its target is a real “pain point,” as Ruhe explained.

“Roobrik is solving a major pain point for consumers, critical care choices for people at the point in time they need it. Their competitive advantage is amplified by their location in the triangle surrounded by healthcare innovation. The team is composed of seasoned entrepreneurs designing solutions for problems they have experienced firsthand.”

And watch out, Internet of Things, for ProAxion.

“These guys are on the forefront of predictive analytics and the internet of things,” Ruhe said. “They are the ‘check engine’ light for industrial control systems. This is a company that has potential to create widespread job opportunities in North Carolina. Their patented technology provides differential value that can be measured in real dollars for their manufacturing customers. 

WRAL TechWire will be profiling each of the five startups in a series of stories beginning later this morning. [Note: This story will be updated as each profile is published.]

The grants are non-dilutive and can be used for a variety of purposes geared to helping the startups commercialize their technologies.

Each winner also will receive a variety of other business services from NC IDEA partners.

Since launching the program in 2006, NC IDEA has provided more than $4.5 million to 109 companies.


A summary of the latest winners as provided by NC IDEA:

  • Gryppers: Gryppers creates cutting-edge solutions, which offer comprehensive protection and complete confidence to users across various sports and markets. With a flagship, multi-sport product designed to stabilize joints (like tape), maximize performance (like gloves), as well as increase grip strength, and reduce chance of injury, Gryppers inimitably protects the athlete’s most valuable (yet neglected) assets: their hands. Learn more at
  • MicroSiO: microSiO produces revolutionary encapsulation and delivery systems to protect and control the release of active ingredients in product formulations. Using a proprietary synthesis process developed at Duke University, microSiO develops and supplies customized solutions for various applications with a specific focus in personal care.
  • ProAxion: ProAxion is a technology startup that is helping define the Industrial Internet of Things. Their cloud-based wireless sensor system brings the benefits of predictive maintenance to the millions of machines that keep our society running. Learn more at
  • Roobrik: Roobrik builds online tools that help older adults and their families make hard decisions about driving safety, living situations, and dementia. Roobrik partners with regional and national senior care providers and clinical research organizations that are committed to helping families find the options that work best. Learn more at
  • Sandbar Oyster Company: Sandbar Oyster Company is using a patent-pending, fade-away material co-developed by a UNC scientist and a North Carolina commercial fisherman to deploy in coastal waters that promotes the settlement and growth of immense numbers of wild native oysters. Oysters growing on the materials are highly suitable for aquaculture, enhancing oyster stocks for commercial and recreational fisheries, restoring environmentally valuable oyster habitats, and creating reef structures to protect shorelines from erosion.