RALEIGH – The Triangle’s past and present met the Triangle’s future Thursday night. And those who are legendary entrepreneurs – or headed that way – left NC State’s annual startup showcase with broad smiles, impressed by the next wave of startup hopefuls.
“Very diverse, very impressive,” raved Ginger Dosier, who is building the foundation for a Triangle success at BioMASON. “These startups are meeting unmet every-day needs.”
From improving bicycle safety to measuring undergarments for better fit (today, bras – tomorrow – who knows?) to sustainable energy, making better use of fresh produce and providing tools to help aspiring entertainers find success in music, these were the five in the concluding judges’ showcase. On a night during which some $100,000 in prizes were awarded across six different categories, the 10th annual event provided a preview of what’s to come for Triangle (and global) tech. It’s just a snapshot, though. Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. Central, Shaw University and more are incubators for more startups.
Red Hat co-founder Bob Young, whose Lulu is the name sponsor of the NCSU event titled Lule eGames, and serial entrepreneur/investor Scot Wingo were judges for the shark tank-like showdown of category winners along with Dosier and the City of Raleigh’s startup guru Derrick Minor. The organizers declared them “wolves” in honor of the Wolfpack rather than sharks. And the judges grilled (no snarls or howls) the five teams, too. How else to see how close to being prime time startup material was each team?
Earlier, the judges learned about nearly 20 startups across a more broad spectrum of industries and products, including $50,000 spread across the three later-stage startups that have already licensed technology from NCSU and are on their way to become established businesses. Not until the Judges’ Choice round, however, did the five get a chance to ask questions. And they were ready to snap away.
Minor quizzed David Majeski, founder of Tueri (Latin for guardian, he says) about his promised bike safety-and-lock accessory. What will the device cost to scale? How goes the testing? Chipped in Young: “You have created a popular accessory that a lot of people are going to want to steal.”
Thus the extra-tough lock, Majeski pointed out.
“How much are you going to need to produce this miracle,” Young asked energy startup Hypower Solution’s team. He then asked about timelines for replacing technology. The team responded, perhaps not in the detail Young sought, but enough for the moment.
Wingo, noting he’s as “ecommerce guy” from his days at ecom services provider ChannelAdvisor whose latest startup Spiffy (on-demand car maintenance) runs through a mobile app, wanted to known how Cup’t would integrate its precision bra measurement technology (“from size to sale,” the four senior female entrepreneurs promise) into retailers’ online data bases. They’ve got an app in development, the Cup’t team responded without a flinch.
[Demonstrating Cup’t in the photo with this post above are Els Thijis, left, and Madison Baldwin. The other cofounders are Erin urgason and Sarah Alenezi.]
And so it went for the teams in the spotlight. The judges voted their $1,000 prize to Cup’t. The audience voted its $1,000 via text voting to Tueri.
But the real winner is the Triangle’s future.
“This is the best year for talent I’ve seen,” declared Minor, who has been involved as a judge or attendee over several years. Minor, who helps lead entrepreneurship efforts for Raleigh. He declared Tueri and Cup’t as “top itches.”
“Cup’t is addressing a big business market need. They could be a fantastic group,” Minor said. As for Tueri: “Raleigh is such a bicycle town. The founder was inspired by a problem (hit twice while cycling). Great story. Love his video.”
Lulu eGames participants over the past decade have generated “tens of millions of dollars” in funding and are “changing the world,” NCSU’s Tom Miller, senior vice provost for academic outreach and entrepreneurship at NCSU, told the crowd as the evening began. “Some of the people you will see here tonight – their lives will be changed.”
So, too, will the Triangle and regions beyond.
For a breakdown on the winners, check out this post.