Editor’s note: Veteran WRAL TechWire contributors Allan Maurer and Renee Wright provided in-depth, exclusive coverage over the past several days at the 25th Cucalorus Festival in Wilmington. In their latest report, entrepreneurs own the stage.

WILMINGTON – Eight startups had 90 seconds to pitch their ideas to the Cucalorus Connect audience in the noncompetitive Rocket Pitch event over the weekend, while ten other businesses paired with filmmakers ran short marketing films made in only five days.

Six of the 10X10 Challenge companies had technology or business-related products or services, two were seafood oriented, one aims to promote interpersonal connections, and one makes handcrafted marshmallows in unique flavors.

All of the films were well-made, although several needed a voice-over explanation or on-camera interview to make what the companies do clearer. Others were effective marketing tools developed in the remarkably short period.

Norwood Cheek, the originator of the 10×10 Challenge concept. Photo: R Wright.

The 10×10 Challenge concept originated back in 2006 at the Atlantic Film Festival, in Halifax, NS. Norwood Cheek, who came up with the idea, paired filmmakers with local bands to make music videos in those early days.

The technology/business-related 10X10 firms included:

  • BatteryXchange is a Charlotte-based rental kiosk platform for portable battery chargers, compatible with any phone, an idea anyone who has suddenly found themselves with a dead cell phone can appreciate.
  • InvestinNC is an educational program created to inform North Carolina business owners and potential investors about investment crowdfunding under the NC PACES Act.
  • LYKEWYZE automates content marketing to emulate high-end branding campaigns that consumers remember. If people like you, they will buy from you when they’re ready.

Rocket Pitch participant Taylor Townsend pitched Raise the Bar, winner of the UNCW BIG Idea Competition. Photo: R Wright

  • ScreenOUT: many of us spend 50 percent or more of our time looking at screens every day, checking our devices literally thousands of times. ScreenOut is a platform to support family connection through enhanced communications and screen time monitoring with a personalized strategy to redirect digitally addicted family members.
  • Simple Wallets is a solution to reduce the time you spend looking for your wallet and prevent the loss of your hard-earned money and data while funding police departments.
  • Voxicard is a modern twist on the classic postcard – a whole new way to share your adventures, custom printed with secret video.

Reid Wilson pitched Language Corpus and invited participants to contribute their voices on its website. Photo: R Wright.

The other 10X10 companies were Mallowdoos, which hand-makes marshmallows in various flavors which are sold widely in local stores and groceries. Appropriately for a coastal event, two seafood companies participated: The Seafood Crab Co. and Topsail Steamers, which builds seafood steamer pots people cook at home. Compass Bracelets sells hand-made bracelets that connect people through stories and inspire a chain of kindness as they are shared with others.

The Rocket Pitch Event

Dan Brawley, chief instigator at Cucalorus introduced the event, noting, “This is not a competition, it is a celebration.”

Companies pitching their concepts in 90 seconds were:

  • CoLabs is an incubator facility with the resources, services, and network to support the launch and growth of veteran-owned businesses. Founder Brandon Noel converted a 2,400 square foot facility in Wilmington into office space for veteran entrepreneurs. Launching in early 2020, it will lend entrepreneurs in-house services, such as marketing, HR, and app development, and maintain a pool of mentors and investors.

Brandon Noel, founder of Co Lab, an incubator for veteran-owned startups. Photo: R Wright

  • GreenStream Technologies monitors and reports conditions in the environment with an end-to-end solution for floods in urban, suburban, rural and even remote environments. It sends data from sensors in streets and streams to a user’s cell phone when water rises.
  • Language Corpus is a subscription-based offering for intermediate and advanced language learners to understand what people are saying to them, around them and about them. It aims at giving language learners access to thousands of recordings by native speakers to boost their comprehension level.
  • Raise the Bar was the winner of the BIG Idea Competition at the UNCW Cameron School of Business. It is a training program and workbook for young athletes targeted at girls from 8 to 18. It also increases communication between parents and coaches.
  • Survei helps apartment complexes share what is known as a “competitive portfolio.” Survei speeds up the process, while also increasing data reliability. A business to business platform, it brings accurate, real-time information to the retail rental marketplace.
  • Safe and Sound is a disaster management mobile app that informs managers of colleagues’ locations in a crisis, while maintaining security and privacy for a healthy work/life balance not available when using social media.

Claire Holroyd, founder of Silly-Do. Photo: R Wright

  • Skilly-do is a toolkit proven in the real world by thousands of teachers and children to make the most of a child’s early development and learning through play. It supports working families with playful learning that makes the most of parent’s time on their busy days at work in 15 minutes or less.
  • Wonder Water, which won the 2019 Young Entrepreneurship Experience (YEPex) High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Summit at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is a system that tells shower users how much hot water remains.

Web sites for Rocket Pitch and 10×10 Challenge are available at the Cucalorus site.