RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Women Entrepreneurship Day turned out to be quite a significant one for female entrepreneurs and investors on Thursday night with hundreds of people tuning in to participate virtually for xElle Ventures’ first female founder pitch competition.

That’s one of the biggest event draws in terms of numbers we at TechWire have heard about in these times of COVID, reflecting the importance of the event and the talent participating.

The event participation list was a mix of startup movers and shakers, from judges to organizers, let alone the promising firms selected to present. This is good news for women who face many obstacles in finding support among venture capitalists (2.8% VC funding share in 2019) as well as other investors, let alone finding success in the executive ranks (37 women CEOs in the Fortune 500, says Fortune.)

“We received 20 submissions – we screened it down to 5 fabulous female finalists,” Robbie Hardy tells The Skinny, noting the quality of startup talent around the Triangle.

Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire’s editor and a cofounder, writes The Skinny.

“All the submissions were great.”

Robbie is founder and chair of xElle, an angel capital group.

xElle Ventures describes itself as “an early stage Angel Network for women founders by women founders, executives and investors.
According to their website, their mission is to invest in the ideas, products and services of women.” And they are a committed group.

The finalists and attendees were drawn in part to the event by xElle’s partners – again another sign of the group’s influence.

“We partnered with 12 colleges and universities,” Hardy says. “We asked for two female founders from students, faculty or alumni.”

Black Box Travel was named the winner by an all-female panel of judges that also included Triangle heavy hitters. They were as noted in this graphic:

Judges for women founders’ pitch event.

And the finalists were …

Here’s a snapshot of the five finalists:

Black Travel Box

Personal care products brand for travelers of color, which is revolutionizing the $63 billion black travel market.  Products are designed to last longer, travel better, and are safe to use so the only thing customers worry about is enjoying their destination.  Founder: Orion Brown.


Kalia Health

A biotech company committed to improving access to maternal health care around the world. Preeclampsia (PE) is the 2nd leading cause of maternal mortalities worldwide, despite being straightforward to manage if detected early. KH is developing the Kal-PDx, an early, non-invasive, PE diagnostic, which can aid clinicians to identify PE with ease, even when there are no presenting symptoms and empower expecting mothers to take control of their health and test quickly and comfortably at home.  Founder is Happy Ghosh.


Socket Lock-It

A unique product that is an adhesive cardholder for the back of a phone, with a receptacle that can easily exchange in and out your phone grips.  Match style, mood, or an outfit; lock in school spirit one day and your favorite team the next.  Founder is Caitie Gehlhausen.



“Uber for interpretation,” Sol is a platform that connects travelers with interpreters.  Because travelers struggle to navigate complex language and cultural situations involving slang, context, and dialects, and because machine translators are not able to understand the cultural influences that impact communication for native people, Sol helps travelers by matching them with local, native interpreters. Founder: Jayashree Haridoss.


Minerva Lithium

Minerva Lithium is a university spinout company based on licensed technology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro, NC. The first innovative product is a clean energy technology that utilizes a proprietary Nano Mosaic membrane filter system for critical materials extraction from non-traditional water resources.  Founder: Dr. Sheeba Dawood.


The event’s partners were:

Partners for women founders’ event.