CHAPEL HILL – Startup LiRA, which is a developer of lip-reading technology, won first place and $25,000 at the Covintus Tech Tank pitch competition that was hosted virtually this week.

LiRA stands for “Lip Reading Assistant,” the company states on its website, noting the similarity to the word “lyre,” a musical instrument Orpheus, a Greek god, played.

The company is developing technology, LipTrain, that will benefit voiceless individuals affected by voice disorders, laryngectomee, tracheostomy, or other challenges.  The company also notes that it seeks to restore effective communication between aphonic patients and their caregivers on its website.  According to the company’s website, it is conducting a study to assist it in reaching its goals.

The pitch competition victory was the culmination of the company’s participation in the Tech Tank program, led by Covintus.  The pitch competition was judged by a panel that included John Espey, the CEO and cofounder of Charlotte-based Defiance Ventures and a cofounder and former CEO of Levvel, which was acquired earlier this year.

“Tech Tank has been an incredible learning experience, affording us a deep dive into software development,” said Andrew Prince, M.D., founder and CEO of LiRA in a statement.  “This experience has already improved our collaborations with various consultants, and it’s certainly set us up to move forward more confidently as a startup.

The company will receive a matching credit, according to a statement in which Prince noted “will allow us to further our collaboration with Covintus in machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision resources.”

Through the Covintus Tech Tank program, Covintus pledged $1 million to support startups, the company shared in a statement about the pitch contest.  “The cohort featured expert-led virtual sessions advising cohort participants on how to be fluent in digital product decision-making partner optimization, development processes and methodologies, as well as protecting intellectual property,” Covintus described in its statement.

LiRA received a $10,000 NC IDEA MICRO grant in April 2021, and was also named a co-winner of the RIoT Your Reality Challenge this year, according to a company post on LinkedIn.