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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Launch Place received 64 applications for its 9th Annual Big Launch Challenge Pitch Competition from various start-up companies located in the U.S. and abroad. The top 10 competitors took the stage and presented their innovative business ideas at the NC Biotechnology Center yesterday.

The winner of this year’s competition is LiRA, inc. who was awarded a $10,000 cash prize.

LiRA is developing next-generation voice restoration software through an AI-based lip-reading platform designed to empower voiceless individuals and advance the quality of care they receive. Every year, approximately one million individuals find themselves suddenly, and often unexpectedly, voiceless. LiRA is a multi-disciplinary group of professionals impassioned to partner with patients, caregivers, and health systems to provide lip-reading technology that empowers voiceless individuals and advances the standard of medical care. Downloadable to any smart device like an iPhone, iPad, or Surface Tablet, LiRA’s software uses the device’s camera to capture facial motion. Video data is then immediately translated into speech with their cloud-based algorithm. That speech is then played aloud and presented as text on the screen in-real time. The core lip-reading technology is built upon recent advancements in computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing.

Michar Ulrich, left, of Flux Hybrids and Nga Nguyen of LiRA. Photo courtesy of The Launch Place.

The second place and a $5,000 cash award went to Flux Hybrids. Flux Hybrids is an automotive electrification startup out of North Carolina State University targeting the commercial fleet vehicle market. They have developed a system that can convert any vehicle into a plug-in hybrid at a price point that pays for itself in savings within the remaining life of the vehicle. Their system provides all the benefits of a hybrid which include increased MPG, maintenance savings, increased vehicle lifespan, and carbon emissions reduction. The technology also provides idle mitigation that reduces engine usage and allows for auxiliary systems to operate while the engine is off.

Competition winners will also receive access to several resources provided by The Launch Place, including training, networking, and mentorship. The Launch Place, located in the River District of Danville, VA and at the First Flight Venture Center in the RTP, NC provides new and early-stage business support services and pre-seed and seed investments to start-up companies.

“Providing entrepreneurs a platform, such as this Challenge, to have their business plans heard provides many benefits to both the entrepreneurs and investors” said Eva Doss, President and CEO, The Launch Place. “This Challenge allows us to identify potential candidates for possible investment by The Launch Place Pre-Seed or the Seed Fund.”

Each finalist was given eight minutes to present their business plans to a panel of judges followed by a question and answer block. Below are the 10 finalists who pitched in the competition.

·     SpartanTek – Public Safety Tech Revolution – High-Speed Pursuit Deterrent & Intervention.

·     CityGuyd – Uses Augmented Reality to provide travelers with a digital personal guide.

·     ArchiveCore – Uses blockchain technology to simplify healthcare credentialing.

·     Green Stream Technologies – Environmental IoT: Real-time Flood Monitoring.

·     Flux Hybrids – Created a system that can convert any car to a plug-in hybrid.

·     Kalia Health – Committed to improving access to reproductive health.

·     LiRA, inc. – AI-based next-generation voice restoration software.

·     CliniSpan Health – Software platform diversifying clinical trials.

·     MyMatR – Manufactures automatic sorting waste containers.

·     MRGN – Intelligent budgeting for SMBs.

The full panel of judges included Elaine Bolle, Lead Venture Partner, Portfolia’s Active Aging and Longevity fund and Investment Chair for RTP Capital; Tim Cartwright, Co-Founder and Partner of Fifth Avenue Family Office, Founder and Chair of the Tamiami Family of Angel FundsAdrenaline Venture Fund, General Partner;  Marco Rubin, Senior Investment Director, Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Vice Chair of The Launch Place’s Seed Fund Advisory Board; Louisa Smith, Managing Director, NO/LA Angel Network; and Autumn Visser, Principal, Woods Rogers PLC, The Launch Place’s legal counsel.

This year, the Challenge was held as part of the Angel Capital Association’s (ACA) Angel University. The two-day event offered a unique experience for both angel investors and entrepreneurs filled with immersive learning and networking. ACA, the world’s largest professional organization for accredited investors hosted the two-day conference from October 13th to 14th for accredited investors and entrepreneurs. The two courses offered at the event provided valuable lessons to both angel investors and entrepreneurs – Angel Exit Strategy and Risks in Angel Investing. This was the first time these two courses were taught with angels and entrepreneurs learning together. Angels learned how to get to successful paydays – harvesting their investments by helping their companies manage risks and achieve successful exits. Entrepreneurs gained a better understanding of how angels think and evaluate early-stage companies helping entrepreneurs build stronger partnerships with their investors.