RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – “Could it be small enough to be flown?” an investor asked out of the audience.

“With the proper funding!” responded the entrepreneur on stage, to chuckles and knowing smiles around the auditorium.

Though the Research Triangle area of North Carolina is a hotbed of technology innovation, turning these great ideas into successful and sustainable companies requires more continued support, mentorship, and – crucially – connection to investors.

These startups made their pitches at Triangle Venture Day

To facilitate this connection, the New Ventures program from Duke’s Office for Translation & Commercialization (OTC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s KickStart Venture Services (KickStart), the North Carolina Biotechnology Center‘s (NCBiotech) Emerging Company Development team and North Carolina State University’s Office of Research Commercialization hosted a Venture Day on November 10, 2022.

The event was sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) SPRINT Challenge award.

“We’ve done Venture Day-type events in the past, but the EDA grant has allowed us to create something truly special,” said Mireya McKee, Ph.D., director of UNC’s KickStart. “We are creating a sustainable entrepreneurial hub in the Research Triangle area and accelerating companies in the crucial early-stage of development.”

Venture Day provided an opportunity for 19 startup companies out of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NCBiotech and NC State to pitch their innovations to investors and gain valuable feedback and investments needed for future growth.

“We had a strong showing from the investing community with many coming from outside the immediate region,” said Jeff Welch, Ph.D., director of the Duke New Ventures program. “Folks were excited and engaged, asking good questions of the pitch presenters, and following up with them during breaks and after the event.”

“Investors are really receptive to understanding what is coming out of each of the universities,” said Zack Bacon, managing director of Moore Capital Management. “There seem to be so many potential commercialization opportunities.”

Building on the success of the previous Venture Day in Spring 2022, the team continued to expand with the addition of NC State and its companies.

“NC State brings a wealth of experience and talented entrepreneurs, especially in the engineering and tech space,” said Tim Martin, MS, senior licensing associate at NC State. “We hope this is just the beginning of a fruitful, ongoing partnership with Duke, UNC, and the NC Biotech Center.”

The Spring event was focused on therapeutics, while this iteration was geared toward medical device, consumer products, and digital technology companies. For many entrepreneurs, it was a novel experience.

“For me, this is a kickoff event,” said Sandeep Bhatt, founder and CEO of voice training system start-up SonoVoice. “I want to come away with a better understanding of how to shape our strategy after this. For me, it’s a thrill to take something near and dear to me and coming here and sharing it with others to get feedback and, potentially, investment to take it to the next level.”

“Us asking questions gives entrepreneurs the view of how we’re thinking,” said Erin Finefield, principal at New Day Ventures. “When you’re getting the same question repeatedly, then you learn to shift your pitch a little to make sure that question is already addressed. Then you can get to better questions.”

In its second iteration, Venture Day continued to lead to connections and vital conversations for start-up companies, creating a unique experience for entrepreneurs and investors alike in the Research Triangle area.

“Presenting here at the NC Biotech Center – where the companies have practiced and have their mentors in the audience – gives our entrepreneurs a home field advantage,” said Vivian Doelling, Ph.D., vice president for investments and emerging company development at NCBiotech . “The quality of the presentations and subsequent conversations confirms we are building something special here.”

“I’m proud of myself,” says Kat Horvath, founder and CEO of mobile mass spectrometer start-up Minatar Technologies, in the break after her pitch. “It’s a lot to put together and I’m grateful for the support I’ve gotten.”

Here’s who presented.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center