RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – It’s a parade of startups hitting the stages at this year’s Venture Connect. One after another, ideas, devices, and technologies are on display at the show which ends today at the GSK Campus.

But while there’s shine on stage, make no mistake that the action is happening in the halls. Business cards are flying thick and fast, and deals are getting done.

Venture Connect 2023 | Photo by Jen McFarland

Making Connections

I spoke with Marcus Azeh, co-founder of Lavni, as he was preparing for his first investor meeting yesterday, a mere two hours after the company pitched during the Digital Health + Healthcare IT session. Lavni is building an online mental health platform for underserved communities.

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“The pitch went well, I’m super-excited,” said Azeh. “Someone from the audience reached out. Hoping something comes out of that so we can continue to grow.”

Azeh is also looking to learn from his fellow conference attendees.

“I love to learn. Learn from your peers. ‘What is working for you? How are you currently tackling problem x? Problem y?’ And being willing to share what I’ve learned and collaborate.”

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Passionate Pleas

Each pitch seems to end with heartfelt and enthusiastic entreaties to “find me during the conference.”

“We’d love to have you help us, join us, support us,” said Suggestion Ox founder Wade Minter in his wrap-up.

These founders and CEOs are passionate about their companies and what they can provide. And it’s not just a need for investor support. Many of the pitches ask for partnerships, innovations, and talent to help them take their companies to the next level.

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“We need to help a lot more people. There are over 23 million people in the United States right now who are currently underserved,” said Azeh. “I was one of those people and I want to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Investors Meeting Investors

Venture Connect is also for investors making connections with each other.

After all, it’s not uncommon for a start-up to receive funding from multiple sources, either independently, or in partnership.

“I’m always open to speak to anyone or any company that feels like there’s a worthwhile partnership,” said Mike Manhan from Stanley Ventures, in a short hallway interview.

Manhan is among over 200 investors attending VC23 from across the country, according to attendance data shared on the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) website. Overall, the event is expected to host more than 1,200 attendees.

“I always love to meet new investors and trade ideas and best practices,” Mahan told me. “Raleigh-Durham has a strong start-up community.”

Investor Dan Roselli of Charlotte’s Carolina Fintech offered a similar view. “Investors like to know each other as we almost always co-invest with each other meaning we won’t do 100% of the financing in any given round so you need many co-investors.”

Investors and CEOs will have more opportunities for networking and pitches. Sessions including CyberTech, FinTech, Early BioTech, and the cutting-edge “DeepTech” will take place today.