CHAPEL HILL – Dozens of students descended onto UNC’s campus Sunday for the opportunity to pitch their great startup idea to a panel of judges.

It was a long day for many. Pitches got underway at noon in the Koury Auditorium at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and continued for more than four hours. Broken into two groups, more than 100 pitches were offered to the panel of judges. Presenters had made three minutes to make their case, with time to answer questions at the end. For many, it was their first opportunity to pitch their idea – and their first experience presenting to an audience of investors. Others were a bit more seasoned, with some bringing detailed valuations and even existing MVPs.

Once the initial pitches were completed, 10 finalists were asked to return to the front of the room for a second opportunity to present. Among the finalists were startup ideas from software, medtech, and communications, several of which relied on AI to support and develop their innovative niche.

Finalists & Awards

Seven of the finalist received investment, with the first checks coming in between $15,000 and $25,000. The funded startups included Dia, Thumbnail Game, Cheeky, Tonic, and Captio Innovations, with startup Lira named the Best AI and Flow awarded the designation of Best SaaS. The three other finalists were HireGooder, Helpful, and Sp0t.

Team members for the winning groups included:

  • LiRA: Andrew Prince
  • Dia: Sloane Tilley, Julio Fredin, Fernando Webb
  • Thumbnail Game: Tim Jang, Brayden Werner
  • Cheeky: Lorenzo Gonzales, Ushno Chakaborty, Noah Smith
  • Tonic: Shirish Kadam, Marvin Diaz
  • Captio Innovations: Hasan Dheyaa, Varad Gurude, William McLain, Tian Wang
  • Flow: Pranith Koppula

‘Moment of Inspiration’

TriVent, short for “Triangle Ventures” is the brainchild of Ilyas Colie and Manas Takalpati. The pair lead the student-run organization which worked to coordinate TriVent 2023 as their first-ever event.

Triangle college students team up to launch startup competition: Trivent


The month leading up to Sunday’s event was filled with events from the TriVent team, including pitch and public speaking workshops, a Q&A with VCs, and mentor pairing. Community support also came from Shimul Melwani and the Kenan-Flager Business School, Amy Linnane from Duke I&E, local serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo, and Kelly Rowell CEO of CED.

Co-founder Colie said about the event, “This competition showcased the huge potential for young entrepreneurs to pursue what they love, and we’re gonna double down on everything that worked in supporting them to thrive. With this many teams walking away with a life-changing amount of funding and the opportunity to pursue what they’re passionate about, we hope this is a moment of inspiration for the student community. As we enhance our programs and keep running competitions, we’re aiming for a cultural change – one where students see entrepreneurship as an achievable career path where they can strive for what they’re most passionate about.”

The TriVent team aims to continue supporting grads and undergrads with their startup goals and hopes to offer more events like this in the future.