WRAL TechWire set forth a renewed mission in 2018 after it absorbed ExitEvent, a Capitol Broadcasting-owned sister publication: Expanding our corporate-focused coverage into the world of seed- and early-stage technology startups.
The move merged our extensive archive with ExitEvent’s news stories and features appealing to local entrepreneurs. At that time, WRAL TechWire Editor-in-Chief Rick Smith asked me to assemble a comprehensive set of resources for innovators looking to start a business in the Triangle. I’d already put together a similar guide for ExitEvent years earlier as a college intern.
After months of development, our Triangle Startup Guide officially debuted in March 2019 with a nice interactive design and its own website domain. It launched with seven sections containing about a dozen resources each, including accelerators, incubators, venture capital and angel investors, support programs and networks, events, competitions and other miscellaneous resources. Today, each page features double, triple or even quadruple the amount of listings it started with.
The guide got tons of attention, with readers sharing feedback and suggesting new resources. From the beginning, we viewed the guide as a living, breathing encyclopedia of local knowledge for startups and small businesses.
In the years since then, we’ve seen no shortage of new programs launching to serve entrepreneurs in the Triangle. Virtually every week since 2019, we’ve been able to add new resources or at least update existing ones with fresh information.
Below, we’ll recap some of the highlights from 2023. We hope it had a big impact this year.
Duke’s Melissa and Doug Entrepreneurs Accelerator: Duke University’s Melissa and Doug Entrepreneurs Accelerator helps student-led ventures establish growth goals with advice from mentors, receive up to $5,000 in funding, and connect with a network of experienced advisors and entrepreneurs. The nine-month program also provides access to special events like pitch competitions and conferences.
RIoT Foundations: RIoT Foundations launched in 2023 to help early-stage entrepreneurs and small business owners jumpstart their ventures on a solid footing. The free, four-week program guides participants through business development best practices, the Lean Canvas business plan model, customer/market validation and financial management. While RIoT specializes in educating tech startups through its popular RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP), Foundations is open to businesses in any industry.
UNC Chapel Hill’s Venture Catalyst Program: This program matches graduate and postdoctoral students with faculty-founded startups. Fellows and founders work together on market research, business development, customer discovery and other areas critical in bringing scientific and social ventures to the market.
echoSystem Program: This training program is geared towards entrepreneurs with ideas for new products/services and existing businesses pursuing growth. Through in-person classes, participants learn how to attract customers, conduct market research, devise marketing strategies and finance their businesses. The free program launched in 2023 from Durham-based echo, the product of a merger between local nonprofits Audacity Labs and Helius.
Next Level: Run by the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center in Chatham County, this 10-week accelerator guides emerging entrepreneurs through the process of validating their business concepts using the lean startup strategy. Next Level participants learn how to hone in on a target market, test and prove their ideas, and pitch to investors. Classes are free and located in Pittsboro.
Connected Triangle+ Reverse Pitch Contest: RIoT and the City of Raleigh teamed up to host the Connected Triangle+ Reverse Pitch Contest. Startups presented solutions across three topics: Transportation, sustainability and digital equity. Municipal leaders, technical experts and investors decided on the most promising winner.
Pull-Up at Provident: Pull-Up at Provident is a free monthly event that brings together Durham’s bustling community of startup founders and small business owners to connect for networking and support. The program includes workshop sessions covering hot topics such as legal considerations, tax preparation, contracting certifications, budgeting, and tips for raising capital and landing grant funding. The series is held at Provident1898, a Durham-based coworking space home to a diverse and growing community of entrepreneurs and creators.
E3 Durham Resource Guide: E3 Durham has a helpful resource guide for entrepreneurs seeking business development support through the organization’s network of local partners. The guide features groups offering free or low-cost workshops, cohort programs, networking events or one-on-one counseling, such as Provident1898 and Durham Tech’s Small Business Center. Short descriptions and contact information are included for each resource.
SBTDC’s Digital Marketing Guide: This resource from the Small Business and Technology Development Center has everything businesses need to know about marketing their products online. The 46-page guide includes content calendars, worksheets and practical steps covering everything from messaging and strategy to keywords/SEO to social media.
Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Network LinkedIn Group: Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program operates a private LinkedIn group where members can get updates, ask questions, share ideas and opportunities, and stay in touch with the campus’s growing network of founders, investors, researchers, creators and business leaders.
Tech Innovation Index: Through its annual Tech Innovation Index, NC TECH provides a detailed snapshot of how the state’s metro areas compare to other top regions nationwide. Launched in December 2021, the report measures tech innovation across three categories: tech talent supply, talent demand and innovation. The latest edition ranked two Triangle hubs—Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Cary—within the top 10 metro areas. Find the 2023 index here.
Duke’s Inventor Scene: Check out this interactive infographic from Duke University’s Office of Translation and Commercialization (OTC), featuring stats about the campus’s invention activities. The data includes startup formation statistics alongside the number of invention disclosures, agreements and patents OTC received over the last year. The 2023 report counts 325 inventions, 486 patent applications, 104 issued patents, 125 active startups and 15 new ones. Licensing revenue set a new record, topping $102.5 million.
The Fuqua Show: The Fuqua Show is a podcast run by students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The show features dozens of interviews with students and alums working on a range of projects and startups, from social ventures to sports businesses to health care. It also sometimes brings on Fuqua faculty and staff to share their professional journeys and leadership lessons.
Raise Up!: Headed by Raleigh-based Black Dollar Corp., Raise Up! is a free platform where small business owners, startup founders and organizations can request funding, sponsorships, donations or other forms of support from the broader community. The site serves as a crowdsourcing tool for financial assistance and resources.
Triangle “Tweener” List: Every year, local entrepreneur and investor Scot Wingo releases his “Triangle Tweener” list of promising companies in the RTP area. After its launch in 2015, the list was published annually on Medium and in local media. In 2023, Wingo and his team introduced an interactive database for the 250-plus companies in the mix, including 51 new names added this year.
Customer Discovery Guide from NC IDEA: This multimedia resource features several videos, bite-sized steps for customer interviews and additional guidance for startups interested in applying to the organization’s grant programs.
State of the Technology Industry Report: This annual report, produced by the North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH), is a comprehensive source of data and trends demonstrating the vibrancy of North Carolina’s tech sector. The 2023 edition reports on the workforce and economic trends permeating the state’s base of over 25,000 technology establishments.
Triangle Tweener Fund: The Triangle Tweener Fund is a sort of “index” targeting early-stage startups in the Triangle area. The fund mainly invests in companies featured on the Triangle Tweener List, an annual roundup of the region’s most promising tech startups compiled by local serial entrepreneur and investor Scot Wingo. The Tweener Fund launched in December 2021 with support from more than 20 Triangle-based entrepreneurs. By mid-2023, it had grown to 144 investors and deployed over $4.6 million into 72 local startups across 86 investments.
RTP Angel Fund: RTP Angel Fund launched in August 2023 with $3 million raised from over 50 investors, including local VC and angel leaders from IDEA Fund Partners, RTP Capital and Triangle Angel Partners. The fund targets early-stage companies seeking their first institutional backing, particularly focusing on those with the potential to deliver 10X returns. Rounds range from $100,000 to $250,000, giving startups critical funding and additional mentorship as they scale their ventures to attract future investments.
Primordial: Durham-based Primordial launched in April 2023 to support pre-seed and seed-stage software ventures in the Triangle. The firm spun out of local VC investor Colopy Ventures, headed by serial tech entrepreneur Joe Colopy. Primordial targets business-to-business and business-to-consumer startups with recurring revenues under $500,000 per year. Less than a month after its creation, the firm announced two investments in local startups based in Durham and Raleigh.
QHP Capital: This Raleigh-based firm funds middle-market life science and pharma companies offering tech-enabled solutions to critical challenges in the medical field, such as reducing the cost of care, improving efficiency and minimizing unnecessary procedures. As of 2023, the firm has around $2.5 billion in assets under management.