Charlotte Venture Challenge 2017 Competition Announced
Innovation Competition in 16th Year Focuses on Customer Discovery
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Feb. 3, 2017 – The Charlotte Venture Challenge innovation competition will highlight successful customer discovery by emerging North Carolina startups. The competition, now in its 16th year, will expand to three events held in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Organizing sponsors Ventureprise and UNC Charlotte have designed the 2017 competition to support the formation of high-potential North Carolina startups that demonstrate deep understanding of customer needs and business models that can enable successful launch and growth. The competition format has been revised for 2017 to focus on North Carolina and to emphasize customer discovery.
The Charlotte Venture Challenge (CVC) will feature ventures that have completed the Ventureprise Launch program supported by the NC IDEA Foundation (www.ncidea.org) and university teams that have completed the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program. Additional ventures may apply through a competitive application process.
The initial 2017 Charlotte Venture Challenge will occur on April 6, 2017 at UNC Charlotte. The event format has changed to a customer discovery program aimed at helping fledgling start-ups find first customers. The participating teams will present their business innovations and then breakoff into customer centric groups and mentor panels. “The new format minimizes pitching which typically brings little value to a start-up and instead focuses on deep connections and learning with mentor customers,” says Devin Collins, Associate Director of Ventureprise at UNC Charlotte.
Charlotte Venture Challenge winners in previous years have achieved considerable success including multi-million dollar equity investments, strategic partnerships, and recognition as Charlotte’s fastest growing private company.
Emerging companies interested in CVC may apply to participate in Ventureprise Launch, an NC IDEA Foundation supported program focusing on customer discovery, business model generation, and related lean start-up methodologies. The 8-week program begins on February 15, 2017 and will be offered again in the summer and fall.
Companies that do not participate in the UNC Charlotte I-Corps Site or the Ventureprise Launch program may submit applications by March 10, 2017.
Eligible participants must have their primary business location in North Carolina. Cumulative revenue, not including research grants, must not exceed $50,000 and external investment must not exceed $250,000 as of the program date.
“The NSF I-Corps initiative, originally developed at Stanford University, helps prospective entrepreneurs complete their most important milestone of customer discovery,” states Paul Wetenhall, Ventureprise president.
UNC Charlotte/Ventureprise was selected in 2015 by NSF as one of 51 I-Corps Sites nationally and is the only I-Corps designated university in the Carolinas. Through the support of the NC IDEA Foundation, Ventureprise has adapted the I-Corps methodology for use with high potential Charlotte-area startups.
“I-Corps and the Ventureprise Launch programs are powerful because they guide the startup team through direct engagement with many customers to identify needs that can become early sales,” says Wetenhall, continuing, “The program uses lean startup methods to test market acceptance while defining a business model that can succeed.”
The Charlotte Venture Challenge seeks to increase the number of new ventures that create substantial wealth and employment in North Carolina. CVC winners are well-prepared to compete for NC IDEA company grants, SBIR/STTR funding, and to build companies attractive to angel investors and strategic partners.
Ventureprise, Inc. is a non-profit venture development organization that supports the commercial success of early-stage, innovation-driven entrepreneurs. Through ready-for-business office space located on the campus of UNC Charlotte and comprehensive programs, Ventureprise offers the premier location for inventors, researchers and innovators to come together for business success as well as the 49er Foundry business incubator for UNC Charlotte students. Ventureprise operates a National Science Foundation-funded National Innovation Network I-Corps Site connecting UNC Charlotte researchers with commercial opportunities through customer discovery.