The Charlotte Venture Challenge has helped launch some of the Southeast’s most exciting high growth startups over the past 12 years. Success through the competition comes in many forms: 1) Cash Prizes; 2) Equity Investor Introductions; 3) Startup Team Building; 4) Business Model Pivots and many more. Here are just a few examples of our success as told by the startups that competed.
Recent Good News!
Two Times was the charm for 2012 Charlotte Venture Challenge Winner CanDiag, Inc.
CanDiag, Inc. a company founded by Dr. Pinku Mukherjee was a two year participant in the Charlotte Venture Challenge making the finals her first year and winning the competition her second year. Along the way one her mentors from the competition joined her company and they recently raised a seed round exceeding $500k . See her story here.
2011 CVC Finalist OverstockAds (Now Savveo) makes a pivot, changes its name, adds their CVC mentor to the management team and raises over $2 million. Not a bad year for Shay and Shafi Mustafa, the founders of OverstockAds. See the Charlotte Business Journal for a great story on the company.
Closing Equity Investments
KIYATEC Inc., a Greenville, SC company closed its Series A round in the Spring of 2012. Founder David Orr said they “were very fortunate to win the 2007 CVC Competition and leveraged the publicity to gain additional inroads with investment partners closing first a Seed funding round and most recently a Series A Round.” KIYATEC has established a robust research and development effort geared toward full validation of 3D cell-based assays for use in drug development and clinical diagnostics.
T1 Visions founder Michael Feldman said: “We participated in CVC in 2009. At that time, we had no revenues, no offices and 4 people in our company. Since then we have raised over $2 million in investment and have installed our technology at locations in the US and the Caribbean.” T1 Visions is a portfolio company of CVC sponsor angel investment group IMAF Charlotte.
Knoxville, TN based TrakLok, Inc. competed in the CVC in 2009. Founder Eric Dobson says: “since we presented at CVC, we have been able to raise $2.0M in Series A equity capital and have completed an acquisition/merger. So, we are well positioned and finally got the capital to move into our growth phase.” He went on to say that winning their category “gave us credibility with a number of individuals and groups. It also helped in our vetting process by forcing us to refine our offering and our message. CVC was an important stepping stone on our way to success.”
Government Grants including SBIR and STTR Funding
For many early-stage innovative university technologies the opportunity to receive SBIR and STTR funding to launch their startups and commercialize their technology is the immediate goal. CVC serves as the basis for the development of the commercialization plan and can help lead to initial funding.
SoyMeds, a UNC Charlotte spinoff that is developing medical products with soybeans, has been able to grow through SBIR funding. Founder Ken Piller has procured over $1.5 million in SBIR financing since winning CVC in 2006. Ken said “the prize money from CVC came at a critical time and paid for key startup needs.”
HypatoSys, another UNC Charlotte spin-off, has raised over $2 million from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to develop their technology. Founder Mark Clemens say: “our Company’s real strength has been in the development of the technology, but competing in the Charlotte Venture Challenge really made us focus on the business development aspects. The coaching that we received was invaluable not only in the competition, but also in putting together a business plan for a subsequent successful SBIR Phase II grant application. The exposure that our company received in CVC has also allowed us to greatly expand our network of potential future investors.”
As reported in TechCrunch and Wired, YAP was sold to a Fortune 100 Tech Giant which was first reported by CVC Alum here.
Yap founder Igor Jablokov has had this to say: “CVC allowed us to publicly test a refocused idea for a new enterprise and gauge the public’s reaction to it, especially since iterative feedback is the lifeblood of innovation. Thanks to the positive reception at the event, we were able to find our first investor and board member, shortly thereafter completing a financing process to launch our Company.”
Ometric Sold to Fortune 100 Halliburton
At CVC investors are often in the audience and Ometric was able to capitalize on this when they received an initial investment of $250,000 from Trelys Funds, an early CVC service provider. The founder of the company Jason Williamson was proud to report this back in 2011: “We just concluded the sale of Ometric to Halliburton a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the royalty payment that the University of South Carolina received is $2.75 million making it the largest in the school’s history!”
CVC defines a Pivot as a change in direction or a change in business model. Sometimes these changes are small and other times they are quite significant. The CVC process has proven to be an excellent testing ground for innovative new ideas and business models.
Nanotech, now United Protective Technologies, has had a number of pivots since its participation in the CVC including a name change from its original name Nanotech. Founder Brent Barbee says: “I will say that the CVC event for us was the trigger point for the development of our business/technology culture. Since the event we have moved from a 10k sf leased space to 20k sf in our own building. We have expanded our product and coatings portfolio, and now not only supply protective films and coating to US military customers, but to several large domestic and foreign non-military OEM’s. UPT has grown from 5 to 21 employees, with 75% holding Engineering or Science based degrees.”
Bioptigen, based in Morrisville, NC, came to Charlotte to initially test their idea. Founder Eric Buckland said: “CVC was great opportunity for Bioptigen to test its mettle in an early-stage business plan. It forced us to think about our business model, both in preparation for CVC and as an outcome. The reviewers and panelists were well informed and very insightful. We have had lasting benefit through a strengthened business plan and valuable relationships developed with the service provider and investment community.”
InSituTec is an early stage nanotechnology company that spun out of UNC Charlotte and is now located in Concord, NC. Founder Shane Woody says about growing the company: “we have found our success commercializing measuring tools for emerging nanotechnology markets. The CVC program was instrumental in helping us connect and establish an advisory board including VCs, legal and business professionals. The guidance and lessons learned were invaluable to guide and direct our company forward.”
** The Charlotte Venture Challenge was historically known as “Five Ventures.” The competition was renamed in 2012. We have adjusted references to the former name accordingly above.