November 17, 2022

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Venture Day connects early-stage tech and med Triangle companies with investors


“Could it be small enough to be flown?” an investor asked out of the audience.

“With the proper funding!” responded the entrepreneur on stage, to chuckles and knowing smiles around the auditorium.

Though the Research Triangle area of North Carolina is a hotbed of technology innovation, turning these great ideas into successful and sustainable companies requires more continued support, mentorship, and – crucially – connection to investors.

To facilitate this connection, the New Ventures program from Duke’s Office for Translation & Commercialization (OTC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s KickStart Venture Services (KickStart), the North Carolina Biotechnology Center‘s Emerging Company Development Team (NC Biotech), and North Carolina State University’s Office of Research Commercialization hosted a Venture Day on November 10, 2022.

The event was sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) SPRINT Challenge award.

“We’ve done Venture Day-type events in the past, but the EDA grant has allowed us to create something truly special,” says Mireya McKee, Ph.D., Director of UNC’s KickStart. “We are creating a sustainable entrepreneurial hub in the Research Triangle area and accelerating companies in the crucial early-stage of development.”

Venture Day provided an opportunity for 19 startup companies out of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC Biotech and NC State to pitch their innovations to investors and gain valuable feedback and investments needed for future growth.

Tim Martin, Vivian Doelling, Jeff Welch, and Mireya McKee standing in a line in front of branded organization banners in the lobby of the NC Biotech Center.
From L-R. Tim Martin of NC State, Vivian Doelling of the NC Biotechnology Center, Jeff Welch of Duke, and Mireya McKee of UNC-Chapel Hill. Credit: Brock Pierce.

“We had a strong showing from the investing community with many coming from outside the immediate region,” says Jeff Welch, Ph.D., Director of the Duke New Ventures program. “Folks were excited and engaged, asking good questions of the pitch presenters, and following up with them during breaks and after the event.”

“Investors are really receptive to understanding what is coming out of each of the universities,” says Zack Bacon, Managing Director of Moore Capital Management. “There seem to be so many potential commercialization opportunities.”

Three people engaged in animated conversation in the lobby of the NC Biotech Center with more people out of focus in the background.
Investors, entrepreneurs, and event organizers mill about and network during a break between pitches. Credit: Sasha Campbell.

Building on the success of the previous Venture Day in Spring 2022, the team continues to expand with the addition of NC State and their companies.

“NC State brings a wealth of experience and talented entrepreneurs, especially in the engineering and tech space,” says Tim Martin, MS, Senior Licensing Associate at NC State. “We hope this is just the beginning of a fruitful, ongoing partnership with Duke, UNC, and the NC Biotech Center.”

The Spring event was focused on therapeutics, while this iteration was geared toward medical device, consumer products, and digital technology companies. For many entrepreneurs, it was a novel experience.

“For me, this is a kickoff event,” says Sandeep Bhatt, Founder and CEO of voice training system start-up SonoVoice. “I want to come away with a better understanding of how to shape our strategy after this. For me, it’s a thrill to take something near and dear to me and coming here and sharing it with others to get feedback and, potentially, investment to take it to the next level.”

“Us asking questions gives entrepreneurs the view of how we’re thinking,” says Erin Finefield, Principal at New Day Ventures. “When you’re getting the same question repeatedly, then you learn to shift your pitch a little to make sure that question is already addressed. Then you can get to better questions.”

Woman on stage, walking in front of a screen displaying slides featuring pictures of outdated bassinet products. A bit of the crowd can be seen at the bottom of the image.
Stacie McEntyre, CEO of Couplet Care, delivers her pitch to investors at Triangle Venture Day. Credit: Brock Pierce.

In its second iteration, Venture Day continues to lead to connections and vital conversations for start-up companies, creating a unique experience for entrepreneurs and investors alike in the Research Triangle area.

“Presenting here at the NC Biotech Center – where the companies have practiced and have their mentors in the audience – gives our entrepreneurs a home field advantage,” says Vivian Doelling, Ph.D., Vice President for Investments and Emerging Company Development at NC Biotech Center. “The quality of the presentations and subsequent conversations confirms we are building something special here.”

“I’m proud of myself,” says Kat Horvath, Founder and CEO of mobile mass spectrometer start-up Minatar Technologies, in the break after her pitch. “It’s a lot to put together and I’m grateful for the support I’ve gotten.”

The 19 startups that participated in this Venture Day were:

Altis BioSystems offers a patented stem cell platform that recreates normal human intestinal tissue in a high throughput and scalable format, which more closely replicates native human biology for drug screening in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

*Due to unexpected circumstances, Altis Biosystems did not present during Venture Day. However, you can contact this company directly for more information.

Assure Technologies aims to reduce medication errors and keep patients safe throughout their health care journey.

Continuous Precision Medicine is working to improve the health and well-being of others by developing more personalized solutions for controlled medication through its innovative and novel precision prescribing technology.

Couplet Care offers tools for improving patient safety and clinical efficiency, while promoting positive mother and infant health outcomes. Its first product, a postnatal unit medical infant bassinet, allows the mom to independently access the infant.

DNAli Data Technologies aims to revolutionize the digital data storage market by harnessing the incredible density, durability and longevity of DNA to reduce the construction, maintenance, resource and energy costs of data storage facilities by several orders of magnitude.

FaunaLabs monitors pet health using technologies like those found in human health wearables. Optical health sensors used in human wearables don’t work on animals with hair or fur, but Fauna Labs invented an optical health sensor that does.

Ideal Medical Technologies is a highly innovative medical device company focused on the development and sale of an artificial pancreas system for use in both the ICU and general ward settings.

inSoma Bio is striving to build breast implants, personalized lumpectomy molds and repair other soft tissue defects using a person’s own tissue without the need for major reconstructive surgery.

IrNEX is developing biomarker imaging software for early detection of cancer treatment responses in days rather than months. It enables differentiation of pseudo-progression from true tumor progression following brain tumor/metastasis treatment.

Mente tracks surgical instrument use, capturing a data stream that records how surgery is performed to enable predictability, drive efficiency and increase safety in the operating room.

Minatar Therapeutics has developed a mobile mass spectrometer for the simultaneous detection of a wide range of environmental pollutants and contaminants in real-time.

Mizar Therapeutics applies transformative live cell imaging technology to accelerate lead validation in drug discovery.

Onda Vision Technologies serves people who experience shifts in their hydration levels induced by exertion, mission or medical conditions. The company is developing a wearable hydration system based on bioimpedance to monitor the body’s fluid compartments.

SonoVascular is developing a novel, catheter-enabled, multi-mechanism SonoThrombectomy™ system utilizing microbubble-mediated cavitation as the core mechanism of action to treat all types of blood clots more effectively, without the increased risk of bleeding, by uniquely combining multiple mechanisms of action delivered through an integrated intravascular catheter system.

SonoVoice is commercializing patent-pending digital voice training technology – the SonoVoice system – that includes a digital device and smartphone app and offers an accessible voice training platform to optimize voice production using proven exercises, vocal function data and original educational content.

SplendoHealth offers its AI and mobile app that integrates data from select wearable technologies to provide remote medical grade CRF assessments, including individuals and patients at their local clinic or training facilities — with the eventual goal to provide CRF assessments for anyone at their local pharmacies or in-home.

SynchroHealth aims to develop hardware and software solutions for non-invasive detection and acquisition of home-based, longitudinal, healthcare data using remote, Bluetooth low energy enabled technologies for synchronous and asynchronous feedback.

Ummino is focused on meeting the sharp rise in consumer demand for fortified food and beverage products. Its patented precision fermentation technology unlocks compounds that are rare in nature to optimize taste and nutrition, transforming commodity ingredients into high value functional foods.

URO-1 Medical aims to improve the diagnostic accuracy of prostate biopsy, increasing efficiency in both the urology clinic and the pathology lab, and likely change the standard of care.

Vetletics offers modified, proven technology used by human athletes and doctors, and has developed the world’s first dynamic compression device for horses – the EQ Press.

Interested in learning more about Venture Day companies or other companies in the KickStart, Duke New Ventures, NC Biotech or NC State portfolios? Please contact the KickStart team at kickstart@unc.edu, Jeff Welch at Jeff.welch@duke.edu, Vivian Doelling at Vivian_doelling@ncbiotech.org., or Tim Martin at tnmartin@ncsu.edu.