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Duke University is known for its MBA, law and general undergraduate education, UNC-Chapel Hill for its business, medical and journalism schools, NC State for engineering, design and analytics, and NC Central for being one of the nation’s prominent historically black colleges. The LiNC conference is the first event of its kind to bring students from all four institutions and various disciplines together to explore entrepreneurship and opportunities to collaborate. 

On April 16th, a conference planned by students and for students will take place at The Frontier at Research Triangle Park. The event will give students the opportunity to meet mentors in the entrepreneurial community, to showcase their own startup ideas, and network with fellow students interested in starting new companies. 

Student group Carolina Think kicked off discussions for a region-wide conference last November, but a cross-university committee came together in January. Since then, the group has met and developed their ideas at American Underground, with the help and perspective of startups within that community. 

The committee hopes that the conference will encourage more collaboration between schools, breaking down any barriers caused by distance and sports rivalries. Besides LiNC, hoped to be an annual event, the organizers plan to have smaller events throughout the year. And they hope new startups can be formed as a result of the conference and collaboration, reinforcing the Triangle as a startup hub. 

“We had a realization that though there are four great universities in the Triangle, there doesn’t seem to be enough collaboration between the schools. We hope this conference will break down that barrier,” says Andriy Rusyn, a LiNC and Carolina Think organizer and senior computer science major and entrepreneurship minor at UNC Chapel Hill. 

Keynotes, panels, workshops and food 

The event starts Saturday morning with a mentor brunch. The brunch will bring together local professionals and entrepreneurs to interact with student entrepreneurs in small groups. Some of the mentors attending the brunch are Isa Watson of Envested, Patrick Wilson with Skoold and Matt Barber of IDEA Fund Partners. Students will have the opportunity to talk to potential mentors about their ideas and careers, and receive advice. The organizing committee hopes that this aspect of the event will start to build personal relationships between entrepreneurs and students in the community. 

Following the mentor brunch is a panel comprised of entrepreneurs who are alumni from the four universities. The panelists will discuss the resources that they used to help their businesses become successful. Confirmed panelists so far are Jon Spinney from Malartu representing NC State and Tolulope Omokaiye from Evolve Mentoring representing NC Central. The panel will be moderated by Rachael Meleney from the Duke University Center for Advanced Hindsight. 

Then comes Ted Zoller, director at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, who will keynote the event. The professor who serves on multiple investment boards previously founded companies like Commonweal and now serves as the president for the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and a senior fellow at Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

A startup showcase and workshop will happen before lunch. Students and alumni from the four universities will have the opportunity to showcase their startup ventures. Signed up so far are Aluxure, Agent and Signbase. Simultaneously, there will be workshops for participants focusing on fundraising, startup law and even 3D printing. 

Lunch will be unique from other events. Instead of the traditional box lunches or buffet, the conference will host a food fair, showcasing local restaurants from throughout the Triangle. 

And following lunch, there will be an innovation hackathon. Students will be divided up into teams, with one student from each school represented in each group. The groups will be given a problem to solve, and then time to brainstorm a startup idea that could solve it. At the close of the hackathon, teams will pitch their ideas for prizes. 

The event will close with a career fair, where attendees can find potential employment and internships. Between 15 and 20 companies are expected to participate in the career fair. 

Organizers still need mentors to participate in the events. Interested parties should contact Destiny at Students interested in attending the event can register for FREE here.