Old Well UNC

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Happy First Day of School to UNC Chapel Hill!

We're pretty excited for a new school year at one of the Triangle's key universities for startup activity. So here's our first-ever guide to UNC's startup community for the coming year. The cool thing is that many activities on campus are open to the public. And there are many ways for entrepreneurs to get involved as mentors, employers or speakers (or to mine for talent!).

ExitEvent will also host its first Startup Social in collaboration with a student group in Chapel Hill in October. We're partnering up with Carolina THINK, a hub of campus entrepreneurship, to host the event. Invites will go out in September.

Startups to Watch:

Carbon3DThis Silicon Valley startup is the brainchild of Joseph DeSimone, a UNC engineering professor on leave to develop a new 3D printer that works 100 times faster than those on the market today and uses stronger materials. With $41 million in venture capital funding from local and national investors, he's opened a Chapel Hill office with at least a handful of local employees.

Waterless Buddy'sLaunching this fall in Chapel Hill is a new type of car wash that, strangely enough, doesn't require water. Dreamt up by a UNC senior and led by a team of students, the company took home second place in the Carolina Challenge and received national media attention during the last school year.

CommuniGiftThis startup brings Adopt-A-Family and other charitable giving into the digital realm in partnership with a bunch of national retailers. Especially impressive is that the founders started the business as college freshman and have grown it each of the last three years. As of June, they launched a new offering, a way for families to host birthday parties for their kids and raise money to buy birthday gifts for less fortunate kids.

Seal the SeasonsInstitute of Emerging Issues Innovation Prize winner earlier this year, this student and recent grad led startup created a way to flash freeze fruits and vegetables to extend their shelf life year-round. Items are sold in several local grocery stores and a portion of profits are used to provide access to food in food deserts.

Trill Financial—This is a financial analytics startup just getting started at Launch Chapel Hill but with a compelling promise—to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict the ebb and flow of financial markets. It's made up of both students and graduates of UNC and other local universities. 

NeuroNostix—This student-led startup was a winner of the national Neuro Startup Challenge for its diagnostic tool that helps create personalized treatment plans for people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. 

Smart insulin patch—This team of students from UNC and NC State University published a paper this summer about their work on a sensor-filled patch to administer insulin to diabetes patients at the right time and in the right dosage. It's still early, but the team got some national press including this piece in The Washington Post.

Events to Attend:

UNC Computer Science Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series—In 2014-2015, this monthly series welcomed to campus executives from Google, Intel and IBM as well as iContact and BoostSuite co-founder Aaron Houghton and Epic Games President Mike Capps

Lecture Series at UNC School for Media & JournalismSome high-profile innovators visited campus last year to speak to students about innovation in media and advertising. They included Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker, Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO Worldwide, and Comcast Vice President David Cohen.

Carolina Innovations SeminarHeld by the Office of Technology Development, these monthly or bimonthly seminars feature both local and national speakers. Last year, speakers included Dan Shaughnessy of the National Institutes of Health, John Hardin of the North Carolina Department of Commerce and Elizabeth Rooks of The Research Triangle Foundation.

Global Entrepreneurship WeekOne of the biggest entrepreneurship weeks around the world happens every November in Chapel Hill, led by the university. Check out our coverage of last year's week, and stay tuned for details of the events over November 16-22 of 2015.

Carolina ChallengeUNC's campus-wide entrepreneurship competition kicks off every Fall with an initial pitch party and then culminates with a finale and award ceremony in April. The most intriguing and exciting student, faculty and alumni ventures are typically pitched and recognized during these events.

Venture Capital Investment CompetitionFounded in 1998 at Kenan-Flagler Business School, this MBA business plan competition is now one of the most reputable in the world, attracting student ventures from business schools globally. International finals happen here every spring but the contest goes throughout the school year.

Pearl HacksThis is a really cool coding event started by a UNC student in 2014 that now brings hundreds of women from colleges and high schools around the nation to Chapel Hill for a weekend of coding in March.

UNC Innovation ShowcaseDon't miss this showcase of the most promising new ideas and companies in life science and technology, held each April on campus.

Reese News Lab Demo Days—The UNC J-school's entrepreneurship lab has launched some pretty cool startups in recent years. It has three cohorts of fellows throughout the year working on startup ideas, which they then pitch at Demo Days at the end of their term. These are top notch ideas to transform media, and worth attending (or mining for talent!). Here's our latest Reese News Lab recap.

Most of these events are listed on the Innovate UNC website. It hasn't been updated yet for the coming year, but check back soon for updates.

Organizations/Places to Get Involved:


Adams ApprenticeshipThis new program is what creator and professor Ted Zoller calls "game-changing" for campus entrepreneurship. It matches up students interested in entrepreneurship with UNC graduates (and others) who agree to become career-long entrepreneurship advisors. There are also regular events for apprentices and advisors to connect and meet each other. The vision is to help students create personal boards of advisors to span their career. Here's our coverage of the program.

Launch Chapel HillThis six-month accelerator located just steps from campus serves both students and alumni and community members in building and launching their startups. There are mentor, entrepreneur-in-residence and other programmatic opportunities to engage with new ventures in the program.

1789 Venture Lab—This workspace is specifically for students and alumni building companies or exploring entrepreneurial ideas. Workshops and office hours are offered here to provide assistance to these new ventures.

Launching the Venture—This is the premiere program at UNC Chapel Hill for learning how to start a company, regardless of course of study or role on campus. If you're a student, faculty or staff member, this series of courses is open to you. And if you're an entrepreneur, there are opportunities to serve as coaches or guest speakers.

UNC Minor in EntrepreneurshipThis is an interdisciplinary minor at UNC that trains undergraduate students how to think like and become entrepreneurs. This is a great place to mine for interns, and there's a specific place to get connected if you're a company looking to hire one.

The CUBE at the Campus YThe university's social innovation incubator is a great place to meet entrepreneurs interested in having a social or environmental impact on the world. There are regular speaker events here and mentorship opportunities for companies in the incubator.

Technology Commercialization CarolinaThere are two programs in this new initiative (funded last spring by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration) aimed to spur more startup creation on and around campus. The Patent Landscaping, Market and Funding Opportunity Research Service is a free way for faculty, staff, students and innovators who meet certain criteria to assess their technology, market, intellectual property and funding opportunities. And the Startup Consulting Program helps university faculty develop a commercialization strategy in partnership with MBA and other graduate students. Here's how to apply for assistance.

Carolina Research Venture FundNo word on when this new venture fund begins making investments, but watch out for news surrounding it. The university announced the new $5 million fund in January, with plans to make investments in the most promising innovations out of the university. Companies funded will likely be tied to the university, but after a funding announcement, you can presume they'll be hiring.

Did we miss anything? Email news@exitevent.com to make a suggestion for the list!

Photo credit: Caroline Culler (User:Wgreaves) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons