They're high school friends, a husband and wife, clinical psychologist, PhD and author, New Yorkers, serial entrepreneurs, a former IBMer and healthcare gurus. And they're innovating in digital media, adtech, social media engagement, GovTech, gaming, sales lead generation, health data and candy.
Below, meet the eight local finalists who'll vie for $100,000 from celebrity investor Steve Case
and his Washington D.C. venture capital firm Revolution
Case and team arrive in six days on a huge tour bus for their second stop on a third Rise of the Rest Tour
. The team is quickly amassing a network of startup communities and entrepreneurs in cities where startup activity is spiking despite less funding and recognition than in Silicon Valley, New York or Boston. Here's the full list of companies
pitching on the Southeast leg of the tour.
In addition to watching the eight pitches in the afternoon and choosing a winner, Case will visit the region's tech hubs, interact with students, politicians and other community leaders and sit down for a fireside chat where he'll discuss his findings and observations along the tour and talk about our region's promise and challenges.
But the main event is the pitch competition and here are the eight startups chosen by Revolution to compete for Case's dollars and connections:
Tom & Jenny's
The subject of an ExitEvent profile
earlier this month, Tom & Jenny's mixes up tasty caramels and other candies with natural ingredients that are actually good for the teeth. Co-founder Sindhura "Jenny" Citineni
would know—she's a dentist. Her partner in the business (and CEO) is her husband Tommy "Tom" Thekkekandam,
who holds an MBA and JD from Duke University and spent years in management consulting. The pair recently won the Carolina Challenge's alumni division and is working diligently on new branding, packaging, a contracted production process and additional products while in the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator program. Online sales have spiked so far this year, and Tom & Jenny's will add more retail locations soon too. The founders have an office in Durham, and to date, make all of their candies at home in Morrisville.
Personalized Learning Games
This Cary startup spun out of a government-funded research institute full of psychologists, developers and designers creating and then testing games and curriculum that help kids learn how to handle various social situations and emotions. Founder Melissa DeRosier
launched the new company to bring to market the online games—she hoped to target school districts as well as teachers, counselors and parents. Mentorship through the Soar program
over the last year prompted DeRosier to hire a new CEO, local startup veteran Tim Huntley
, and change the company's name from Adaptive Health Systems. She's better positioned now to raise the funds needed to get these important and clinically-proven games into classrooms.
was just at the beginning of a journey to rethink and reposition its business when we last talked to CEO Brian Handly
a year ago. The company was called Stepleader Digital
at the time, and it'd spent a decade building mobile apps for television networks around the nation after spinning out of Capitol Broadcasting (ExitEvent's
parent company) in 2012. When that market started to fade last year, the innovation began. And now, Handly and a much smaller team in Raleigh are collecting mobile phone data from tens of thousands of beacons around the nation and pairing it with Census and other public data sources to help advertisers personalize messaging to consumers on their mobile devices like they do on the web. Reveal's existing investors are excited for the new focus—they've reupped their investments in the company.
founders have spent years consulting with hospitals and healthcare organizations on web design, server and systems administration and tech support, knowledge that has informed the development of software that helps patients digitally approve and doctors transfer medical records and other patient data. The company is in The Startup Factory
in Durham this spring and will launch a pilot soon. ExitEvent
is working on a profile of the founders. Stay tuned.
counts as a veteran of the Rise of the Rest group—founder Anil Chawla
started the company four years ago, took it through The Startup Factory locally and the Code for America accelerator in San Francisco. Nearly a year ago, it was named a Cool Vendor for Government by Gartner
. Dozens of governments around the nation use its social media archiving and analytics tools today, and that number is expected to increase as Archive Social takes advantage of the wide network of its California investor e.Republic Ventures
. The company is based in American Underground in Durham.
Keeping up with all the growth is the biggest challenge in front of the Raleigh social media engagement startup Stealz
. The app that gives freebies and discounts to customers of restaurants like McDonald's, Applebee's and Which Wich for checking in, taking photos and posting them to Facebook or Twitter has tens of thousands of downloads and more than 500 subscribing businesses. It recently raised a $1 million bridge round
, in preparation for a larger round later this year to fuel national growth.
Reader engagement is the mission of Durham startup, Antenna, which graduated from The Startup Factory last Fall
. To see Antenna in action, you need only scan to the icon at the bottom of each paragraph in this story. ExitEvent
uses the tool to let readers react to content throughout a story rather than only provide comments at the end. Founder Porter Bayne
moved to the Triangle from New York a year ago with plans to finally launch the business he'd spent years building. The big vision is to create a subscription-based news widget that can be embedded on news sites and deliver up relevant content based on engagement and feedback versus page views and clicks.
Here's another graduate of The Startup Factory and with funding from First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund
and a handful of notable local, Washington D.C. and Indianapolis investors. RocketBolt's software identifies the visitors on a website most likely to buy and delivers the right message at the perfect time, helping to convert leads into sales. The company's targets are marketers at mid-sized software-as-a-service firms and a trial is underway with them now. The cofounders have unique skill sets contributing to their success—Aaron Dinin
has a PhD in english literature and is a published author who also taught himself to code and Matt Hofstadt
spent years building and optimizing websites for Fortune 500 and Main Street businesses.