Michelle Harper Savii Care SoarTriangle

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SoarTriangle, the Triangle-based program designed to help close the funding gap between male and female-led startups will soon select it’s third cohort of mentee companies. 

Since its establishment just over two years ago, the program’s deep bench of advisors and principals like Groundwork Labs’ John Austin, Duke University visiting professor Lauren Whitehurst, serial entrepreneur and technologist Vickie Gibbs, and American Underground’s Adam Klein have mentored nine female-led startups, hosted numerous networking and educational events, and shepherded mentee companies through the process of building and scaling their companies. 

The growth and success exhibited by previous mentees speak to the program’s impact. Mati Energy has raised more than $1M and opened its own facility to make tens of thousands of cans of energy drink a week. Sweetie Pie Organics got its toddler snack foods into 450 Whole Foods stores across the U.S. Tom & Jenny’s won several startup pitch competitions which brought in capital and elevated the healthy candy brand. 

And Savii Inc. just closed a $450,000 round to grow a team to bring its software for home health care workers to market. 

The program continues to iterate and improve, taking best practices from prior years and tweaking sessions or topic areas covered to better prepare mentee companies for success. The third year kicks off the first week of September with a new cohort of four to six startups. They'll be announced in August. 

Vickie Gibbs at Soar celebration
Vickie Gibbs speaks to the crowd at 2015 Soar Celebration. Photo Credit: Zoe Litaker, http://zoelitaker.com

Applications can still be submitted until tomorrow, July 1st at 9:00 AM. The two requirements are that applicants be female and a leader of a startup that plans to raise money in the coming year. 

Here's more of what to expect from Soar: 

A structured program designed to help female entrepreneurs learn new skills 

What began as strictly a mentoring program, now has an added layer of structure aimed to better prepare the teams to raise capital and scale faster. 

Much like Groundwork Labs or The Startup Factory, SoarTriangle’s program offers group sessions led by the program’s principals and advisors. Experts in specific fields are also brought in to pass on their knowledge and expertise. For example, Jonathon Prinz, a locally based branding consultant, leads a session on branding and Ricci Wolman, CEO of Written Word Media, leads a session on digital marketing. 

Michelle Harper (pictured top), founder of Savii Inc., and member of the most recent cohort says these sessions, “provided tools to accelerate growth” for her company. 

Austin says roughly 80 percent of the sessions will remain the same for the incoming cohort, but tweaks will be made to the other 20 percent to make the sessions more relevant for the companies. 

SoarTriangle will also continue hosting networking and educational opportunities like a new annual series called, “ELSI Talks.” The ELSI Talks—shorthand for, “Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Success, and Inclusion,” are sponsored by SAS. 

Last year’s inaugural event focused on the topic of diversity in technology-based companies and included speakers like Red Hat’s DeLisa Alexander and Shaw University President Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy

One-on-one mentoring with top startup advisors

The deep mentoring sessions with the core team of principles—Whitehurst, Gibbs, Austin, Klein and new principal Jes Averhart, who serves as American Underground’s director of corporate and community partnerships, are the bread and butter of the SoarTriangle program. 

Austin and Whitehurst—both of whom have years of experience building and advising startups—spend the majority of the time with mentees, but the other principals and advisors are on hand to assist when their skills or network are needed. 

Harper described these sessions as the most valuable part of the program because they, “allowed for discussion on any challenges to growing the company and brainstorming possible solutions.” 

Tangible progress from most Soar mentees 

Since completing the program, the first year’s cohort exceeded SoarTriangle’s expectations. Melissa DeRosier’s Personalized Learning Games—the startup born within her child psychology and gaming research institute, 3C Institutehas spun out, hired a new CEO and raised a seed round, says Austin. 

Mati's Tatiana Birgisson went from having a few local customers to marketing and selling healthy energy teas nationwide. She also just landed on Inc.'s "30 under 30" list

This past year’s cohort has made significant progress too. Cindy Parlowe Cone’s MV Trak won an NC IDEA grant in December and is readying her concussion prevention device for market through pilots. 

Tom & Jenny’s, the healthy candy company founded by dentist Sindhura "Jenny" Citineni and husband Tommy "Tom" Thekkekandam completed their year-long startup competition winning streak with an NC IDEA grant last fall

Harper has changed her company’s name (from Akili Software), piloted her telehealth software for home care workers with the home health organization LiveWell, hired five employees and raised a seed round led by Cofounders Capital.

John Austin at Soar
Groundwork Labs' John Austin is one of the principal's at SoarTriangle. He's pictured here at the 2015 Soar celebration. Photo Credit: Zoe Litaker, http://zoelitaker.com
Pointing to Mati's success, Austin says, “hopefully if we spin things forward another year and look at where these companies are a year from now, they’ll have achieved some of the same successes as the companies we worked with in the first session.”

But Austin is careful to add that the SoarTriangle program is just a piece of the puzzle in building these businesses. 

“For all of these, we don’t take credit for their success—it’s not like Akili Software came to Soar and therefore raised money,” Austin says. "But we think we’re a piece of the puzzle, and hopefully we were able to have some impact.”