Last Thursday, emerging startups in Charlotte competed at the Charlotte Venture Challenge where they presented their revolutionary ideas to a group filled with angel investors, venture capitalists and representatives from Fortune 500 companies. Ventureprise, which is a program of the Charlotte Research Institute at University of North Carolina that incubates nonprofit business, hosted the 13th annual conference in order to connect emerging startups with viable funding. The conference has historically connected many startups with millions of dollars in investments and corporate partnerships. Last year, the grand-prize winner of the event was Bio-Adhesive Alliance Incorporated, which developed a way to turn pig waste into liquid asphalt. A year later, the company is now in the process of opening a plant at North Carolina AT&T State University. This year, one hundred businesses participated and thirty-eight finalists competed for money prizes ranging from $5,000 to $12,5000. The winners all exhibited groundbreaking research in technology and their niche field of study. Here are some of the highlights from last week’s conference:
Motus Incorporated, or MetBlock, recently developed technology that is colloquially known as Legos for engineers. Stephen Howard, who is in the process of graduating from UNC Charlotte with a Ph.D in mechanical engineering, developed module blocks and bearings than can be used to quickly and effectively to create prototypes of devices and structures. This new technology will give engineers the ability to build prototypes that can be broken down and reused. In addition, the reusability of the product cuts down costs of producing prototypes for mechanical engineers. The company won $5,000 as well as the People’s Choice award.
Mike Murphy, who is the cofounder of this product, brought a decade of experience in online higher education in order to develop a secure, online-test technology that helps to prevent cheating. He received $12,500 for this product, which uses a webcam and microphone for visual and audio recognition throughout the exam. The technology also locks down the student’s computer and monitors their activities so that they cannot copy and paste or pull from cheat sheets. The growing online-education sector could greatly benefit from more reliable and secure testing.
As water scarcity increases globally, researchers and scientists have looked into strategies for increasing the supply of fresh drinking water. In 2013, eosNANO began out of UNC Charlotte in order to break down contaminants in water and soil that would not break down naturally. The founder of the company, Ryan Rutledge, is in the process of graduating from UNC Charlotte with his master’s in environmental toxicology. He used the technology on wood chips and sawdust as a more environmentally conscious product to respond to contaminants. The company received $12,500 in order to continue supporting advancements in this technology.
The startups funded at the Charlotte Venture Capital Challenge represent the emerging technology talent that is currently coming from the city, largely due to by educational efforts at UNC Charlotte. The awards represent exciting opportunities for young professionals, as well as for the city of Charlotte, as it emerges onto the scene as a budding technological community.