More than 300 people gathered at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to hear start-up business pitches from nine innovative and high-growth companies on Thursday evening. More than $113,500 in prize money was distributed to the finalists, including a $50,000 grand prize awarded to CanDiag, Inc, which showcased technology that accurately detects breast cancer earlier than other testing methods.
Mayor Anthony Foxx spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Dr. Robert G. Wilhelm, Vice Chancellor, Research and Economic Development at UNC-Charlotte opened the event with an update on the university’s commitment to entrepreneurship support. Paul Wetenhall, president of the Ben Craig Center, Inc., offered insight into the region’s collaborative efforts to build a strong entrepreneurship and innovation platform.
The judging panel included multiple perspectives from experienced investors. Panelists included Paul Grim, Sunbridge Capital; John Cambier, Idea Fund Partners; Marjorie Benbow, North Carolina Biotechnology Center; Rajeev Kulkarni 3D Systems; and Mike Marvin, MDM Advisors.
The $10,000 Category winners included: New Energy and High Tech category winner InfoSense, Inc (Charlotte, NC); IT and Informatics category winner Deal Cloud (Charlotte, NC); Consumer Products and Services category winner Mobile Potential (Asheville, NC); and Life Science and Biotech category winner Qualiber, Inc. (Chapel Hill, NC).
The student category winner was Instruct Health from Queens University. The social enterprise category winner in partnership with Queens City Forward was Bamboo Apparel (High Point, NC). The J. Chris Murphy award was awarded to the top UNC Charlotte student team PipePro.
Over the course of the evening the audience reviewed each of the pitches in preparation for their chance to choose the People’s Choice winner. When the audience was asked to cast their vote via text message the $1,000 People’s Choice Award went to Deal Cloud of Charlotte, NC.
All 18 finalists will receive cash prizes with total prizes reaching $113,500. Additional in-kind service prizes were provided by: Ben Craig Center, Packard Place and MailVU.
The Charlotte Venture Challenge grew significantly this year with 117 applicants from the Carolinas, VA and TN. This year’s 18 finalists were: Instruct Healthcare, PipePro, The Pucker Butt Pepper Company, iBid2Save.com, CanDiag, Inc., InfoSense, DealCloud, Parasol Technologies, and YOUniverisity Drive, all from Charlotte; Qualiber, Inc., Proximitas, Good Fit and Directed Deposits, all from Chapel Hill; Orthovative Technologies from Winston-Salem; Bamboo Apparel from High Point; Dynamo Micropower from Durham; Mobile Potential from Asheville; and Friendeo from Blacksburg, VA.