Three UNC alumni have been given the chance to take their startup businesses to a new level.
UNC graduates Coleman Greene, Sarah Press and Erik Severinghaus, who all created startups, were chosen by the entrepreneurial mentoring company Techstars to participate in a 12-week training program to help expand their enterprises.
Techstars is a chain of six national locations that select 10 startups from a throng of applicants each year, whom they provide with financial support, mentoring and networking opportunities.
The three alumni were all chosen by the members of the Chicago location out of a pool of 900 applicants in April.
TechStars gives each company $18,000 in seed money which they can use to expand their business, as well as an option for an additional $100,000 loan.
The program culminates in a demo day where the entrepreneurs present a 10-minute pitch in Chicago to more than 500 investors.
Severinghaus said having UNC represented in a program more exclusive than Harvard shows the growth of the Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which started in 2008.
“I was back (at UNC) when a bunch of smart people were laying the foundation,” said Severinghaus, a 2004 graduate. “Fast forward 10 years and you see all these successful entrepreneurs from UNC.”
Severinghaus’ startup, SimpleRelevance, provides companies with personalized profiles of its customers based on their past purchases, which allows for more efficient and individualized advertising.
In three months, the company has raised $1 million in investments, and Severinghaus said he hopes to increase that number to $5 million by 2014.
Greene, who earned his MBA in 2011, credits Kenan-Flagler’s curriculum for preparing students to succeed in starting their own companies.
“UNC attracts great entrepreneurial talent and provides it with tools, education and learning to go out and build fighting companies,” he said.
Greene co-founded Sqord, a combination of social media, gaming platforms and a fitness tracker geared toward making children more physically active.
“We have a low-cost, kid-proof version of technologies like the Nike FuelBand and a website like a social media platform,” Greene said.
When the company launches in Seattle this October, it will reach 8,000 elementary schoolers. Greene said he hopes to have 10,000 children using the site by the end of the year.
Press was also part of the legacy of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies’ growth, as she was part of the first class of entrepreneurial minors.
“I think (having three UNC graduates in TechStars) really highlights how creative and motivated UNC grads are,” Press said. “Whenever there is a great opportunity, no matter where it is, we make it happen.”
Press’s startup, Project Fixup, puts a new spin on online dating by matching a couple and giving them a fun activity to do together.
“It gets people away from the computer,” Press said.
Press said she hopes the website will one day be the most popular way for singles to meet.
“People are more open to meeting in person, and it’s the best way to get to know someone,” she said.
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