In recent years, UNC has been the proverbial Garden of Eden for many student- or faculty-produced organizations. However, many such business ventures run into obstacles concerning funding or lack of infrastructure during their infancy.
Since November 2016, the Carolina Angel Network, comprised of approximately 135 accredited UNC-affiliated investors, has been providing financial and business support to early-stage business ventures founded or managed by UNC graduates.
Designed as a complement to the Carolina Research Ventures Fund, the Carolina Angel Network funds startups that have already generated some revenue and amassed a customer base, but may need more support in order to bring the product or service to a mainstream market.
“We’re industry agnostic. We look for early-stage companies, but we prefer for them to have revenue because that shows traction,” Chelsea Eshraghi, the director of CAN, said. “We look for unique ideas that are defensible and that have a large enough market.”
CAN exclusively provides funding to for-profit business ventures founded or operated by UNC graduates, so current students should not expect to apply during their time as an undergraduate.
Unlike many other UNC-affiliated funding opportunities, CAN allows a nationwide applicant pool, as long as the venture is managed or founded by a UNC graduate. To date, over 150 organizations have applied to receive financial support from CAN.
After completing an online application, selected applicants can expect to meet with Eshraghi and an outside screening committee that evaluates the potential risk to investors and market viability of the proposed venture.
The venture concept is then introduced to CAN members, and further due diligence investigations are conducted by a group of MBA and law students at UNC. Eshraghi works with this group to prepare reports that are presented to interested CAN investors.
“It’s a way for those MBA and law students to get first-hand experience on due diligence reports, because they don’t usually get the opportunity to look closely at the companies,” Eshraghi said.