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Thursday August 5th

UNC makes strides to become a hub for business development

<p>Ritwik Pavan presenting at an entrepreneurial showcase. Photo courtesy of Pavan.</p>
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Ritwik Pavan presenting at an entrepreneurial showcase. Photo courtesy of Pavan.

According to data published by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, UNC is a launch pad for startups and research ventures.

The office tracks data on the success of ventures founded by University faculty, staff or students at campus or three years after leaving. 

Since 2017, the number of ventures tracked by the office increased from 418 to 521. These ventures employ 70,225 people, 8,569 of them in North Carolina, and brought in $10.6 billion in annual revenue. 

The data comes from a database started when Innovate Carolina realized no one was tracking the many successful business that had ties to the University, said Judith Cone, Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. 

“We think these metrics are very important to explain to others the value of entrepreneurship as an endeavor of the human spirit,” Cone said. “It’s one of the most complex human endeavors and we really recognize and honor the people that do that hard work. It also has the benefits of bringing innovations to society to hopefully improve people’s lives and create jobs and wealth.”

The recently published data is important, Cone said, because the University wants to make innovation fundamental as part of the “Blueprint for Next” strategic framework laid out by Chancellor Carol Folt. To that end, Innovate Carolina works with departments and groups across campus to facilitate and encourage new ventures and innovation.

“We’re so proud that this University is a very collaborative place and no one center or Vice-Chancellor’s office or school or unit owns innovation and entrepreneurship,” Cone said. “It is a very distributed ecosystem that is working in harmony with each other to serve the needs of different audiences in different ways.”

Innovate Carolina also provides some resources that cover the entire campus. This includes intellectual property management and Launch Chapel Hill, a venture accelerator open to the community. It also helps ventures get funding through the Carolina Challenge or the Carolina Angel Network. Innovate Carolina showcases University based ventures through events like the upcoming Innovation Showcase.

“(The Innovation Showcase) is a celebration of the innovation happening all across campus,” said Sheryl Waddell, director of the Innovate Carolina Global Network. “We open it up to all of the schools and departments across campus. We really look for everything from different research projects ideations to ventures that are faculty based and student based and this year we extended it to alumni.”

Participants in the showcase will get the chance to present pitches and network with investors in attendance.

“What we’re really hoping is one: that the entrepreneurial crowd is aware of all the innovation at UNC,” Waddell said. “And from an investor perspective we hope for those investors to be exposed to different investment opportunities that they may be able to take advantage of.”

Ritwik Pavan, the CEO of Linker Logic Technologies, will be presenting his new start up, Vade, at the showcase. Vade aims to help make finding parking spots easier by placing beacons in parking spots that know when a spot is available or taken. Pavan said he plans to use the Innovation Showcase to network and run his idea past a wider range of people.

“I am expecting to make connections, get feedback on our product and everything we’ve done,” he said. “So far we’ve heard nothing but the positive side and everyone is obviously out there to support us but we’d love to hear some constructive criticism.”

It is clear that entrepreneurship has been growing at UNC as alumni and the administration notice that more attention should be paid to innovation, Pavan said. But he thinks the University could do more to help bring together individuals who are seeking to collaborate on their ideas. He said not everyone is as fortunate as he has been to have a wide network of resources to call upon.

“Combing computer science students with business students along with MeJo students could help out a lot,” Pavan said. “There are so many individual compsci students, individual business students and individual MeJo or graphics students that have ideas. But they are not actually able to get their idea out there because they do not have any portal to connect with these other students."

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