Investor’s Corner: KickStart, affiliated startups reap benefits of virtual Venture Connect 2021 Summit

March 26, 2021
By Dom Antonietti, Innovate Carolina

Every year, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development hosts the CED Venture Connect Summit, where they connect life science and technology companies in the southeast region with investors, sponsors and fellow entrepreneurs to network, discuss innovative technologies and foster collaboration. This year, with an in-person summit impossible, CED decided to take to the internet, announcing the CED Venture Connect 2021 Online Summit. This decision and the challenges that came with it did not stop KickStart Venture Services and its affiliated startups from taking advantage of the many opportunities presented. 

Presenting Companies 

The Summit was designed to maximize the visibility of growing companies and help entrepreneurs build relationships with people (investors, peers, customers, and/or partners) who can help them scale. This year, they also expanded their offering to include live interviews with founders, virtual tables with recorded pitches, pre-scheduled and on-demand meetings with attendees, and interactive elements in each session. A number of KickStart affiliated startups presented at these sessions, gaining valuable experience in pitching as well as visibility.  

Companies were able to participate in discussions with founders of other local startups, giving previews of themselves and what they do. Included in these companies were KickStart affiliates Cell Microsystems, Eppin Pharma, and RainBio. In addition, companies were able to present pitches to investors and other entrepreneurs, and several KickStart affiliated startups participated, including GeneVentiv Therapeutics and Path BioAnalytics.  

KickStart’s Session: Engines of Innovation 

KickStart Venture Services, representing UNC-Chapel Hill, was also excited to co-organize a session with Duke University and NC State University, highlighting the cutting-edge technology and innovation coming from the three universities. The session, titled “Engines of Innovation,” featured a serial entrepreneur professor talking about their experiences from each of the universities. UNC’s entrepreneur professor was Mike Ramsey, whose company 908 Devices was formed to license and commercialize handheld and desktop devices for critical-to-life measurements. He was joined by Aravind Asokan of Duke University and Rodolphe Barrangou of NC State University.  

The session also included a video portion titled “Unlocking Innovation” including presentations from each University’s leadership team. UNC’s Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz spoke of how students, faculty, researchers, and entrepreneurs are “moving more ideas forward faster.” He also highlighted the success of UNC researchers partnering with industry to pioneer gene and cell therapies. Like the other events at the Summit, the video and accompanying session provided a fantastic spotlight for the hardworking startups that KickStart is proud to support.  

CED’s 2021 Venture Connect Online Summit proved to be an incredible opportunity for KickStart Venture Services and its affiliate startups, and all involved took advantage. Through pitches, company previews, and organized sessions, both KickStart and its affiliates were able to show off achievements and gain publicity for the future. The Summit was a prime example of the power of the southeast regional ecosystem coming together to support emerging businesses and a jumping off point for continued success.