Start A Venture

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Launch Chapel Hill Startup Accelerator

Launch Chapel Hill is an international award-winning startup accelerator located in downtown Chapel Hill that is managed by Innovate Carolina. If you are entrepreneur who is committed to building an early-stage, high-potential business into a self-sustaining enterprise, consider applying to join the program’s next class of promising innovators. Launch Chapel Hill accepts applications twice a year, and if your venture is selected, you will receive the support, tools and knowledge needed to decrease your risk, reduce your go-to-market time and accelerate the growth of your start-up.

Your company will be matched with one of the program’s entrepreneurs-in-residence. These experts will help connect you to resources and provide you with guidance based on their experience as founders and leaders of multiple startups over the course of their careers. You’ll also have access to a first-class collaborative office space as well as marketing, legal and accounting resources.

Velvet Nelson

Program Director, Launch Chapel Hill
Launch Chapel Hill, 321 W. Rosemary St., UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Ask an Innovator

If you’re working on an innovation, entrepreneurial project or a new venture, you’re bound to have questions — and lots of them. Now there’s a quick, easy way for you to get expert advice from a network of experienced innovators whenever a question pops to mind.

Visit Ask an Innovator, a simple, yet powerful online platform that’s powered by Innovate Carolina and created in partnership with The Entrepreneurship Center at Kenan-Flagler Business School. This digital tool makes it easy for you to send your questions to our community of innovators who are ready to assist. It’s free and available for you to use at your convenience. You can take your idea further, faster with the help of experienced innovators and entrepreneurs in our community. So, we partnered with Protopia, a leading SaaS company based in the Triangle and founded by a Tar Heel, to launch Ask an Innovator. Now, you can ask questions instantly and know that you’ll get advice from Carolina-connected experts.

Sheryl Waddell

Director, Innovate Carolina Global Network


With an open, flexible workspace conveniently located at 173 E. Franklin Street in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill, 1789 Venture Lab is the bridge between your on-campus entrepreneurial activity and the larger world. If you are a UNC-Chapel Hill student or alumnus who is interested in starting your own venture, you can receive special support, including access to relevant mentors, business coaches and essential services (legal, accounting, etc.). You can also take advantage of regular workshops, classes, office hours and events hosted by the 1789 team in partnership with groups like Launch Chapel Hill, the Campus Y, the UNC Minor in Entrepreneurship and the Carolina Challenge.

Kimi Yingling

Student Engagement and Events Program Manager, Innovate Carolina
1789 Venture Lab, 173 1/2 E. Franklin St., UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

KickStart Venture Services

KickStart Venture Services, which is part of the Office of Technology Commercialization at UNC-Chapel Hill, helps Carolina faculty form, develop and grow startup companies based on University intellectual property. If you are a faculty member working on an IP-based startup, the KickStart team can provide you with coaching, mentoring and early-stage funding. The team can also connect you with key service providers and offer guidance about issues related to company management, investors and space.

Mireya McKee

Assistant Director, Kickstart Venture Services
2157 Genome Sciences Bldg., 250 Bell Tower Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Entrepreneurship Center

The UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School is committed to developing transformative entrepreneurial leaders as founders, funders and growth executives. To support that commitment, the Entrepreneurship Center, which as founded in 1997 through the generosity of Frank Hawkins Kenan, offers a comprehensive array of curricular and co-curricular programs. These programs are driven by the rubric Learn-Launch-Lead (L3)™ and help you develop skills and gain direct experience not found at other business schools. Through a broad-spectrum entrepreneurship curriculum, the center offers you a collaborative, hands-on and results-driven learning environment designed to build an entrepreneurial mindset. As a business student, you will continue to benefit from the center’s global network of alumni mentors and coaches after you graduate and transition careers.

Vickie Gibbs

Executive Director, Entrepreneurship Center
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 300 Kenan Center Dr., Chapel Hill, NC

CUBE Social Innovation Incubator

At the CUBE, UNC-Chapel Hill’s social innovation incubator, students and faculty tackle pressing social issues. Pilot funding provided by CUBE since 2013 has helped build numerous companies – a mix of LLCs and 501c3s – working on a variety of issues: food security, clean water, clean tech, offering safe late-night transportation via electric vehicles, improving arts and STEM education, providing vocational training for young adults with autism, and many more. While not every social venture incubated in CUBE spins off into a sustainable enterprise, many do.

If you have an idea for a social venture, you can apply to enter the CUBE program through a competitive process. If your venture is selected, you can receive seed funding, mentoring, co-working space, pro-bono support services, expert feedback from nationally renowned social entrepreneurs, and the individualized assistance you need to create a successful social enterprise.

Jakelin Bonilla

Social Innovation Initiative Coordinator
The Campus Y, 180 A E. Cameron Ave., UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

UNC Reese Innovation Lab

The Reese Innovation Lab works to create and share novel and immersive storytelling experiences that engage audiences by leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality with unique, research-based perspectives. Students and faculty use new technologies and human-centered design concept solve challenging problems for media companies. Projects are rooted in scientific and consumer/audience research and leverage collaborations with subject-matter experts across the university such as the School of Medicine and the Computer Science Department as well as multiple industries leaders like Time Magazine and The Washington Post as well as local journalism publishers.

Steven King

Associate Professor at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media; Chief Innovation Officer at Reese Innovation Lab

Workroom FashionMash

Workroom FashionMash is both a workspace for prototyping and building, as well as a way of thinking. Since 2009, the program has given advertising students in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Media and Journalism School the chance to work directly with fashion and lifestyle brands to envision new ideas. As a student, you’ll work with clients to move beyond the page or screen and bring concepts to life.

Dana McMahan

Professor of the Practice, UNC School of Media and Journalism
Workroom FashionMash, 149 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC

Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SIE) Lab – UNC School of Social Work

The SIE Lab, within the Jordan Institute for Families, provides support and resources for students and faculty to explore, design, implement, replicate and scale new ways of addressing complex social problems. The lab is home to social venture startups, an entrepreneur-in-residence, the NC Data Partnership for Social and Health Innovation, several co-working spaces, and a large meeting space.

The lab is also a field placement site for graduate social work students. Students placed here practice new methods of creating social change, while providing innovative consulting for non-profits and socially-focused enterprises.  These students master foundational business skills that amplify their effectiveness and impact in their careers. The lab’s co-working offices are available for anyone on campus to use on a first-come, first-serve basis. The larger main room is also available for meetings or larger gatherings and can be reserved by contacting Beth Lowder at

Gary M. Nelson, DSW

Director Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, The Jordan Institute for Families; Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy, UNC School of Social Work

1789 Student Venture Fund

The 1789 Student Venture Fund provides financial support for UNC-Chapel Hill students to use to build commercial and social startups. Too often, the promising ideas that students have for building ventures are never given the opportunity to take off because they lack the early-stage funding needed for initial testing, development and growth. The goal of the 1789 Student Venture Fund is to provide students with the seed funding they need to ideate, create ventures and move startups from concept to reality. Award funding ranges from $100 to $2,500 per student application.

Kimi Yingling

Student Engagement and Events Program Manager, Innovate Carolina
1789 Venture Lab, 173 1/2 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Dreamers-Who-Do Award

Innovate Carolina gives students at UNC-Chapel Hill the chance to submit an application for the Dreamers-Who-Do Award, which can help them move their ideas forward and turn novel concepts into a concrete solution. Dreamers-Who-Do awards provide financial support for student projects, programs and guest speakers that help Carolina students learn what it means to be innovators and entrepreneurs and gives them opportunities to put those insights into practice. These activities may involve programs or events based on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus as well as initiatives that involve travel to competitions, conferences and events that help students develop an innovative mindset and skillset.

Sheryl Waddell

Director, Innovate Carolina Global Network

BUSI 500: Entrepreneurship and Business Planning

The primary goals of this course are to give the student a broad understanding of the field of entrepreneurship and to introduce the important tools and skills necessary to create and grow a successful new venture.  The course is designed to simulate the real-life activities of entrepreneurs in the startup stage of a new venture. Students develop an understanding of the elements required to start a new business and hear from successful entrepreneurs about their journey and then evaluate real business plans for entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey.

Jim Kitchen

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 300 Kenan Center Dr., Chapel Hill, NC

Center for Health Innovation

The UNC Center for Health Innovation operated by the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care is a space to experiment with the creative disruption of health care delivery. It supports moving great ideas toward implementation, provides a forum for the formation of public-private partnerships, and serves as a learning laboratory where internal and external partners can test their visions for promoting a healthier future. Are you innovative person or part of an organization that wants to help transform the national health care delivery system? If so, the Center for Health Innovation team invites you to contact them to discuss collaborative opportunities.

Carol Lewis

Vice President, UNC Center for Health Innovation
UNC Center for Health Innovation, 211 Friday Center Dr., Chapel Hill, NC

Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshop

The Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshop encourages an entrepreneurial mindset in UNC faculty and equips them with proven skills used by successful entrepreneurs. Hosted by Innovate Carolina and designed and led by Professor Keith Sawyer in the School of Education, the workshop is based on research on creativity and entrepreneurship and conducted in UNC’s School of Education and in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

To participate in the prestigious workshop as a faculty member, you must be nominated by your dean and invited to participate by Chancellor Carol Folt. The workshop tasks you with bringing a challenging problem or innovative solution to share. During the two-and-a-half-day session, you’ll work as part of a team with other faculty and collaborate with a cross-disciplinary group of coaches from across the UNC campus. You’ll explore ways to advance your ideas, apply entrepreneurship tools to real-world scenarios and enhance your business pitch. At the conclusion of the workshop, your faculty team will pitch its idea to a panel of judges to get real-time feedback, giving you the insight needed to raise your solution to the next level.

Michelle Bolas

Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation Strategy and Programs, Innovate Carolina


StartUp-UNC is a series of courses that helps faculty, staff and students from across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus turn new ideas into viable ventures. The StartUp program is designed to engage you in an intense academic exercise that teaches you a process for evaluating and launching new ventures that you can then replicate. It will prepare you with a lifelong entrepreneurial mindset that you can apply beyond the classroom experience.

Ted Zoller

T.W. Lewis Clinical Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship; Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 300 Kenan Center Dr., Chapel Hill, NC

Research, Innovation and Global Solutions for Public Health

Research, Innovation and Global Solutions empowers faculty members, students and staff at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health to solve local and global health problems through research, innovation and practice. It provides guidance and support in the areas of:

  • Research
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Global health

It also manages and provides support for several Gillings programs and initiatives, including programs funded by the Gillings gift.

Julie MacMillan

Managing Director, Research and Innovation Solutions
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 104 Rosenau Hall, Chapel Hill, NC

Market Landscape Research Service

A lot of ideas sound promising, but how does someone know if their concept is ready for the market? Innovate Carolina’s Research Services team helps UNC-Chapel Hill innovators and inventors answer this question. The team provides the following services to inventors and entrepreneurs at the University: patent landscaping, market and funding research, startup consulting, technical assistance and training workshops.

Cindy Reifsnider

Director, Research Services and Lead Analyst for Patent and Sci/Tech Literature
Innovate Carolina Headquarters, 109 Church Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

E(I) Lab

The E(I) Lab is a six-month experiential program that brings together graduate students, professional students and postdocs from diverse disciplines across UNC to conceive, develop and test innovative solutions to unmet needs in health care. Teams will be given generous financial support to develop the necessary prototypes, be inventors on patents, and be trained in various aspects of entrepreneurship and innovation. The top teams receive monetary prizes in addition to potential seed investments.

Sam Lai

Associate Professor and Director, Pharmacoengineering Program
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Marsico Hall 4213, 125 Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC

Eshelman Institute for Innovation

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation accelerates the creation and development of ideas that lead to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. Through strategic collaborations inside and outside of UNC-Chapel Hill, the institute creates jobs and spurs economic development in North Carolina and beyond. Whether you are a UNC faculty member, student or part of the staff, the institute can provide you with resources to engage in timely, opportunistic, creative, risky and innovative work that advances the mission of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Mieke Lynch

Program Manager
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Beard Hall, 301 Pharmacy Ln., Chapel Hill, NC

UNC School of Law Institute for Innovation

Located on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, the UNC School of Law Institute for Innovation provides early stage legal counsel to new for-profit and nonprofit ventures. Made possible by a generous gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and support from the North Carolina General Assembly, the Institute serves business and social enterprise entrepreneurs on the campuses of UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, in partnership with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and NC State University’s Poole College of Management, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructures on both campuses. The Institute also aims to support economic development of under-resourced communities, with an emphasis on rural North Carolina.

Thomas Kelley

James Dickson Phillips, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the UNC School of Law Institute for Innovation
201A E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Gillings Innovation Labs

The Gillings Innovation Labs focus on achieving fundamental breakthroughs in public health. If you’re a faculty member who has a primary appointment in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, you are eligible to apply for one of the annual awards offered by the program. The award will allow you to engage in cutting-edge research, translate interventions to high-impact settings, and develop novel technologies or methodologies that improve public health, locally and globally.

As a principal investigator (PI), you are encouraged to involve Gillings or other UNC-Chapel Hill students in your project. Your proposal may also include a co-PI from another department or school at Carolina.

Julie MacMillan

Managing Director, Research and Innovation Solutions
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 104 Rosenau Hall, Chapel Hill, NC

Carolina Center for Public Service

The Carolina Center for Public Service connects the energy and expertise of both the University and the community to provide students, faculty and staff with deep and transformative experiences, while meeting the needs of North Carolina and beyond. The Center strengthens the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can participate in a variety of engaged scholarship and service programs offered by the center that allow you to collaborate with others and find interdisciplinary solutions to local and global challenges.

Lynn Blanchard

Carolina Center for Public Service, 205 Wilson St., Chapel Hill, NC

Innovation Showcase

Innovation should be much more than a process. It should be an experience – a memorable event that’s live, in-person and interactive.

And that’s exactly what you’ll find when you attend the annual Innovation Showcase at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is hosted by Innovate Carolina under the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

This is your chance to connect with other enterprising researchers and business enthusiasts – including UNC faculty and students – whose work is poised to make a significant economic impact in North Carolina and beyond. You’ll get to meet and learn from the most inventive minds from Carolina community as they share their latest innovations with the entrepreneurial and investment community. Hear their pitches. See their demos. And have in-depth conversations to understand the inspiration behind their ideas, how they’re making a difference and where they’re going next. The showcase is also a great chance to meet and learn from the leaders of numerous UNC programs that support these ventures as part of Carolina’s universitywide innovation ecosystem.

Sheryl Waddell

Director, Innovate Carolina Global Network

Carolina THINK

Carolina THINK is a student organization that serves as the entrepreneurship club for undergraduate students. The organization raises awareness and interest in the entrepreneurial field and helps students discover entrepreneurship as a discipline that expands beyond the confines of conventional business. Carolina THINK shows students that everyone has the potential of becoming an entrepreneur. Besides hosting a wide range of events to help students develop the connections and skills they need to succeed as entrepreneurs, the organization helps students by pointing them towards available resources on campus to ensure that everyone has a smooth entrepreneurial journey without feeling lost.

NC TraCS Institute

The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute, the integrated home of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program at UNC, is supported through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Consortium members share a common vision to reduce the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients, and to engage communities in clinical research efforts.

If you are a principal investigator working in clinical and translational science, you can benefit from working with faculty and staff experts across NC TraCS who can provide you with with targeted, comprehensive and interdisciplinary solutions related to your area of focus. These include a no-cost, personalized mentoring program that offers you highly specialized expertise in translational research.

John Buse

Co-Principal Investigator and Director
Brinkhous-Bullitt Building, 2nd Floor, CB 7064, 160 N. Medical Dr., UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Carolina Creates

Carolina Creates is UNC’s Incubator for Student Creativity. The mission of the student organization is to foster innovative creation on campus by providing the resources needed to make ideas happen. Examples of successfully incubated projects include campus organizations like TEDxUNC and Should Does. Carolina Creates is sponsored by Innovate Carolina and UNC Student Affairs.

Student - Campus

Carolina Union Design Services

Carolina Union Design Services helps UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty and staff create targeted communications about their organizations. If you’d like to market your department or group, you can collaborate with Design Services on print and web/interactive design projects. By taking advantage of print and digital channels, your group can attract more members, advertise your mission or purpose, direct people through physical space, or promote an event, contest or survey.

Megan Johnson

Associate Director, Communications & Creative Services, Student Union
FPG Student Union, Suite 1506, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Watson University Incubator

Watson University is the first incubator leading to a degree for the world’s next generation of change-makers and social entrepreneurs. The program is for student innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs ages 18 to 23. As a student in the program, you may go through the semester incubator or the bachelor’s degree track. The Watson University incubator also offers you master courses taught by leading mentors, practitioners and entrepreneurs as well as training in social entrepreneurship and personal development. Additionally, the Watson Lab can help you take your venture from idea to launch. You can apply to Watson’s semester program to incubate your idea before (gap year), during or immediately after your undergraduate studies.

Audacity Factory

Audacity Factory is an accelerator and collaborative located in Raleigh that is focused on ending modern-day slavery. If you are a social innovators with ideas toward this cause and are accepted into the accelerator, you’ll be connected to mentors, advisors and a network as they work on audacious movements to fight modern slavery worldwide. You will focus on measurable impact, scalability and sustainability, while using technology and digital marketing best practices to engage millions.

iNvictus Office Center

iNvictus serves as the hub of minority entrepreneurship and an ecosystem that provides mentoring, consulting and support for minority entrepreneurs and startups. It is also a vibrant co-working and collaborative office space for business owners and professionals. Its up-to-date amenities, flexible scheduling and affordable rates allows you to be innovative, creative and inspired. In addition, you may benefit from the Invictus Forward Outreach Program, which provides aid, mentoring, access to funding and support for minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.


Around half of all new startups fail in the first 12 months. NC IDEA LABS, formerly Groundwork Labs, helps founders make better decisions, make those decisions faster and take the proper steps to avoid mistakes frequently made by new entrepreneurs. Essentially, it helps reduce risk.

From a program standpoint, NC IDEA LABS looks a lot like a technology accelerator – it allows you to participate in a mentor-driven, selective, 12-week program. The difference is that it does not make an investment, and you do not have to give up equity in your company. You can take advantage of the program at no cost.


Techstars is much more than a three-month mentorship-driven accelerator program. It makes entrepreneurship accessible by opening doors to capital, mentorship, marketing, business development, customer acquisition and talent recruitment. The program’s global ecosystem of founders, mentors, investors and corporate partners work together to create a network of support that lasts throughout your entrepreneurial journey. Once your company is accepted in the program, you will automatically be offered a $100,000 convertible note, $20,000 in exchange for 6 percent common stock with an equity-back guarantee, and 400 perks worth over $1 million. You can also connect with founders, mentors and investors at local alumni events, the program’s annual founder celebration and at other meetings.

Unreasonable Institute Accelerators

The Unreasonable Institute unites entrepreneurs with the potential to address major problems at scale: poverty, lack of education and access to clean water, for example. Its customized accelerator programs located around the world bring together resources, mentors, funders and a global network to support ventures that are tackling the world’s biggest social and environmental problems.  If you are deeply committed to social impact, are plugged into the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem, and will tirelessly work to support your region’s entrepreneurs, then this is the opportunity for you. You can apply to work with the Unreasonable Institute to launch an accelerator lab and customize it for your local context.


Y Combinator

Twice a year, Y Combinator invests a small amount of money ($120,000) in a large number of startups (approximately 100). If your startup is selected for the program, you will move to Silicon Valley for three months, and Y Combinator will work intensively with you to get your company into the best possible shape and refine its pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when your startup will present to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.


ThinkHouse is a 10-month, pre-accelerator fellowship program in Raleigh, North Carolina. This action-learning, residential program is based out of a fully renovated house that serves as a co-living space for entrepreneurs. As a ThinkHouse fellow, you get the environment, network, resources and skills required to build a profitable and scalable company. In addition to a strong emphasis on personal leadership development and team building, the ThinkHouse program immerses you in a hands-on boot camp designed to help young entrepreneurs develop a viable product or service and earn revenue. You can also work out of HQ Raleigh, a dynamic entrepreneurial co-working space within easy biking distance to ThinkHouse. To be eligible, you must call the Research Triangle area your primary home for the duration of the fellowship and must be working full-time on your venture.

American Underground

Whether you’re a solo-entrepreneur, remote employee or have a 30-person team, you can take advantage of unique workspaces at American Underground designed to accommodate any stage of your business life cycle. Your startup will benefit from a powerful community of thinkers and doers, plus events that help you network, learn and succeed. American Underground also serves as a Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub, one of just seven in North America, which offers you unique access to Google and its products. Plus, with one location in Raleigh and three locations in downtown Durham, you can choose from the spot that works best for you.

HQ Raleigh

Designed for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, HQ Raleigh offers an exciting new workspace and a members-based community for Raleigh’s burgeoning innovation scene. As an HQ Raleigh member, you can gain access to a thriving network of entrepreneurs, mentors, service providers and capital connections. You’ll also enjoy amenities that include turn-key office spaces, co-working spaces, conference rooms, huddle rooms, a cafe space with a full-service kitchen, a bar, and a multi-purpose room for classes, workshops and events.


The Frontier

Looking for a free place to plug in, a private office for your growing company, or something a bit larger in the Research Triangle Park area? It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, everyone that walks through the doors of The Frontier receives a bevy of benefits and can get connected to the larger local entrepreneurship community. This centrally located convening space in the heart of the Triangle gives you access to Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, events and parking. Even better, you’ll find that most of the space is free.