UNC helps drive Triangle startup momentum

Forbes highlights UNC-Chapel Hill as one of the universities helping to make the Research Triangle Park region a startup boomtown

Increasingly, the Research Triangle Park region and North Carolina is becoming a hotbed for startups and entrepreneurs, fueled in part by universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and NC State University. The recent Forbes article “How North Carolina is Fueling Startup Success” names UNC-affiliated startups Simple Mills and Pryon as two of the many successful startups that faculty, students and alumni of UNC-Chapel have launched in recent years. Such Carolina-connected companies along with numerous others that have emerged from NC State and Duke are indicators that the Triangle is a region teeming with entrepreneurial talent and new ventures. “This metro has arrived on the national stage as a player for almost any company,” the article’s author Pete Wilkins says. “So whether you’re a budding startup considering a place to set-up shop, or a well-established enterprise ready to expand, this region might be the spot for you.”

As Wilkins outlines in his Forbes article, when you consider the combined startups and entrepreneurial expertise associated with the three major research universities in the Research Triangle Park area, the current and potential for future impact grows more impressive. “Located at the center of three tier-one universities — North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University — the park’s 7,000 acres houses hundreds of companies, including science and technology firms, government agencies, academic institutions, startups, and nonprofits,” the story notes.

The story points to local economic results that paint the Triangle, and North Carolina more broadly, as a boomtown for new ventures. “Raleigh boasts a greater volume of high-growth companies per capita than NYC and Seattle. Furthermore, North Carolina’s tech industry has grown by 20.6% over the past five years, which is the third-highest growth rate in the country,” Wilkins says.

A look at innovation programs and startups associated specifically with UNC-Chapel Hill demonstrates the contribution that Carolina makes to the larger startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem described in the Forbes piece. Sparked by Carolina’s commitment to building to a top-tier entrepreneurship education program and creating a campus-wide Innovate Carolina network to provide the tools and resources that innovators need to thrive, the number of budding entrepreneurs and startup companies nurtured by UNC-Chapel Hill continues to grow. Recent industry rankings demonstrate a strong institutional foundation for faculty, students and alumni who want to pursue ideas that make a social or economic impact. U.S. News & World Report ranks UNC-Chapel Hill in the top ten in undergraduate entrepreneurship education, while Reuters named Carolina as the number six most innovative university in the world.

Startups launched by entrepreneurs connected to UNC-Chapel Hill are making an economic difference within the Triangle region, across the state and globally. An analysis of the Innovate Carolina Startups Database in July 2019 shows that :

> 663 UNC-affiliated startups have been launched since 1958. These companies have raised a total of $15 billion in funding.

> Of those 663 total companies, 75 percent (500) are still active.

> Of the 500 active companies, 85 percent (424) are headquartered in 27 North Carolina counties.

In 2018, the 500 active companies:

> Employed 78,658 people total*

> Employed 12,587 people in North Carolina*

> Earned $13.6 billion in total revenue*

Explore the Innovate Carolina Impact Dashboard to explore other ways innovators and entrepreneurs from UNC-Chapel Hill are making a human, social and economic impact in North Carolina and beyond.

*Includes multi-national firm IQVIA. The impact of UNC-Chapel Hill startups in 2018 without IQVIA: > Employed 18,658 people total > Employed 8,587 people in North Carolina > Earned $3.2 billion in revenue