Margaret Kocherga, ‘18 ‘21, Ph.D., is on a mission to create a unicorn — and she’s well on her way. The alumna’s on-air pitch for investment in her startup Margik Inc. captivated the seven celebrity investors of “The Unicorn Hunters Show,” and she walked away from her appearance on the program with funding commitments from all of them. Kocherga made a compelling case for supporting Margik’s new, ultra-thin lightening technology that helps brands stand out via customizable computer screens — and the use of organic, environmentally friendly products.
The pioneering series, which connects entrepreneurs seeking funding with millions of potential investors worldwide and offers viewers the opportunity to invest in billion-dollar ideas in the pre-IPO stage, streams on UnicornHunters.com, Binge Networks, LinkedIn Broadcast, Facebook Video, YouTube and Vimeo.
From Ukraine to Charlotte, from research to commercialization
Kocherga immigrated to North Carolina from Ukraine with her family at age 15, completed high school a year later while learning English, enrolled at Piedmont Community College and transferred to UNC Charlotte to complete a bachelor’s degree in chemistry before earning a Ph.D. in nanoscale science in 2021. As a graduate student, Kocherga contributed to the work in the lab of her mentor, chemistry professor Thomas Schmedake, where — alongside expert researchers from several academic disciplines — she first experienced breakthroughs in the field of organic electronics.
During this time, Kocherga’s journey to develop organic electronics products for sustainable consumer electronics and a simplified manufacturing process started with Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s innovation and entrepreneurship center that provides support for innovation-driven entrepreneurs and University researchers and students interested in entrepreneurship. By participating in a series of key Ventureprise programs and competitions, she was able to progressively gain support for her venture.
“Dr. Kocherga turned a dedication to learning during her Ph.D. program into a commitment for action while pursuing her entrepreneurial aspirations,” said Devin Collins, director of the Ventureprise Innovation and Entrepreneurial Center. “She took advantage of every Ventureprise entrepreneurial support program and leveraged her progress to advance her venture and commercialize her research.”
Through the Ventureprise Launch NSF (National Science Foundation) I-Corps program, Kocherga conducted comprehensive customer discovery related to her vision. From there, she progressed to Ventureprise Launch Summer Accelerator, the elite Chain Reactions Innovations Program at Argonne National Labs and Innovate Charlotte.
Successful startup and a rebrand
In November 2019, after receiving a grant from the NC IDEA Foundation, she founded Light and Charge Solutions LLC, which was listed among Charlotte Inno’s Startups to Watch in 2021. Over time and through startup-related challenges, Kocherga raised $1.1 million in grant funding, including an NSF STTR Phase 1 Award. Through extended customer research and pilot programs, a decision was reached to rebrand as Margik Inc., with a shift toward a broader library of organic materials for consumer electronics, lighting, fluorescent markers and pigments — and a goal to land a small-scale supplier agreement by 2023. Kocherga is working with UNC Charlotte’s Office of Research Commercialization and Development to license and commercialize patents in the OLED and fluorescent dye space.
Having recently released its first product line consisting of the world’s first fully recyclable, organic LED (OLED)-based lighted stickers and business cards, Margik Inc., has launched a Holiday Collection, including “Congratulations'' and “Happy Halloween” stickers.
“Ventureprise has been elemental to Margik’s success — through the development of the business concept to our ideas coming to fruition,” said Kocherga. “It started with overarching guidance from the Ventureprise program and specific direction from Dr. Schmedake, which led to the technology seeded during my doctoral research. It continues today with Margik’s lab on campus where the community continues to support us as we evolve.”
As the Unicorn Hunters panelists opted to invest during Kocherga’s presentation, they lavished praise on both her and Margik Inc.
“In my opinion, she may be the most brilliant person we’ve seen come [onto the show],” said Moe Vela, a former White House advisor. Rosie Rios, former U.S. Treasurer, added, “She has grit. She has an instinct. She has an ability to overcome. You can’t put a figure on that.” Canadian actor and panelist Chris Diamantopoulos said to Kocherga, “You have presented something bigger than this stage. If my daughters could look at someone like [Margaret] as an example of how you just put your head down and do the good work, I’d be a really, really lucky man.”
In addition to the panelists’ investment commitments, Margik Inc., has won 10 million Unicoins, designed to be a next-generation, asset-backed, dividend-paying cryptocurrency that addresses the volatility of early coins. “This investment will enable us to go from the laboratory bench to get products in the hands of consumers,” Kocherga said.
On the heels of its Unicorn Hunters success, Margik Inc., is raising a community funding round on WeFunder. Visit here to learn more about the innovative technology of Margik Inc.; the company’s organic, recyclable LED stickers are currently available for pre-order.