Venture Capital

Entrepreneurship is alive and kicking at UNC Charlotte. The 2018 Charlotte Venture Challenge featured 13 startup finalists – and creativity and innovation were on display big time at UNC Charlotte Center City.   

Charlotte Venture Challenge is part of Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s innovation and entrepreneurship center. Ventureprise provides resources and expertise for community and University-based startups as they seek to commercialize their innovations and scale their ventures.

Now in its 17th year, the Charlotte Venture Challenge features panel discussions from notable businesses and entrepreneurs, but the main draw remains the awards. This year’s event featured a new twist with the addition of two categories: one for UNC Charlotte student research and another for University research and innovation. These teams brought forward their best pitches to a room full of investors, researchers, entrepreneurial organizations and the curious public.

Student Innovation

UNC Charlotte junior Treven Stoddard won in the student category for his entry, Genubot, an application to assist calculus students. As founder, Stoddard walked away with the J. Chris Murphy Award and $1,000 to continue his work. Stoddard came up with the idea through personal experience: he noticed classmates struggling with calculus, and many were seeking help outside the classroom. Genubot uses a machine-learning algorithm to help students get the correct answer – yet goes further by providing a step-by-step explanation on how the problem is correctly solved.

UNC Charlotte Research and Innovation

The next program segment, the University Research and Innovation panel, was dedicated to UNC Charlotte teams that completed both the Ventureprise Launch and national I-Corps customer discovery programs. “Each of the panelists has taken significant effort in the form of over 100 customer discovery interviews to move their innovations from lab to market,” commented panel moderator and Ventureprise Associate Director Devin Collins.

Each of the University Research and Innovation teams received $2,000 to continue their customer discovery efforts. Teams included:

  • NanEx - Jordan Poler, faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Vector Analytics - Marcia Price, graduate student, College of Computing and Informatics
  • Telli-Technologies - Shahriar Jalal Nibir, Ph.D. student, Lee College of Engineering
  • SmarTrek - Mohamed Shehab, faculty member in the College of Computing and Informatics
  • ResArt - Zbigniew W. Ras, faculty member in the College of Computing and Informatics

Community Entrepreneur Innovation

In the Community Entrepreneurship panel category, companies who completed the Ventureprise Launch NC IDEA customer discovery program were selected for their innovation, milestones, market strategy and investment needs. The five panelists shared their customer discovery experiences in a discussion moderated by Paul Wetenhall, Ventureprise executive director.

Each of the Community Entrepreneurship companies received $2,000 to continue their customer discovery efforts. “The awardees have all demonstrated early product market fit, and the funds are to further explore business models,” said Ventureprise Associate Director Devin Collins. They included:

  • CareerUnlocked Inc. - Andrew Lee and Saurabh Sarathe
  • Med Portal LLC - Eric Kirsch, Christ Chartrand, Todd Serulneck, Eric Medlock and Jim McGuire
  • Notable - Lindsey Haaser Braciale and Tim Newman
  • 27 Software - Lee Larson, Nelson Clark, Chris Chartrand, Graham Kerswell, Paul Mitnick and Doug McConoughey
  • FixMob Inc. - Nic Gavalas, Mark Vande Guchte, Russell Eldridge

People’s Choice

Notable was voted as the People’s Choice Innovator winner by Charlotte Venture Challenge attendees who visited with the 17 displaying companies during the reception following the challenge program.

The judging panel consisted of three active and influential members in the Charlotte entrepreneurial community: Greg Brown, owner and president of Cardinal Finance and administrator of Charlotte Angel Fund; Lori Collins, strategic advisor, Collins Climate Consulting and member of Charlotte Angel Fund; and Khalia Braswell, CEO of INTech Foundation, and a UNC Charlotte graduate and participant in Ventureprise programs, including 49er Foundry and Charlotte Venture Challenge. 

To learn more about how UNC Charlotte is encouraging and supporting entrepreneurialism in the Queen City, visit