Tag Archives: start-up

Paying it Forward

A few months ago, I blogged about how the spirit of generosity that started RTP is alive and well in the region’s business community and overall ethos. Late Tuesday, we got yet another example of what makes the Research Triangle region a special place.

Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton, co-founders of iContact (which they started while still students at UNC-CH) announced donations to CED, the Southeast’s largest entrepreneurial support organization, totaling $270,000.

Ryan and Aaron recently sold iContact to Vocus, a publicly-traded provider of cloud-based marketing and PR software.

The two have been engaged with CED since they were students: they volunteered at CED events as undergrads and in later years, served as members of the CED Board of Directors. The donation was a way of making good on a stock pledge after they started the company in 2003.

(As the CED press release on the donation notes, the stock pledge program was “established in 1998 to encourage entrepreneurs to support the organization by identifying contributions that would be made at some point in the future at the time of a successful exit. Pledges are made by individuals who have benefited from CED’s programs and services, many of which are provided free or at reduced cost to early-stage entrepreneurs.”)

Ryan has also suggested that he’ll use some of the proceeds for Angel investments in the region.

The donation has  been described as a way of “paying it forward” and helping support the “next generation of great entrepreneurs in this area.” However it’s labeled, it’s an example of what makes the region’s ecosystem work and draw others to it.


CED on The State of the Entrepreneurial Economy of North Carolina

1,800 companies started.

40,560 jobs created.

$7.7 billion in capital invested.

This is the impact that entrepreneurs have had on the state of North Carolina in the past 20 years.

The “Starting Something: The State of the Entrepreneurial Economy of North Carolina, 1992-2011” report was presented last week at CED‘s Annual Meeting held at RTP Headquarters.  The data for the report was collected by, Maryann Feldman and Nichola Lowe, who are both professors at UNC-Chapel Hill, First Flight Venture Center, an RTP-based incubator, and CED.

Another important finding of the study is that the jobs created by these start-ups have stayed in North Carolina, which is key to the economic growth of the state.  Furthermore, while a majority of the VC funds that have invested in these start-ups are based in the Southeast, there have been investments made from international funds, as well as those based in Boston, NYC and California.

CED took on this initiative both to show the importance of entrepreneurs in our overall economy, but more importantly as a reminder of the various players and ingredients our region’s economy depends on to remain competitive.

At RTP, a central theme of our mission is to serve as an economic driver for the State of North Carolina and the Triangle Region.  It’s interesting to see the role the larger, more established companies in our region play — both as the sources of innovation and new companies and also as end-users or acquirers of some of the new ideas. We are proud to see these great innovators in the Triangle creating a thriving entrepreneurial community that is catching the attention of the nation.  This is what RTP is all about, folks.

For the presentation from CED’s annual meeting, click here.

For the press release, click here.

Funds with Benefits: Joystick Labs at Innovation in RTP

What does it take to be a video game developer?  According to John Austin, Managing Director of Joystick Labs, you need to be stubborn and flexible.  But more about that in a bit. 

Joystick Labs, housed in the American Underground in Durham, is a seed-stage accelerator that launches the next generation video game entrepreneurs through a unique mix of early-stage seed funding, mentorship, education, services, and networking. Founded in July, 2010 and based on the model of accelerators such as Y Combinator (in Mountain View, CA) and Techstars (based in New York City, Boston, Boulder, and Seattle), Joystick Labs has now funded six companies.  With a year under their belt, they continue to focus exclusively on identifying and launching the next generation of digitally distributed video game companies. Read more »

Bridging the Gap

Have you ever been prescribed a drug or therapy that didn’t seem to agree with your system?  Or diligently taken your medicine but experienced no improvement in your condition?  I’ve certainly dealt with this before, and after I finish feeling annoyed with my doctor, I wonder why on earth someone hasn’t figured this out yet!

In fact, many people ARE figuring this out – it’s called companion diagnostics.  And lucky for us, the folks at bioMONTR, a start-up in RTP’s Park Research Center, are making progress in our backyard.

Read more »

Advancing Innovation. RTP Incubator Partners with Innovalyst

First Flight Venture Center (FFVC), a technology incubator and Innovalyst, a life sciences consulting firm committed to catalyzing innovation, today announced an innovative partnership to provide strategic and technical support to life science entrepreneurs in Research Triangle Park. Innovalyst’s ICaN (Intellectual Capital Network) will provide fit for purpose teams of industrial experts to FFVC’s life science and medical device companies.

“This foundational partnership between FFVC and Innovalyst represents a powerful pledge on behalf of FFVC to the life science community in the Research Triangle Park. We are committed to expand our life science focus and have augmented our wet labs by more than 50 percent in the last 18 months.” Explained Dr. Andrew Schwab, President, First Flight Venture Center.

Read more »

Meet Marvin: Not your typical RTP worker

RTP's Marvin

In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a series of books by Douglas Adams, Marvin, one of the series’ major characters, is a robot who has a “brain the size of a planet” and struggles to find ways to engage his vast intellect. RTP has its own “Marvin” who until he was shipped off to compete in the next First Robotics Competition called Park Research Center his home. (For those of you that aren’t familiar with Park Research Center or “PRC,” you can read more about it in this post).

RTP’s Marvin is the creation of a talented group of high-school students known as Team 2059 or “The Hitchhikers.” While I can’t speak for Marvin, from what I’ve seen, the Hitchhikers team has no problem putting their intellectual capacity to use.

(in center, Team Co-Leader Alex Surette)

Since October 2010, the group has been using Park Research Center as its launching grounds. They began building Marvin in January from a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. They had six weeks to create a robot that can hang inner tubes on to pegs hung at different heights. Once the tubes are arranged to form the First Robotics logo (how’s that for branding???), the robot must then deploy minibots, small electro-mechanical assemblies that are independent of the host robot, onto vertical poles and attempt to “climb” 10 feet.  Check out the video at the bottom of this post of Marvin in action!

In addition to being a great group of people who are passionate, enthusiastic, and incredibly smart, the Hitchhikers are a great example of why STEM education is so important – and how it can be fun. (See some great stats on the importance of STEM from RTP’s own NC STEM Collaborative)

In preparing for the game and building Marvin, they learned about design-build engineering, CAD programming and imagery & animation. They also learned key concepts of running a business from marketing and fundraising (they had to raise their own sponsorships) to creating an organizational structure to ensure all tasks get done. Mix in project management, decision making and problem solving skills and they’ve got the leadership skills that will serve them well as they leave high school. (I don’t know about you, but the concept sure beats the random science and math team competitions I participated in as a teenager!)

RTP has been honored to join the other sponsors of the Hitchhiker’s team and looks forward to cheering them on to victory at the NC Regionals April 8-9 at the NC State Fairgrounds in Dorton Arena! See you there.

RTP firm Aerie Pharmaceuticals raises $30 million

Ever cringe when you have your eye examined and the doctor puffs air at your eye? It makes my eye twitch just thinking about it. That puff of air tests for glaucoma symptoms. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of visual disability and blindness in the world. It wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with glaucoma that I took notice.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Duke University spinoff developing a treatment for glaucoma, has raised $30 million in a series B round of venture-capital financing.  With R&D operations located in Alexandria Innovation Center, one of the The Research Triangle Park’s five incubators, Aerie Pharmaceuticals is a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of medical innovations in ophthalmology.

Clarus Ventures and Sofinnova Ventures co-led the round, with participation from Osage University Partners, and existing investors Alta Partners and TPG Biotech.

Aerie expects to use proceeds from this financing to fund continued development of Aerie’s broad product portfolio in glaucoma and advance the company’s lead product, AR-12286, a first-in-class selective Rho-kinase inhibitor, into Phase 3 trials by the end of 2011.

“We are excited about the potential for Aerie’s compounds to offer multiple, improved and differentiated treatment options for millions of patients suffering from this widespread, degenerative disease,” said Tom van Haarlem, MD, President and CEO of Aerie.

The company is also pursuing several other pipeline programs also aimed at glaucoma therapy.

“Despite the fact that glaucoma is a progressive disease, there has not been a drug with a new mechanism of action approved in the glaucoma field since the mid-nineties,” said Dr. Anand Mehra of Sofinnova. “Patients often need several drugs to control their disease, and physicians have limited options with these older mechanisms. We believe that AR-12286′s new MOA, strong efficacy, excellent tolerability, and once daily dosing can provide real value to patients at risk of losing their vision.”

RTP is proud to be home to incubators such as Alexandria Innovation Center that provide the wet lab space that allows R&D start-ups such as Aerie to thrive.  We are even more proud that Aerie Pharmaceuticals is a home grown company, spun out of Duke University, that RTP helped to nuture in order to commercialize its medical innovations.  What a great success story that proves that RTP truly is, “the future of great ideas.”

CivaTech Oncology Wins 2010 “Emerging Technology Company of the Year”

CivaTech Oncology announced it has been selected as a winner for the 2010 NCTA 21 Awards in the category of “Emerging Technology Company of the year.” Winners were recognized at the annual awards gala on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham, N.C., and presented in conjunction with title sponsor Grant Thornton. The theme for this year’s event was “License to Excel” and was attended by a record crowd of more than 850 business and technology leaders from across the state. Civatech is a small startup company located in Park Research Center, one of RTP’s five incubator and accelerator facilities.

The NCTA 21 Awards are recognized as North Carolina’s most prestigious awards, celebrating innovation and excellence in North Carolina. This annual showcase honors companies and individuals in 21 categories who represent the best and brightest in technology and business.

“We are extremely honored to be among the organizations selected to receive this year’s NCTA 21 Awards,” said Suzanne Babcock, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman. “Our Company has dedicated itself to the mission of improving cancer therapy with novel polymer-based radiation sources that strive to maximize quality of life.  We are very humbled by the recognition.  I would especially like to thank the members of our team who work with continued dedication and perseverance.”

“This year’s 21 Awards truly showcase the best technology and innovation that our state has to offer,” said Brooks Raiford, president and chief executive officer of NCTA. “We couldn’t be more pleased to congratulate CivaTech Oncology as a company that is leading North Carolina’s technology industry, and we are proud to recognize them as a winner of the Emerging Technology Company of the year.”

About CivaTech Oncology

CivaTech Oncology Inc. develops improved low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy devices.  Our first device, the CivaString™, has been cleared by the FDA for use in localized tumors. The Company is also developing innovative implantable bioabsorbable brachytherapy products for the treatment of breast, lung and other cancers.

Launching Durham

Calling all Triangle Entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists and Startup Junkies!

You are invited to attend and participate in the first-ever Launch Days Durham. Launch Days Durham will be an inspiration-packed day where rising new business models are presented and an audience of learned peers offer constructive, collaborative input and vision. Attendees can expect to spark creativity and to ignite a shared passion for entrepreneurship.

Launch Days Durham is intended to highlight the community of catalysts and progressive risk takers thriving in the Triangle. The event is for professionals with an action plan, a business model, an idea and for veterans who have built businesses from a successful launch to a listing in the Inc. 5000.

Expect a day of discovery, constructive critique and unbridled spirit which champions great rewards from great risk.

The TechJournalSouth wrote a great article on the program in anticipation of today’s event. As of this morning, almost 100 people have registered. Join them here.