The Big Launch Challenge
Three Companies Awarded $20k at the Big Launch Challenge Pitch Competition
The Launch Place received 92 applications for its 10th Annual Big Launch Challenge Pitch Competition from various start-up companies ranging form femtech to AI assisted gene therapy. The top 10 competitors took the stage and presented their innovative business ideas at the NC Biotechnology Center on Thursday, November 17.
The winner of this year’s competition, FemTech Insights, who was awarded a $10,000 cash prize. FemHealth Insights is the world’s most comprehensive data source for the women's health innovation market, known as femtech. They empower business leaders, investors, and innovators to strategically navigate the women’s health industry by providing accurate, nuanced market research and customized consulting services. FemHealth Insights is the evolution of FemTech Focus into the leading research platform for the industry. As the field's leading experts with deep industry insights and global relationships, they license their proprietary databases, sell reports, and engage in customized market research projects with corporations and enterprises.
The second place and a $5,000 cash award went to NTP Technologies. NTP Technologies is on a mission to reduce and eliminate synthetic nitrogen based fertilizers. Their salt free, 100% organic nitrate fertilizer replaces the equivalent 4x synthetic fertilizer due to its purity and uptake values. Nitrates are produced onsite, using our nitrate generator, and on demand using air and renewable energy as inputs.
Additionally, The Launch Place partnered with xElle Ventures to bring an additional cash award to one of the Big Launch Challenge pitching companies. This award went to a female led company pitching at the competition. Pearlita Foods was awarded the xElle Ventures $5,000 cash award. Pearlita Foods is on a mission to meet the demand for the sea’s finest delicacies plant-based & cell-based technologies. They are innovating at the frontiers of our future food sources to harvest high-value proteins like oysters and other mollusks. xElle Ventures is a collective made up entirely of women. Their mission is to discover and fund the most promising women business leaders and mentor them as they create successful companies while building a thriving female founder-investor ecosystem.
Competition winners will also receive access to several resources provided by The Launch Place, including training, networking, and mentorship. The Launch Place, located in the River District of Danville, VA and at the First Flight Venture Center in the RTP, NC provides new and early-stage business support services and pre-seed and seed investments to start-up companies.
Over the past 10 years of hosting this competition, The Launch Place has awarded $174,000 to 16 companies. The Launch Place strives to foster an environment for new and serial entrepreneurs in which they can raise capital and have access to support services they need to take their products and/or solutions into the marketplace.
Each finalist was given eight minutes to present their business plans to a panel of judges followed by a question and answer block. Below are the 10 finalists who pitched in the competition.
- DataQ, Inc.- DataQ helps automate data testing, which is predominantly manual, time-consuming and error-prone. Automation in data testing can decrease the go-to-market time by over 30%. DataQ provides an intuitive self-serve software solution for non-technical and technical users to automate data testing to overcome manual errors and time.
- Divergene - Divergene is building the future of AI-assisted cell/gene therapy and provides equal access to knowledge and capabilities by democratizing data-driven therapy. They are integrating multimodal data, unlocking the existing data silos, and leveraging deep learning to extract insights from big data to close the gap between cell/gene therapy development and patient treatments.
- ephemeris, Inc. - Mobile App and E-comm store bridging astrology, spirituality, and technology to encourage connection and self-discovery in the digital age.
- FemHealth Insights - FemHealth Insights is the world’s most comprehensive data source for the women's health innovation market, known as femtech. They empower business leaders, investors, and innovators to strategically navigate the women’s health industry by providing accurate and nuanced market research and insights.
- Frontline Gig - Frontline Gig is a SaaS-enabled marketplace that mobilizes gig teams to complete urgent green jobs. They help cities anticipate and respond faster to citizen complaints for litter, weeds, graffiti and nuisance flooding.
- Hot Route Analytics - Hot Route provides easy analytics for small college sports teams and boosts their wins by 15%. Their online platform, HomeTeam, allows users to explore their open database and use analytics tools they can actually understand to gain an edge against their next opponent.
- NTP Technologies - NTP uses non-thermal plasma to produce liquid nitrates (fertilizer) onsite and on demand for use in agriculture.
- Pearlita Foods - Pearlita Foods is the world's first alternative oyster (& mollusk) company using plant-based and cell-based technologies. Their mission is to secure the future of seafood and support clean oceans.
- STEMZ - Stemz is a tech & logistics company focused on cultivating connectivity between US-based flower farmers & floral creatives through intuitive ordering & convenient distribution.
- The MilkXchange - MilkXchange is a mobile app-based marketplace that allows parents and caregivers in need of breast milk to easily search a network of milk donors and sellers based on dietary and lifestyle preferences. MilkXchange also offers services that includes background checks and health screenings and provides curated content from experts in the parenting and feeding fields.
The full panel of judges for the BLC include Krista Covey, MBA, President, First Flight Venture Center; Patrick Gouhin, CEO, Angel Capital Association; Shawna C. Lemon, J.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder xElle Ventures, Co-Founder, Stanek Lemon Crouse + Meeks, PA; Marco Rubin, Senior Investment Director, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation; Board Chair, The Launch Place Seed Fund Advisory Board; and Autumn Visser, Principal, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black. Learn more about the judges.
A special thanks to RTP Capital, our in-kind contributor, NC IDEA for scholarship support of the 10 finalists to attend ACA University, xElle Ventures for the additional $5,000 in prize money designated to a female lead start-up, and our sponsors – Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, AmEx, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, Early Growth, ExtensionHR and Smith Anderson.
The BLC was part of an all-day event starting with the Angel Capital Association's (ACA) Angel University and ended with the pitch competition. The ACA Angel University offered two courses valuable to both angel investors and entrepreneurs—Term Sheet Basics and Valuation. It was a unique experience where these two courses were taught with angels and entrepreneurs learning together. Learn more about ACA at https://www.angelcapitalassociation.org.