September 17, 2021

CIT and Woods RogersWe're excited to announce the 2021 Judges for Big Launch Challenge Pitch Competition. The Big Launch Challenge will include an opportunity for 10 companies to share their pitches with a panel of 5 investors representing multiple investor groups located across the country.

The two-day event will begin on October 13th in the afternoon with ACA Angel University and end with the Big Launch Challenge starting at 1:00pm on Thursday, October 14th at the NC Biotechnology Center (15 TW Alexander Dr, Durham, NC 27709).

​Register to Attend the Big Launch Challenge

A special thanks to our sponsors - Center of Innovative Technology and Woods Rogers.


Elaine Bolle

Elaine Bolle


Active investor and advisor to early stage companies after many years as CEO and senior executive building high growth companies in financial services, consumer goods and e-commerce. She serves as a board member for high growth for profit and non-profit organizations. Currently Elaine is the Lead Venture Partner in Portfolia’s Active Aging and Longevity fund, Investment Chair for RTP Capital and an Angel Capital Association Board Member where she chairs the Marketing and Membership Committee. 

Elaine has been a senior executive and board director leading domestic and global organizations from venture-backed start-ups to $750M+ enterprises. Functional expertise in general management, strategic marketing and brand management, business development and sales, and technology development and internet applications. Industry expertise in financial services, multi-channel retail sales, web services and e-commerce, and consumer goods and services. 


Tim Cartwright

Tim Cartwright

Co-Founder and Partner of Fifth Avenue Family Office; Founder and Chair of the Tamiami Family of Angel Funds

Timothy J. Cartwright is a partner at Fifth Avenue Family Office. Fifth Avenue Family Office provides a broad range of services ranging from investment management to sophisticated estate planning, evaluation of private equity and venture investment opportunities, thoughtful multi-generational legacy transfers and lifestyle services. Mr. Cartwright serves as volunteer Treasurer of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation and was recently named as one of Florida Trend’s 500 Most Influential Floridians due to his venture capital and private equity activity with the Tamiami Angel Funds and Adrenaline Venture Fund.

Prior, he co-founded By-Products Interactive, an electronic trading, market research and publishing company; and Benchmark Solutions, a supply chain consulting company. He began his career working with middle market companies at Arthur Andersen in Chicago, Illinois. He resides in Naples with his wife and three children. He is a softball coach, a soccer coach, and an active member of First Baptist Church of Naples.

Marco Rubin

Marco Rubin

Senior Investment Director, Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Vice Chair of The Launch Place’s Seed Fund Advisory Board

Marco is responsible for sourcing, diligence and closing of seed and early stage investments on behalf of the CIT GAP Funds designated as "Virginia's Most Active Investor" by CBInsights. He serves as a board representative to a numerous portfolio companies and leads seed/early stage investment in energy in his role as senior investment director. Marco also serves on the National Venture Capital Association’s Climate and Sustainability Working Group.

Marco has held leadership roles with funds recognized on five occasions by Entrepreneur Magazine’s VC 100 rankings and has invested in over 250 early stage startups throughout his career. He leads equity investments in aerospace, energy and software for the CIT.

Prior to CIT, Marco founded Exoventure Associates, LLC (“Exo”). There he conducted diligence, mentored entrepreneurs and served as a judge in global business plan competitions sponsored by the World Bank and the State Department in former CIS countries.

Prior to Exo, he was founder of Monumental Venture Partners, LLC (MVP) making investments in security, information technology, telecommunications, software and medical devices sectors. MVP produced acquisitions of portfolio companies to Dolby Labs and Level 3 Communications. Before MVP, Marco launched New Ventures, MCI’s venture capital unit. Prior to MCI, he served Fortune 500, Federal and emerging market clients while with Booz Allen & Hamilton.

He began his career as an engineer at the Johnson Space Center training astronauts and flight controllers. Marco holds an MBA from The George Washington University and a BSEE from the University of New Mexico. He has been a National Science Foundation (NSF) commercial reviewer since 2007 as well as a former NSF SBIR grant winner.

Louisa Smith

Louisa Smith

Managing Director, NO/LA Angel Network

Louisa is the Managing Director of the NO/LA Angel Network (NO/LAAN), a New Orleans based network of over 130 accredited Angel Investors. Since the network’s inception in 2014, NO/LAAN members have invested over $11.5M in early-stage companies while helping entrepreneurs grow businesses through fundraising, mentoring, and networking.

Louisa is responsible for leading NO/LAAN’s operations and deal flow activity, including due diligence, syndication, and portfolio management. In addition to her role as Managing Director at NO/LAAN, Louisa also serves as the Manager of The Pelican Angel Fund. She earned an MBA with a concentration in finance from Tulane’s A B Freeman School of Business after receiving her BA, Cum Laude, from Tulane in 2012.

Autumn Visser

Autum Visser

Principal, Woods Rogers PLC, The Launch Place’s legal counsel

Autumn Visser is a member of the Business and Corporate and Emerging Growth practice teams at Woods Rogers. She concentrates on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, contract drafting and negotiation, and venture and seed capital financing. Autumn also works on real estate issues, government contracts, and licensing. Autumn is admitted to practice law in both Virginia and California.

Prior to joining Woods Rogers, Autumn spent five years in-house as Corporate Counsel for a global consumer products manufacturing company headquartered in the United States with offices in Australia, Canada, France, and South Africa. In this role, Autumn managed the legal functions for seven diverse business lines and was the key contact for all outside counsel.

Autumn is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications/Public Relations and a minor in journalism. She earned her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif., where she worked on the Journal of the National Association of Administrative Law Judges and was a founding member of the Legal Waves. She is a member of the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia State Bar Board of Governors where she is Chair of the Business Law Section. She is also affiliated with the Virginia Women Attorneys Association and the National LGBT Bar Association. Autumn has been recognized by Virginia Business magazine as a Legal Elite attorney.

Autumn serves on the Board of Directors for Goodwill of the Valleys and has chaired the annual Biggest Night in Business for Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia.