Hatching New IT Ventures at Kenan-Flagler

The University of North Carolina has created an incubator to give entrepreneurs-in-training a leg up while still in school. Carolina Launch Pad admitted its first five ventures in November and will nurture IT business ideas into fully-funded startups. The incubator, open to UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, staff and students, brings together UNCs Kenan-Flagler Business School, the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) and the UNC Chapel Hill Office of Technology Development (OTD) to support IT entrepreneurs with business ideas at the pre-commercial stage.

ted-zoller“While UNC has groups on campus that are doing advanced IT innovation, there was no single place IT entrepreneurs could work together,” says Ted Zoller, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and adjunct assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship. “We wanted to create a war room for people contemplating IT ventures and bring together a community at UNC to support them.”

Launch Pad provides each member with an office at RENCI headquarters in Chapel Hill. With the office, they gain access to RENCI’s technology experts and Innovations and Visualization labs. Zoller adds that the entrepreneurs will have access to professionals from the business school, OTD and the Triangle IT community to mentor and coach them. Launch Pad members also get access to the business school’s Launching the Venture program. This is the capstone course of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative. Once Launch Pad members start running their companies commercially, they will leave the program.

Cam Patterson’s (EMBA ”˜08) venture SCI ICE was one of the five chosen for the Launch Pad program. As chief of the division of cardiology and director of the Carolina Cardiovascular Biology Center at UNC’s School of Medicine, Patterson has built a Web-based application to track inventory and orders and help manage grants for academic research labs.

“I used to think entrepreneurs worked alone in their garages,” he says. “Ted taught me that entrepreneurship is a team sport. The likelihood of success is directly proportionate to the network of people you put in place.”

Read more about the Carolina Launch Pad startups here.

(photo courtesy of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School)

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