Launch Chapel Hill Demo Day Sees Nine Startups Pitch At In-Person Event

Exsto Bio Co-Founder Juan Carlos Pacheco (right) pitched to the audience during Launch Chapel Hill's Demo Day.

During Launch Chapel Hill’s Demo Day, nine early-stage startups pitched their companies to the audience Thursday evening at the Launch headquarters on Franklin Street. There was a wealth of networking, food and drinks to go around as the Triangle community learned about the new startups in their own backyard.

It was the culmination of a journey that the founders took along with Launch Chapel Hill leaders like Sheryl Waddell, Launch’s Director of Economic Development.

“We bring those cohorts through 10 to 13 weeks and really work with them,” Waddell said, “share the love and really surround them with the resources from the town, the resources from the university to make them thrive.”

The nine startups—Atmabala, CareYaya, DoJo Fresh, Exsto Bio, Jaybridge, Kinetik, SampleVU, Tempo and WIRL—were all participants in Launch Chapel Hill’s 13-week accelerator program. [All of the links are to previous GrepBeat feature stories on the startups except for Jaybridge and Kinetik, which go to the company sites.]

The types of startups ran the gamut from online platforms for those seeking caregivers or college transition advice, to software that makes food product development easier, to even protein bar and cold brew coffee companies.

One of the startups, Kinetik, offers a go-to market optimization software to determine resource allocation and productivity drivers across channels, functions, products and markets.

“We enable bold leadership to drive revenue growth,” Founder David Hughes said. “You’ve got an enormous amount of complexity. Dozens of decisions get made every day and every week, and all that has to work together to optimize across the end-to-end model to actually result in revenue growth.”

Kinetik will ensure these processes are run smoothly.

Serving a different consumer segment—students transitioning from high school to college and their families—Jaybridge is hoping to empower students with information that typically only is provided to wealthier families who can hire a private counselor.

“Our mission is to use our resources and expert counseling so that families can better understand the myriad of options that face them,” Founder Leah Gallant said. “We do this because figuring out what happens after high school is challenging, and families often say this is one of the most difficult times that they experience.”

Another tech platform, CareYaya, aims to build a better future for elder care in North Carolina, says Founder Neal Shah.

“Unfortunately, if you can’t get good care at home for your parents, they’ll die five years earlier than they should,” Shah said. “And on top of that 80 percent of people who need this help either can’t find it or can’t afford it. Within our state alone, there’s over 650,000 people in urgent need. And I think we can do better.”

CareYaya connects families in need of caregivers with university students on a healthcare track at a more affordable price of $15 per hour.

“People absolutely love college students as caregivers because it really feels like their grandkids,” Shah said. “It’s an untapped, completely high-quality workforce that’s ignored by the industry at the moment.”

There was also Exsto Bio, which is “setting the standard of patient care and personalization of medical cannabis so that patients, doctors and dispensaries can stop guessing and start treating,” according to Co-Founder Juan Carlos Pacheco.

All of the Launch Chapel Hill founders shared their stories and their desires to solve widespread problems in the market.

Demo Day marked the end of the spring cohort’s run from January to May. Launch Chapel Hill runs its startup accelerator program twice a year, during the spring and fall semesters. They also run a summer program that targets upperclassmen undergrads and graduate students.

This was the first time since the pandemic that Launch hosted an in-person demo day. Tim Flood, the recently installed acting executive director, pushed for Launch to leave the Zoom events behind and bring the current cohort to the community face-to-face. 

The entire Launch Chapel Hill organization is preparing to hit its 10th anniversary in 2023. It’s a time of growth and change for Launch, which is planning to get a new home next April in the soon-to-open UNC Innovation Hub. This will continue the long-term partnership between the university, the Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County.

“Your journey does not end with Launch,” said Laura Selmer, the Town of Chapel Hill’s Economic Development Manager. “When you finish the program, we hope that you will continue to engage and be a part of this community in whatever shape that takes as your entrepreneurial journey continues.”

About Suzanne Blake 362 Articles
Suzanne profiles startups and innovation for GrepBeat. Before working at GrepBeat, Suzanne attended UNC Chapel Hill, obtaining a degree in journalism and political science. Previously, she wrote for CNBC, QSR Magazine, FSR Magazine and The Daily Tar Heel.