Eight Startups Pitch At Demo Day For CED-led GRO Incubator

The startups and their mentors posed at the end of last night's Demo Day for CED's GRO Incubator, held at the American Underground in downtown Durham. (Photo | Jackie Sizing)

The Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) capped its GRO Incubator—a bi-annual 12-week accelerator program for founders of early-stage startups—last night with a Demo Day held at the American Underground in downtown Durham. The event was sponsored by NC IDEA and the American Underground. 

Preet Mankad, CED’s Startup Programs Associate, led this cohort of the GRO Incubator. She kicked off the proceedings by recapping what the founders of the eight startups—all but two based in the Triangle—had gained during the program.

“They have had the chance to learn from our entrepreneur speakers, from subject matter experts, from all the key players and really work 1-on-1 with their coaches,” Mankad said.

She described the event as a “graduation day” from the GRO Incubator program. 

“Everyone put in a lot of hard work all the way to the end in preparation for Demo Day, so I’m really proud of them,” Mankad said. 

The eight startups that pitched at Demo Day are listed below, in order of presentation:

  1. GXPaaS: It takes about 10 to 15 years and around $2B to bring a new pharmaceutical drug to market. The outdated pen-and-paper process of formal equipment and software testing—a key step toward the end of the process—usually delays drugs from getting to consumers by several months. Andy Robinson, the Founder of GX Paas, aims to bring life-saving therapies to market faster by enabling drug manufacturers to change from handwriting information to using a modern SaaS platform to manage this step. 
  2. Cosmic Eats: Sheetal Shah, CEO and Co-Founder, along with her business partner Angel Turner, have created an alternative to pre-packaged foods for astronauts, the military, and those affected by supply chain disruptions that are often caused by natural disasters, by allowing nutritious food to be grown in a very small space. Shah and Turner figured out how to grow plants, algae, and fungi to give these groups an opportunity to produce food at the site of consumption, whether that be on a spacecraft or in a military installation. Cosmic Eats is basically a sustainable farm that doesn’t take up lots of space, using only fertilizer and seeds as the input. Their idea even won a competition held by NASA.
  3. Aktiga: Shane Parreco, Founder and CEO, is creating a B2B SaaS software that will allow people to design learning modules using virtual reality (VR). People learn 4x faster and retain 2x more information while using VR, Parreco said. During the pandemic, remote learning was a struggle for businesses as well as students, and so Parreco is first hoping to disrupt the online corporate training market with VR-enabled content. [Note: Aktiga is based in Asheville]
  4. Solib Solutions: Yuan Wang, CEO and Co-Founder, along with Tess Liu, CFO and Co-Founder, are designing lithium-ion batteries that will last longer and be safer than those currently on the market. Batteries are used in everything from electric vehicles to cell phones to laptops to children’s toys. There have been safety concerns with current batteries catching on fire because they use liquid electrolytes. Solib Solutions has patented a design that uses solid electrolytes, which should speed the development of solid-state batteries that will be both longer-lasting and safer. 
  5. Rbundle: Russ Guilfoile, CEO and Founder, is building a double-sided marketplace that connects consumers and providers of professional services—including law firms, consulting companies, and more—saving both time and money. Rbundle is B2B-only and keeps buyers anonymous in the request for proposal (RFP) process. Guilfoile said his startup gives customers more options and saves them money, while giving providers more choices in the clients they want to work with.
  6. HBCUMent: Quante Bishop and Joshua Hunter, Co-Founders, have created a mobile app that connects students attending HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges or Universities) with educational and professional mentorship. Bishop and Hunter said that HBCU students often have limited networking opportunities, which is why this matchmaking service app is necessary. HBCUMent will allow HBCU students and mentors to message and call each other. [Note: HBCUMent is based in Elizabeth City.]
  7. IX Studio: Jahmir Hamilton, CEO and Founder, created his video game development and acquisition company to promote a safer environment for people playing video games. He is building a portfolio of games on the Roblox platform that IX Studio develops and/or acquires to prevent online predators and promote safe game play. Hamilton’s software includes monitored chats. Hamilton, a rising junior at NC Central University, said his favorite video game is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
  8. Jobvious: Tim Jones and Pete Silvoy, Co-Founders, have a mission to enable automotive specialists—who do repair work and customization for cars, trucks and other vehicles—to grow their businesses. Jones and Silvoy’s platform helps automotive specialists grow their income by simplifying their business processes so they can do work for dealers as easily as individual car owners. (We first profiled Jobvious in July, 2019.)

The founders gave high marks to the event and their experiences in the GRO Incubator more broadly.

Said Tim Jones of Jobvious: “I thought it was invaluable in helping us get our pitch deck together, but also meeting and getting information from successful entrepreneurs in the area as well.”

IX Studio’s Jahmir Hamilton added, “Seeing that other entrepreneurs are out there going through the same process as me, going through the same struggles, and having the same highs and lows, was a really big thing.”

About Lauren Zola 33 Articles
Lauren is a reporter and summer intern at GrepBeat. She is currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill and will start her junior year in the fall. She has written for The Daily Tar Heel and loves to play tennis.