Six Early-Stage Startups Pitch At NCSU’s Andrews Launch Accelerator Demo Day

The six startups that participated in this summer's cohort of NC State's Andrews Launch Accelerator pitched at last night's Demo Day in downtown Raleigh. (All photos by Jackie Sizing)

Six early-stage startups had the opportunity to present their pitches to the Triangle entrepreneurial community Tuesday evening during the Andrews Launch Accelerator (ALA) Demo Day event at The Stockroom at 230 in downtown Raleigh.

The ALA program is supported by the NC State Acceleration Fund, a product of a $1 million donation from Lyn and Chip Andrews. NC State alumnus Chip Andrews was the former chairman and CEO for FMI Corporation, where he had a nearly 50-year career before retiring. (Read our first story about the Accelerator here.)

The accelerator provides equity-free seed capital to help NC State founders kick off their entrepreneurial endeavors with resources, financial support and mentorship over a 14-week summer program. Last night marked the end to the 2023 accelerator cohort as founders presented their startups to the public.

The startups ranged from gluten-free desserts to camping toilets.

SonoVoice is a vocal evaluation and training system/platform that works to improve vocal issues for “vocal athletes” such as singers, teachers and other professionals who depend on their voices. (We previously featured the startup here.)

“I learned that human beings are vocal athletes,” said Sandeep Bhatt, SonoVoice’s Founder and CEO. “And that means that we can train our voices like an athlete trains their bodies, with exercises to improve efficiency, enhance production and reduce likelihood of injury.”

Bhatt explained that exercises to improve vocal efficiency are “trapped” in academic and medical centers, excluding the general public from taking advantage of them. The SonoVoice device and app will offer convenience to users who want to train and improve their voices without financial and accessibility issues.

A Demo Day program

The next to present was NC State student Austin Ketola, the founder of TutorSmith, an online tutoring program geared toward bringing accessible and affordable academic assistance to underprivileged students. The program currently only offers one-on-one sessions for $30/hour and pays tutors $20/hour, but moving forward Ketola wants to expand by offering specialized courses and subjects, cheaper one-on-one sessions and higher pay for more tutors. (Read our full feature story on TutorSmith.)

Wolfe Cravings Food Co. is bridging the accessibility gap between the food industry and people who must (or want to) follow a gluten-free diet. Founder Anna Petrova emphasized the importance of food as a universal language that people—like her husband who has Celiac disease—are excluded from “speaking.” By creating delicious gluten-free desserts, Petrova has found a way to enable gluten-free individuals to avoid some of the frustrations that come with a traditional gluten-free diet. (GrepBeat covered this startup here.)

“I wanted to elevate the gluten-free experience,” Petrova said. “I wanted to share food with people beside my family and friends.”

She aims to offer more dessert options—beyond the current tiramisu and ice cream sandwiches—and plans to sell her products online and at more grocery stores.

AgTech startup AcreShield Technologies is on a mission to harness the power of genetic testing with automated robotics to help farmers decrease expenses related to fungicide spraying. The first target market is cucumber farmers in the Southeast, many of whom have been affected by crop diseases that depleted over 50% of their crop yield.

Chip Andrews (presenting) and his wife Lyn made a $1M donation to NC State, which kick-started the Andrews Launch Accelerator.

CEO Hunter Brown said that AcreShield’s tech is a sustainable alternative that will help farmers spray only the right fungicides at the right time and in the right areas, helping to avoid overspraying and crop destruction.

Meanwhile Co-Founders Thomas Armstrong and Parker Mayes just made date night easier with LetsGoRaleigh, a social networking platform that uses artificial intelligence and human input to curate date plans for couples who struggle to plan and go on date nights. (Read our full feature on LetsGoRaleigh).

Users can input time, location and activity preferences and the app will generate different ideas and ideal times, allowing the couples to just go on their date without the hassle of planning.

“There are already real people out there using LetsGoRaleigh and loving the experience,” Armstrong said. “We’ve gotten people saying that they are going on outings that they would not have been on if it hadn’t been for us.”

Lastly, Nature’s Throne which we also featured previously calls itself the first 2-in-1 outdoor chair that can also be used as a portable toilet.

Founder Marko Sun said that this product will alleviate three common struggles faced by outdoor enthusiasts: not having a suitable place to use the bathroom for outside activities, the inconvenience of bringing unnecessary equipment and having a medical condition that requires easy access to a restroom.

“Our 2-in-1 design allows you to go from a comfy seat by the campfire to a functional toilet in just a matter of seconds,” Sun said. “And the portability and convenience of the Nature’s Throne ensures that you’re always prepared whenever nature calls.”

Many of the startups were looking to begin connecting with industry professionals that can help take their products to a broader audience. These calls to connect made the networking portion of Demo Day arguably even more integral to each startups’ journeys moving forward than the pitches themselves.

About Kaitlyn Dang 12 Articles
Kaitlyn is a reporter covering tech startups and entrepreneurs. Before starting at GrepBeat, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in media and journalism in May 2023. She has written for The Daily Tar Heel. In her spare time, she likes going to concerts and going on nature walks.