NC IDEA Wraps 5th Annual Ecosystem Summit By Announcing SEED Winners

The winners of NC IDEA's $50K SEED grants were revealed at the end of the organization's Ecosystem Summit on Wednesday. Two Triangle startups received grants: Bristles (CEO Tina Tang is in the middle making a peace sign, while her co-founder Anthony Alers is on her left), flanked on their left by the three co-founders of DNAli.

NC IDEA officially wrapped up its three-day Ecosystem Summit this afternoon, featuring panels of entrepreneurs and local angel and venture capital funders to speak on “Creating Our Entrepreneurial Future,” which was the theme for Wednesday’s Day Three. The event concluded with the highly anticipated live announcement of the six recipients for the Fall 2023 cohort of NC IDEA’s $50K SEED Grants. Two hail from the Triangle: past GrepBeat story subjects Bristles (based in Durham) and Raleigh-based DNAli Data Technologies.

The entrepreneurial-centered Day Three kicked off with opening remarks from NC IDEA President and CEO Thom Ruhe, followed by a panel of entrepreneurs hailing from Charlotte to discuss the city’s rapidly evolving entrepreneurial landscape. They highlighted some key partners in the region who have worked together to build a thriving ecosystem and discussed the importance of fostering an equitable environment for all entrepreneurs.

Linda Hall from the Research Triangle Foundation then introduced the next featured panel on the “New Normals of Funding in NC,” which focused on discussions with funds and successful entrepreneurs on the funding landscape in the state.

Moderated by Cofounders Capital Managing Partner Tim McLoughlin, the funders panel shed light on the gaps in funding and shared perspectives and strategies for what is needed for a thriving funding ecosystem for not only entrepreneurs, but also investors themselves. The featured panelists included Primordial Director Jenn Summe, Robbie Allen from the Triangle Tweener Fund and Zakiya Lee from Triangle-based IDEA Fund Partners. 

Also moderated by McLoughlin, the entrepreneur/founder panel featured Josh Owen from Raleigh based Cycle Labs and Sherrod Davis from Baltimore-based EcoMap Technologies. (Cycle Labs is a past GrepBeat story subject and 2021 Startups To Watch selection, and Owen has been both a Download Q&A subject and a Friday Nooner guest.)

Both shared their individual experiences with securing funding and the challenges that come with it while balancing the all-consuming task of growing their companies. They emphasized the importance of not only finding and building the right partnerships with investors, but also, for investors to have patience with and show grace toward their entrepreneurs. 

Wednesday’s Funders Panel was moderated by Tim McLoughlin of Cofounders Capital (far left) and included, from left, IDEA Fund’s Zakiya Lee, Primordial’s Jenn Summe and Robbie Allen of the Triangle Tweener Fund.

That was the last panel before Ruhe had NC IDEA’s staff take a well-deserved bow for three days chock-full of content and networking.

“When I reflect on this year’s Summit, it just reminds me of the privilege to do this work with these people and partners in service of the entrepreneurs in this state,” Ruhe told GrepBeat afterward. “My job is helping [entrepreneurs] realize their dreams. But to the extent that we have more people in the network and ecosystem to help us do that, we can be more successful together.” 

The event concluded with the announcement of the six startups to receive the Fall 2023 $50K SEED grant, two of which GrepBeat has featured in the past: Bristles AI (here’s GrepBeat’s 2021 feature) and DNAli Data Technologies (here’s GrepBeat’s 2022 feature). 

“It feels amazing to have received this grant and we are very honored,” said Albert Keung, DNAli’s Co-Founder and CSO. “I think the most important thing was that obviously the resources are great, but the human and knowledge resources that the whole process provided was really transformational for us.”

Since receiving an NC IDEA MICRO ($10K) grant in 2021, Bristles CEO Tina Tang said that it feels validating and exciting to have gotten across the next hurdle to achieve a $50K SEED grant. Bristles will utilize this next stage of their funding to enhance development of their app and to bring on more members to the team, including making Tang’s partner Anthony full-time. 

“Both grants gave us some milestones to reach for and now this SEED grant gives us those traction goals to move onto the next stage,” Tang said, “and we’re honored to finally get there.”

The other SEED recipients included Huntersville-based Charvonia Design, Charlotte-based DEI Directive and Framewrk, and Winston-Salem-based Three Strands Recovery Wear

About Kaitlyn Dang 50 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.