Two Startups Will Represent Wilmington At Raleigh Pitch Event

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Feb 13, 2024
CED Venture Connect, a pitch event for startups to showcase their business to investors, announced its startup selection this week. (Photo courtesy of CED)
Two Wilmington-based companies will pitch their business to an audience of hundreds of investors at CED Venture Connect.

Electronic Lab Logs and Predicate HPG are among the 125 companies selected by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) based in Research Triangle Park. The pitch event will take place on March 20 and 21 in Raleigh. Jay Bigelow, head of entrepreneurship at CED, said 220 startups applied this year, which is on par with years past. However, this year marked harsher selection criteria, he said.

“The bar is higher for companies,” Bigelow said. About 170 companies pitched on stage last year, he added.

The companies selected were notified starting Feb. 5, after applications were reviewed by CED’s selection committee, which consists of investors inside and out of North Carolina. More Wilmington companies were included in years past, said Jim Roberts, head of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington. Fewer  Wilmington startups applied this year, he said.

Venture Connect differs from other kinds of pitch events because there is not a winner or best pitch chosen at the end of the event. Being chosen to pitch is the prize, although there is no cash involved. Bigelow said the point is for early-stage companies to build brand awareness through the event.

“You need to be on as many stages as you can telling your story to the largest audience you can, so that you can try to find the right investor interested in your space in your company,” he said.

Predicate, a Wilmington biotech company, works with wearable chest sensors and AI to monitor patients for signs of sepsis. This is founder Morris Nguyen’s first year applying for Venture Connect, he said. He has been pitching his company all over the globe for about six months; he spoke in Ireland and Chile this fall.

“We were excited to be able to help us elevate our brand and share what we're doing and ultimately connect with some venture capitalists and other investors,” he said. “We've been told that because we're in a seed round raise, we're too early for venture capital, especially given the tumultuous venture environment that is right now.”

Bigelow said gaining venture capital remains a competitive process, and although some have said there is little venture capital to be acquired, investors are just looking for good companies to invest in.

“There's an awful lot of press around 2023 being a very difficult year for fundraising,” he said. “If you're a good company and you're trying to raise money, this is one of the places that you can find the right investors … It's going against the sort of popular trend of, ‘You can't raise money in the Southeast.'”

Electronic Lab Logs, a software company working to replace paper logs in medical settings, was chosen to present in the 2021 Venture Connect event as well, said co-founder Daniel Summers.

Summers first applied when the company was raising its original seed round. In 2021, the event was all virtual due to the pandemic, Summers said, which is part of the reason the company applied again.

A larger reason why Summers wants to pitch again is because in the years following his last appearance at Venture Connect the company gained more traction and is raising another seed round.

With one month until the big pitch, the Lab Logs team is finalizing a lead investor for its latest seed round and is organizing a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, Summers said.

VentureSouth, a local venture capital firm partnered with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, is leading the round, which is planned to total $1.8 million, Summers said. They may hit their fundraising goal before the conference, but in that case, they can extend the round, he said. At this year’s conference, Summers said he is focused on bringing in investors who can add expertise to the company.
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