Carolina Entrepreneurs launch business ideas at RENCI

CHAPEL HILL, December 12, 2008–Carolina Launch Pad, the new pre-commercial incubator for UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, staff and students, is underway and its five inaugural ventures moved into office space at the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) in early December.

Launch Pad, a collaboration between RENCI, the UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Technology Development (OTD) and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, targets aspiring IT entrepreneurs who are part of the UNC community and who have not yet developed their business ideas into funded start-ups. The Launch Pad Selection Advisory Committee chose five participants for the program after reviewing 15 applications from across the UNC campus. Launch Pad is funded by RENCI through funds from the UNC-Chapel Hill Office of the Provost.

Launch Pad participants each receive a small office at RENCI headquarters, 100 Europa Drive, Chapel Hill, equipped with a desk, laptop computer, phone and storages space.  They have access to RENCI’s world-class technology experts, Innovations Lab and Visualization Lab and are able to attend RENCI lectures and other events. In addition, professionals with OTD, the business school and from the Triangle IT community will coach and mentor the entrepreneurs.

The creative atmosphere, supportive workspace and mentoring opportunities give the fledgling entrepreneurs the chance to further explore their business ideas and develop plans for viable competitive ventures. Each Launch Pad participant will be housed at RENCI for one year and each year, a new class will be selected to participate in the program.  Funded start-ups and companies already selling products are not eligible for the program.

Launch Pad’s Class of 08 – 09 is:

  • MotionGen, which creates digital images and data for mobile devices as a way to assist practicing dentists, dental students and their patients. Jim Britton, associate director of the Capital Markets Club at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the associate director of the MBA for Executives program, leads MotionGen, along with Daniel Salazar, a Kenan-Flagler MBA graduate.
  • Optimal Learning, a venture that builds sensor devices to help students identify and monitor stress by combining a newly patented biofeedback sensor with multimedia, interactive computer technology. Leslie Babinski, a clinical associate professor in the School of Education, leads the venture.
  • SCI ICE, which provides an intuitive, visual Web-based system for inventory tracking and ordering, grants management, and “smart freezer” hardware for small-to-mid-sized academic research labs. The venture is led by Dr. Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology in the UNC School of Medicine and founding director of the Carolina Cardiovascular Biology Center, and Rob Lineberger, a software development specialist at the Cardiovascular Center.
  • IdeaBahn, a Web application that helps teams and individuals set goals and create and evaluate ideas. The intuitive interface compels users to build upon ideas rather than letting good ideas stagnate. IdeaBahn is the brainchild of Daniel Hammond a UNC student and recipient of the Kenan Music Scholarship who is pursuing a double major in music and economics with a minor in entrepreneurship, and Rachit Shukla, a recent Wharton Business School graduate.
  • Spherical Instruments Company, which has developed a patent-pending game controller that enhances and simplifies the user’s control of the interactive electronic game environment. Nicholas Stroud, a UNC student studying English and business administration, leads Spherical Instruments with Steve Dorozenski, an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience, Claudio Rodriguez, an electrical engineer and head of technology development, and Eugene Watkins, a recent Kenan-Flagler MBA graduate

For more on Carolina Launch Pad, please see

RENCI…Catalyst for Innovation
The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together teams of talented researchers, engineers, technologists and leaders in government, business, the arts and humanities to attack major research questions and community issues in ways that accelerate discovery and drive innovation. RENCI has nationally significant expertise and capabilities in high performance computing, visualization, collaborative tools, networking, device prototyping, and data systems as well as engagement sites across the state. Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.  For more, see