Carolina Launch Pad aims to assist university-based IT entrepreneurs

CHAPEL HILL, NC, August 27, 2008—Carolina faculty, staff and students who want to turn their technological inventions and ideas into viable businesses have a new program to assist them called Carolina Launch Pad.

A new pre-commercial business accelerator, Carolina Launch Pad—or Launch Pad for short—is aimed at aspiring IT entrepreneurs who are part of the UNC community and who have not yet developed their business ideas into funded start-ups. The program is a partnership between the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), the UNC Chapel Hill Office of Technology Development (OTD) and UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Launch Pad aims to work with up to five entrepreneurs each year beginning in November. Those chosen to participate in the program will be housed in professional office space at RENCI headquarters in the Europa Center office building, 100 Europa Drive, Chapel Hill, where they will have the chance to interact with RENCI’s world-class technology experts, learn about its technology resources and attend lectures and other events. In addition, professionals with OTD, the business school and from the Triangle IT community will coach and mentor the entrepreneurs.

Each Launch Pad participant will receive a small office equipped with a desk, laptop computer, and phone and storage space. The common work area will offer a printer and fax machine and a conference table. Parking for a limited number of team members will be available at no charge. Launch Pad participants will have access to a RENCI Web server to host a basic website during their one-year stay. Access to RENCI’s technological resources, such as high performance computers, the Innovations Lab and the Visualization Lab, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“We are targeting talented faculty, students and staff who have great ideas for a technology start-up or an experimental IT prototype, but who haven’t had the chance to explore commercialization possibilities at any great depth,” said David Knowles, RENCI’s director of economic development. “By providing these emerging entrepreneurs with a creative atmosphere, a supportive workspace, and targeted mentorship programs, this facility will be a key addition to technology commercialization efforts at Carolina.”

”Carolina Launch Pad will bring together Carolina’s IT and media venturing communities to provide a common ground to help develop innovative companies, leveraging the considerable assets of RENCI, OTD and Kenan-Flagler,” added Ted Zoller, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Kenan-Flagler Business School. “This will be a very powerful complementary asset to our successful Launching the Venture program, which provides a rigorous framework for entrepreneurs in the planning phase.”

Cathy Innes, director of the Office of Technology Development said, “OTD is excited about this new opportunity for emerging technology entrepreneurs to explore the viability of their ideas in a dynamic environment. The partnership between RENCI, OTD and Kenan-Flagler will provide a unique environment and tremendous resources to enhance the success rate of new companies and entrepreneurs.”

To apply for the program, teams or individuals must complete the Carolina Launch Pad application form at by September 30. A limited number of applicants will be selected to interview with the Selection Advisory Committee in early October. The project admission date is November 1.

Knowles, Zoller and Innes will serve on the Selection Advisory Committee along with Timothy L. Quigg, associate chair for administration and finance in the computer science department, and Paul Jones, director of and a faculty member who teaches in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Library and Information Science. Carolina Launch Pad is supported by RENCI through funding from the Office of the Provost.

For more information, see the Carolina Launch Pad website at

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