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Accelerators & Mentorship Programs

For early stage startups seeking expert guidance and a way to test their prototypes as they prepare to launch, here are some programs for you:

AgTech Accelerator

Based in Research Triangle Park, the AgTech Accelerator is a business development program for early-stage ventures focused on addressing challenges in the food value chain. The program’s advisors and strategic partners help startups refine their business model and attract capital. More TechWire coverage here.

Bunker Basecamp

Bunker Labs Basecamp is a startup residency program for veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. Part of a national program, Bunker Labs introduced Basecamp to Raleigh in 2019.

Bunker Labs RDU

Bunker Labs RDU provides access to business services, mentorship with experienced entrepreneurs and introductions to investors for the area’s military veteran community. The program holds an annual conference, The Muster RDU, to empower these innovators; it’s free for veterans and active duty service members. More coverage here.

CED Venture Mentoring Service

The Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) is a free resource that offers advanced team consulting from top executives and entrepreneurial leaders in the community. CED’s volunteer mentors have given over 6,700 hours of service to nearly 200 companies that have graduated through the program. Entrepreneurs who are interested in being mentored through CED VMS can apply here.

Center for Advanced Hindsight Startup Lab

Based at Duke University and run by Dan Ariely, this program provides research testing, support and resources for innovations exploring solutions in health and financial decision-making.

CUBE

A coworking space, mentorship and coaching program for social impact ventures at UNC’s Campus Y. It also offers the potential for seed funding.

CUBE is a program and launch space headed by UNC’s social innovation initiative. Photo via CUBE

DRIVe (Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures)

This program, hosted at First Flight Venture Center, assists startups in the healthcare technology space with product development, business growth and fund raising. FFVC is one of eight U.S. accelerators selected by the Department of Health and Human Services to host the program. Applications are open now.

Duke I&E

Duke I&E is the central hub of entrepreneurship and innovation at Duke University. It houses all of the university’s programs and initiatives supporting technology ventures and small businesses.

Duke Law Tech Lab

Duke University’s Law Tech Lab is an accelerator that provides mentoring and connections for emerging startups operating in the legal technology market. Participating companies also receive an equity-free grant at the start of the program.

EntreDot

RTP-based EntreDot has been in operation since 2008. The organization provides mentorship and advising services for both new and established companies, as well as nonprofits. EntreDot primarily works with “main street” small businesses, but they welcome tech and life science companies as well.

FHI Ventures

Durham’s FHI Ventures is a social impact accelerator and investor that works with early-stage companies that have launched a product/service for social good. The program launched in May 2018 as a subsidiary of FHI 360, a nonprofit human development organization.

Joules Accelerator

The Joules Accelerator provides clean energy startups with training, mentoring, access to utilities and introductions through its bi-annual non-equity Catalyst program in Charlotte. In 2018, the Joules Accelerator, together with partner Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster, received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand the program’s support for Triangle-area startups. Since its founding in 2013, Joules has helped create at least 90 jobs, $15 million in investments and seven pilot projects. Related WRAL TechWire coverage here.

Launch Chapel Hill

Launch Chapel Hill has an accelerator program that opens applications twice a year to early-stage startups. It offers them on-site tools, resources and knowledge they can use to grow their ventures, covering areas like business models, how to evaluate market timing and assessing certain risks or growth potential.

LaunchRALEIGH

LaunchRALEIGH supports entrepreneurs and small businesses in Southeast Raleigh. The program provides access to business loans, business development services and networking opportunities. LaunchRALEIGH accepts applications on a rolling basis.

The program is expanding to other areas in the Triangle as well through LaunchCARY, LaunchAPEX and LaunchDURHAM.

LexisNexis Legal Tech Accelerator

The LexisNexis Legal Tech Accelerator provides education, tools, connections and mentorship to startups in the legal technology space. The program is based in LexisNexis’s Raleigh office at NC State University and in Menlo Park, California. Read more WRAL TechWire coverage here.

LiftOff

Run by First Flight Venture Center, the LiftOff grant writing program subsidizes early-stage startups while they work toward landing grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Part of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, NC DVRS assists people with qualified disabilities to obtain, retain and maintain employment or to start their own business. The program has a process for providing potential funding to help entrepreneurs get their business off the ground.

NC IDEA LABS

An early-stage accelerator program that uniquely offers services for free to participating startups/teams, without taking an equity stake in the company. The focus is on establishing or growing a customer base, developing a solid business model and preparing founders to pitch and raise capital after graduating from the program.

NC IDEA SOAR

A program that addresses the investment gap female entrepreneurs starting scalable businesses in North Carolina are facing today, doing so through methods of mentorship and advocacy. The program accepts around 10 women-led companies per year. More coverage here.

NC State Andrews Launch Accelerator and Acceleration Fund

This program offers equity-free grants up to $50,000 and a five-module program for business development over the course of three months. Applicant teams must have least one current undergraduate/graduate student or alumnus within two years of gradation.

NC State Entrepreneurship Collaborative

NC State Entrepreneurship Collaborative is the umbrella platform for the larger network of programs designed to optimize growth potential for student or alumni-led startups, professionals and future entrepreneurs. It includes all of the relevant degree-seeking programs for students that want to take the startup path once they graduate. It’s also the root of NCSU’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, which embeds students at HQ Raleigh so they can get real-world experience in startup life working with other entrepreneurs outside of a campus setting. The Clinic’s mentorship program also helps students develop relationships with NC State’s network of advisors and mentors.

RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP)

A new RIoT-hosted program that gives IoT startups access to prototyping resources and tools, and introduces them to industry partners and potential collaborators.

1789 Venture Lab

1789 Venture Lab is a launch space for UNC students and recent alumni who seek support to develop their ideas, just steps away from campus in Chapel Hill.

1789 Venture Lab on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. Photo via 1789

SCORE

SCORE is a nonprofit, supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, that provides a host of programs and events designed to support small businesses through education and mentorship. The organization has a Chapel Hill/Durham chapter and a Raleigh/Rocky Mount chapter.

Shaw University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center

Shaw University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is an incubator and startup support center serving Shaw students and Raleigh community members with daily workshops, mentoring sessions, lunch-and-learns and a speakers series with experienced entrepreneurs. The space, located in Southeast downtown Raleigh, opened last year in partnership with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund.

Startup Stampede

An American Underground mentorship program that helps selected startups get consumer-focused products and ideas off the ground. More coverage here.

Thread Capital

A subsidiary of the North Carolina Rural Center, Thread Capital provides small business financing, mentorship and coaching to local startups. It also offers specific disaster relief loans for small businesses that are recovering from natural disasters.

WeWork Veterans in Residence

Presented in partnership with Bunker Labs, WeWork Veterans in Residence is a program that provides space, services, mentorship and community resources to help veteran entrepreneurs build and grow their business. The national program launched in Raleigh in November 2019.