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:
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 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 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.
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.
CUBE is a program and launch space headed by UNC’s social innovation initiative. Photo via CUBE
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. Photo via 1789
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.
UNC’s Office of Technology Commercialization offers a mix of startup launch and support programs for student-led ventures. Its KickStart Venture Services program provides mentorship, coaching, connections and funding to early-stage startups founded by students and faculty.