2/11/19 – Launch Chapel Hill welcomes 10 startups for spring cohort, including ‘next CNN’

Originally posted on WRAL TechWire on Feb. 11, 2019

by Chantal Allam — February 11, 2019

CHAPEL HILL – City News Beat founder Greg Morey’s vision is to build the “next CNN”.

And thanks to Launch Chapel Hill, he believes he’s well on his way to realizing his dream.

On Friday, Morey joined nine other startups as part of an open house celebration at Launch Chapel Hill’s downtown headquarters on Rosemary Street, welcoming its 2019 spring cohort to its business accelerator.

The goal: to turn early-stage businesses into self-sustaining enterprises – in just 16 weeks.

City News Beat founder Greg Morey gives his pitch at Chapel Hill Launch’s open house on Friday night.

“City News Beat is on pace to submit our apps to Roku and Amazon Fire TV for NYC, San Francisco and Seattle by March 1,” said Morey, who plans to create a nationwide, local news network for connected television using content created by journalism students at UNC Chapel Hill.

“I’m focused on negotiating term sheets by late March, so we can move a few key folks to Chapel Hill and start hiring UNC students before the spring semester concludes. We expect Launch will remain the guiding light along the path.”

CREATING JOBS IN ORANGE COUNTY

Founded in 2013, Launch Chapel Hill is a joint initiative between the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County and UNC Chapel Hill.

Since its inception, 95 companies have grown their business and brand through the program, with a new cohort selected twice a year.

The result: $25.9 million earned in revenue by alumni companies last year alone, reported Amy Linnane, the program’s manager.

“Together with the Town of Chapel Hill, we’re building a thriving business community that provides innovators with the resources and mentorship to help them succeed,” she told the 100-strong crowd gathered for the event.

Despite thriving startup scenes already in Durham and Raleigh, local officials says it’s also important for Chapel Hill to have a stake in the game.

“We want to grow jobs just like Durham and Raleigh does,” said Dwight Bassett, Town of Chapel Hill’s economic development officer, who helped found the program and was there on Friday to welcome its latest class.

“It’s not in 200, 500, or 1000. We’re looking at what we grow here as 20, 30 and 50 jobs. We’ve got four companies right now that have gone through this process, and they’re up to 30-40 employees.”

Among its most well-known success stories is Quantworks, a data analytics firm to Fortune 500 companies founded by former SAS director Anthony Volpe and Nick Ghitelman.

“When you get to be like Quantworks size, they’re now thinking about next generation of interest,” Bassett said. “They’re starting to spin off two additional companies. It’s exciting.”

PITCH TIME

As part of Friday night’s festivities, each startup founder gave a five-minute pitch selling their company.

Also there among them was Dezbee McDaniel, founder of Everywhere Ad, a rideshare advertising platform for small businesses.

He’d heard about the program as an undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill, and decided to apply.

“I’d come across a few companies to come through the program such as UConnection and Road Amico, and knew it had helped companies like those make great progress. So, I knew it could help Everywhere Ad do just the same.”

In the coming months, he plans to do a beta test of his platform.

“We’ll be partnering with local rideshare drivers and local advertisers to run the test so we’re excited for things to keep moving forward, especially with the help of Launch Chapel Hill.”

To see a full list of Launch Chapel Hill’s spring cohort, go here.

Aaron Weber