Grants give financial boost to 12 entrepreneurial companies in Winston-Salem

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A dozen entrepreneurial companies, half of them bioscience related, have received investments totaling $1 million to help them grow in Winston-Salem.

Nine companies, five with a focus on agriculture and health technology, each won $50,000 Venture Winston Grants, totaling $450,000, from Agile City, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a business ecosystem and supporting entrepreneurial innovation in Winston-Salem.

Three companies, one with a health care focus, collectively received $554,000 in investments from the WSPR Fund, an angel group with over 60 members that invests in early stage companies either located in Winston-Salem or committed to relocating there.

Venture Winston Grants

Each of the nine companies receiving Venture Winston Grants competed for the $50,000 non-dilutive and non-equity awards to promote their work in nutrition and agriculture, health and wellbeing, and aviation and flight.

Winners have agreed to move 51 percent of operations and a co-founder to Winston-Salem for one year beginning on Jan. 31.

Grantees will have a personal mentor and consulting team throughout the program, free office space, accelerator education, and access to industry leaders and investors through Flywheel New Ventures Accelerator and Winston Starts Incubator. The grantees will be partnered with mentors from Dairy Management Inc. (DMI)Novant Health and AeroX.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is a supporter of the grants program, along with Inmar IntelligenceEquilibrium and Greater Winston-Salem Inc.

“Innovative ideas have greater potential to become reality when communities make a strong commitment to initiatives that help advance economic development,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Biotech Center’s Piedmont Triad Office in Winston-Salem. “This initiative with Agile City and other collaborators is a great example of the strength of our regional ecosystem and reinforces future opportunities to advance life sciences innovations statewide.”

Karen Barnes, chief executive officer of Agile City, said, “It’s partners like the NC Biotechnology Center who helped make our first Venture Winston Grants competition such a success. Five of our nine recruited startups are in the agriculture and health tech sectors, and we plan to lean heavily into the NC Biotech Center’s resources to help them grow during their 12-month residency here in Winston-Salem. Having a partner with statewide reach and a strong local presence is a valuable asset for our region and these startups.”

Following, by category, are the companies that received grants:

Future of Agriculture and Nutrition Winners

  • ALLPUR Nutrition of Mooresville is developing nutritious, chemical-free, consumer favorite beverages such as sodas, energy drinks, meal supplements and meal replacement drinks.
  • Renaissance Fiber of Yadkinville and Wilmington is producing soft textile fiber from raw hemp fiber using a low-cost, ecologically friendly degumming technology.
  • smoodi Inc. of Boston encourages healthy nutrition habits at any type of retail store through its proprietary, self-cleaning blender that creates customizable, on-the-go smoothies.

Future of Aviation and Flight Winners

  • AI Technology & Systems of Milpitas, Calif., is building the world’s largest EDGE AI app store and marketplace for cost-effective firmware for tiny sensor devices.
  • Southern Drone Company of Douglasville, Georgia, provides drone, sensory and analytical services within the agriculture and forestry industry through precision agriculture, weed mapping, crop and forest health analysis, zone management, and orthomosaic and elevation mapping services.

Future of Health and Wellbeing Winners

  • ILLUMII Pathfinding Group of Winston-Salem supports students and families with educational testing, tutoring, counseling, speech therapy, ADHD coaching and medication consultation, special educational advocacy, parent coaching and more.
  • Parrots Inc. of Washington, D.C., is an assistive robotics and medical devices company that creates smart, inclusive companions for people with mobility and communication challenges by assisting its users with seeing, speaking, and interacting with their surroundings.
  • Point Motion of Winston-Salem provides a replacement of traditional at-home physical therapy based on music cognition, allowing patients to engage in cognitive and motor function assessments, while allowing health specialists to automatically collect valuable data on their clients.
  • Salud Mental Health of Winston-Salem provides a mental health kit to help Latinx families overcome the stigma around mental health and talk openly about their feelings, emotions, and pain by bringing culturally sensitive materials in Spanish for individuals to learn more about mental health disorders and engage in treatment with a professional.

WSPR Fund Investments

The three companies receiving angel investments from the WSPR Fund will also receive strategic support to grow their businesses.

The Fund’s goal is to generate returns to its members and to recruit and retain promising scalable companies to Winston-Salem while introducing them to the wide support of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“The members of WSPR have made three strong investments in local Winston-Salem companies with tremendous scaling potential,” said Steve Lineberger, a WSPR Fund general partner. “I think we are seeing the results of strong local, scalable startups being presented to a very supportive Winston-Salem community.”

The investments are the first made by the Fund, which began accepting applications in September 2021. The following companies received investments:

  • Beam Dynamics helps the film and entertainment industry reduce costly downtime on set with its BeamON asset management and equipment intelligence platform. With 12 employees at present, the company has several pilot customers including Hearst and Graham Media.
  • NVOLVE keeps providers informed, and patients engaged, between office visits via remote patient monitoring solutions consisting of Bluetooth-enabled wearable devices along with physician reports and dashboards. With 30 employees, the company currently has 15 physician practices throughout the Southeast as customers including Atrium Wake Forest Baptist.
  • Village Juice & Kitchen uses fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables to craft cold-pressed juices, salads, and more. With 45 employees, the company has several university clients including Wake Forest, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Elon, UNC Wilmington and the University of South Carolina.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center

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