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Launching entrepreneurs in Chapel Hill

Launch Chapel HillAlumni learned about the impact that the entrepreneurial initiatives created at Launch Chapel Hill have on the community at Alumni Weekend 2018.

Dina Rousset, Launch Chapel Hill’s program manager and associate director for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, shared their stories in an alumni session entitled “Pints and Pitches.” Also showcased was 1789 Venture Lab, which provides spaces for entrepreneurs to work and access to entrepreneurs who can be mentors.

“Since Launch opened five years ago, we have worked with 75 companies, 46 of which are still in operation.  Those companies generated more than $20 million in sales in and supported 1150 jobs in 2017,” Rousset says. “Launch Chapel Hill really gives students the opportunity to learn as much from the people next to them as from the people in front of them.”

But what exactly is an entrepreneur?

“Someone who builds or funds something,” says Rousset, who turned over the mic to students and a professor to describe their experiences.

Keeping it real

As MBA students working at Launch Chapel Hill, Mary Margaret Milley (MBA ’19) and Rachel Paolino (MBA ’19) created Viyb, an online platform that pairs people with mental illness with effective therapists. The company reflects their personal experiences.

“We get it,” they say. “We were once the customers we now seek to help.”

Viyb operates in the B2C sector of North Carolina, and might expand it to B2B.

The importance of always growing

Taylor Meyer (BS ’13, MBA’18) co-founded UConnection, a mobile application that helps college students get discounts at local restaurants. He created the application while at 1789 Venture Lab and then transferred the company to Launch Chapel Hill before selling it to a private equity firm.

Now he is working on his second business, Hyperspace Ventures, which helps other startups expand their marketing capabilities, especially in the digital media realm.

Although Meyer’s companies differ, they have one thing in common: they were started by a well-prepared UNC Kenan-Flagler student whose entrepreneurial training at 1789 Venture Lab and Launch Chapel Hill allows him to continue growing as an entrepreneur.

Long-term aspirations

Dylan Goodman (BA ’18) developed ChartMyMatch, which uses the most recent AI software to help tennis players record their match statistics.

Goodman knew in high school that creating such a company was his end goal – he simply needed hands-on learning experiences to help him get the job done. By partnering with Launch Chapel Hill, Goodman made his long-term dream a reality.

The support structure

Professor Randy Myer introduced the work of the Carolina Angel Network, which equips UNC alumni to support startups created at UNC. Without monetary backing, startups will fail, so Carolina Angel Network partners alumni with current entrepreneurial efforts to allow students to create businesses with less concern over financial necessities.

“The standard for what defines a job is changing,” concludes Rousset. “Whether you work for a company or start your own venture, you need to be entrepreneurial – creating and building better ways of doing things.”

Because associates of Launch Chapel Hill and 1789 Venture Lab have the equipment and space needed to develop companies, they help create startups that serve the needs of their communities.

By Grace Ketron (BA ’19)