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4 NC Startup Stories from 2015 that You’ll Definitely See More of This Year

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For many in the startup world, the beginning of a New Year often feels frenetic, slightly chaotic, and sometimes downright crazy. We’re all catching up on end-of-year projects, planning for the months ahead, getting adjusted to new routines, and drinking more coffee than we care to admit.

But occasionally, there are moments of stillness hidden in our to-do lists when we can reflect on the twelve months passed. As we kick it into high gear in 2016, I’ve been thinking about the DIG motto, “Succeed in the South,” and the people and companies in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill who make that phrase ring true.

2015 was a banner year for the Triangle tech and entrepreneurship community – so busy and productive that thinking back to last January feels like trying to remember what I wore on my first day of kindergarten. If I tried to give you my full “Year in Review,” I’d be asking you to read a novel, and no Internet writer would dare do that. So, I’ve whittled it down to the SparkNotes version, sharing just a brief highlight reel of the startup stories that energized and inspired me last year.

The first that stands out is Raleigh-based Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ $1.2 Billion acquisition in late August. Sprout Pharma is the maker of Addyi, the first-ever FDA approved libido-booster for women (you may have heard it called “the little pink pill” or “female Viagra”). The prescription is already available at physicians’ offices and pharmacies around the US, and Valeant, Sprout’s new owner, hopes to make it available internationally. The RTP is often recognized for our thriving pharmaceutical industry, but Sprout’s homegrown innovation and unique focus on educating the public about women’s health has really exciting potential for global impact.

It’s hard to believe that the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic just launched in February 2015. The program, an experiential learning opportunity for business students, has quickly become a mainstay in the Triangle startup community. The Clinic pairs entrepreneurship students with early-stage companies to complete anything from a short-term graphic design project to a long-term business plan. It’s a win-win for everyone, and it’s quickly building momentum. The E-Clinic Director, Lewis Sheats, shared that, in less than a year, they received over 132 projects (92 of which have already been completed), and accepted over 100 students to the program.

Next on my 2015 highlight reel is PredictifyMe, a predictive analytics startup headquartered in Raleigh. I had the pleasure of hearing CEO Rob Burns speak at an open-data event in September, and immediately Google searched the heck out of the company. The United Nations did, too, apparently, and they’ve formed a partnership leveraging their data collection and predictive technology to help protect schools in places like Pakistan, Nigeria, and Lebanon against bombing attacks. This from a team of less than ten in the heart of North Carolina – color me inspired.

Speaking of inspiration, May 2015 saw the launch of Qura Therapeutics, a startup developed through a unique (and first-ever) public-private partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill and Glaxo Smith Kline. Talk about a power team. The company combines the internationally recognized global health research team at UNC with the pharmaceutical research and commercialization team at GSK, working together to accelerate the search and development for a cure for HIV. The startup will attract some of the best and brightest research talent from around the world to work in its on-campus office at UNC.

There are hundreds of other 2015 Triangle successes I would love to share – exciting investment news, product launches, and new startup resources – but I picked these four because they’re a great representation of the current energy in the region, which welcomes unique collaboration and innovative thinking in research, education, and entrepreneurship.

Like these highlights? Have others you want to share? Comment below or join me to continue the momentum at #DIG2016 this April!

Photo credit: Thanks Again