There are generally two paths for commercializing University discoveries — licensing the technology to an established company or forming a new company, a startup. Startups can be a very rewarding experience, but they demand much more than interesting technologies or solutions. Success requires a commitment of time and energy, determination, enthusiasm, flexibility and skilled management. Our staff, along with an available network of programs, resources and business contacts can help you evaluate your opportunity and work with you to determine if a startup is the best commercialization vehicle for you and your invention. If a startup is determined to be the best route for your opportunity, our KickStart Venture Services team can help you conceive, launch and support a company. In addition, the University and region have a number of programs and resources, as outlined below.

Contact KickStart Venture Services for more information:

Don Rose, PhD

Tim Martin
Assistant Director

KickStart Venture Services

KickStart Venture Services, part of the UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Commercialization and Economic Development, supports faculty startup formation, business development and growth by providing coaching and mentoring, early-stage funding, connection with key service providers, management, investors and space.

Contact KickStart Venture Services for more information.

New Enterprise Opportunity (NEO) – Part of KickStart Venture Services

The New Enterprise Opportunity (NEO) Program facilitates the development of startup companies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The program, administered by KickStart Venture Services, builds companies around university intellectual property. It works in partnership with faculty founders to launch and build the company to enhance the likelihood of success.

The NEO program facilitates the development of startup companies at an early stage to create vehicles that allow for the following:

  • A corporate entity around which SBIR/STTR grants can be submitted
  • Early assessment of the commercial potential of the technology prior to expensive IP investments
  • Early recruitment of a management team to develop a business plan and secure funding
  • Clear structure and expectations for founders, management and the University

For detailed information about the services and resources provided by the NEO program, please see the Program Guide.

Intern Program

KickStart works with many early stage startups and business opportunities (pre-startups) that need assistance with developing their business case. We are looking for students with previous experience with technology assessment who can jump into a project and provide deliverables to help move the company along. This is a great opportunity to get experience working with extremely innovative faculty and the KickStart Staff.

If interested, please read the KVS Intern Program flyer and contact Tim Martin for more information.

KickStart Resources

  • The Founder’s Handbook, produced by Hutchison Law Group in collaboration with KickStart Venture Services, provides an introduction on how to start a company.
  • Stock Dilution Worksheet provides a quick way to see how stock ownership changes over a series of investments.
  • The Entrepreneurs Guide to a Biotech Startup, written by Peter Kolchinsky, covers intellectual property, risk management, regulatory concerns, raising capital and much more.
  • The VC Term Sheet Primer walks through the most common terms used by venture capitalists in making an investment in a startup company.
  • Valuation Worksheet is a Venture Capital valuation sheet for Business Plans.
  • Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Startups presents the first-ever comprehensive guide to understanding, starting, and managing university startups. The book gives a thorough, process-oriented, and practical set of guidelines that cover not only best practices but also common—and avoidable—mistakes.
  • For more information about KickStart, please view our Newsletter Archive.

Contact KickStart Venture Services with any questions.

Technology Commercialization Carolina

Supported by funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this group provides services including patent and market landscape analysis and various consulting services for startups.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

A private, non-profit organization headquartered in Research Triangle Park with offices throughout North Carolina. NC Biotech Center connects researchers, companies, investors and entrepreneurs.

Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)

CED is a regional network of entrepreneurs, investors, strategic partners, service providers, and researchers.

Small Business and Technology Development Center

A resource of business professionals and advisors for growing and developing businesses, hosted by campuses of the University of North Carolina system in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

A structured curriculum or experiential program may provide a more detailed education and description of the process, strategies and considerations for starting a new company.


StartUp-UNC is a four-course curriculum taught through the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, designed to educate and inspire all entrepreneurs to launch companies.

Carolina Challenge

Carolina Challenge is UNC-Chapel Hill’s flagship venture competition, providing students the chance to win seed funding for early-stage ideas of their own or ideas from the faculty. Approximately $50K in total prize money is distributed amongst the most promising ventures each year in both profit and non-profit tracks.

Chancellor’s Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshop

This workshop is designed to give university faculty the skills used by successful entrepreneurs. Participating faculty will be guided by a team of entrepreneurship educators from across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, including the College’s entrepreneurship minor, the School of Education, the School of Media and Journalism, and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The Graduate Certificate in Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship

This certificate program is for graduate students interested in the translation of science and technology into commercial products. The certificate focuses on the process of moving cutting-edge innovations to the marketplace, with an emphasis on the startup company as the main vehicle for developing products.

Innovation Fellowship

We have been active in developing and launching startup companies based on UNC-CH intellectual property. The Innovation Fellowship Program is intended to tap student potential in forming University startups and retain highly trained talent in North Carolina.

The intended targets for the fellowship are recently graduated PhDs who are interested in working full-time within a newly formed startup company in need of technical and scientific expertise to further their commercialization efforts.

Application Submission

  • For eligibility and other important information regarding the application process, please see the RFA.
  • Applications must be received by 5:00 pm on March 31, 2016, and should be emailed to Tim Martin.

Founder’s Handbook

This handbook answers key early stage questions for those lacking experience in life science startup companies, or those simply wanting to gain insight into the process.

KickStart Venture Services and Hutchison Law Group have produced this guide in an effort to better educate students, staff and faculty about the legal questions, pitfalls and expectations of spinning out a company.

In collaboration with Hutchison Law Group, the University Spinout Founder’s Handbook is available at no charge to any faculty member. The 42-page handbook covers the following:

  • Evaluating the Idea
  • Business Plan
  • Choice of Entity
  • Ownership of the Company
  • My Role with the Company
  • Angel and Venture Capital Basics
  • Governance Rights
  • Exit Rights
  • Intellectual Property Basics
  • Patents
  • University Policies/Conflicts of Interest and Commitment
  • Carolina Express License
  • Sponsored Research Agreements
  • Top 10 Startup Company Mistakes
Download the Handbook

Webinar Series

This series is a survey of fundamental considerations for those involved in a life science startup. Featured presentations include those from Chancellor Holden Thorp, Fred Hutchison, Jason Wood and Joel Shaffer. Topics include intellectual property, incorporation, licensing strategies, public-private partnerships and more.

Business networks can provide mentorship, resources and connections for entrepreneurs, both novice and experienced. We highly recommend that you connect with KickStart Venture Services as finding the right fit is important. Our network of contacts is large, technically diverse and constantly updated.

Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network

The Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network is a joint program of UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University. This network utilizes the knowledge of regional serial entrepreneurs to support promising University ideas in the area and provide guidance through collective coaching, contacts and resources. This effort is funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)

CED is a regional network of entrepreneurs, investors, strategic partners, service providers, and researchers.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

A private, non-profit organization headquartered in Research Triangle Park with offices throughout North Carolina. NC Biotech Center connects researchers, companies, investors and entrepreneurs.

Proximity to other entrepreneurs, mentors and resources can be invaluable for learning, overcoming barriers and realizing the potential of new businesses.

Launch Chapel Hill

A startup accelerator in downtown Chapel Hill, NC supported by UNC-Chapel Hill, the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County and private donation. Launch Chapel Hill hosts a 22-week program in entrepreneurship, providing mentorship and support, tools and services to promote startup growth and success.

1789 Venture Labs

Working space in downtown Chapel Hill, NC for UNC students and alumni looking for space and access to mentors, coaches and pro bono legal, accounting and other services.

The CUBE (Creating University Based Entrepreneurs)

Housed at Campus Y, the Center for Social Justice at UNC-Chapel Hill, the CUBE is a space for social entrepreneurs.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

A private, non-profit organization headquartered in Research Triangle Park with offices throughout North Carolina. NC Biotech Center has space available for meetings and offices.

First Flight Venture Center

An incubator located in the heart of Research Triangle Park.

The Frontier

Offers drop-in space and offices in Research Triangle Park.

UNC-Chapel Hill Makerspace

There are multiple makerspaces on campus with a varied selection of equipment and tools for students, staff and faculty to create and explore.

Most startup companies require funding to further develop and advance their ideas and products, pay for legal and tax services, and eventually support management and personnel. Multiple sources of funding are available for startup companies, however these funding sources have varying impact upon startup financials (eg. non-dilutive vs. dilutive funding) and should be considered accordingly. While the sources of funding mentioned here are those most commonly used by UNC startup founders, there are many additional sources of funding from corporate and venture capital sources that can be considered when appropriate.

Sources of funding

PLACE OF DEVELOPMENT University Startup Company
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT Research Technology Development Product Development
TYPE OF FUNDING Research Funding Translational Gap Funding Investment
NIH/NSF Grants KickStart Award Program
Industry partnerships NIH SBIR/STTR
Foundations NC IDEA
Lineberger Developmental Funding Program NC Biotech Center Loans
NC TraCS Programs Carolina Research Ventures
Gillings Innovations Labs Rex Health Ventures
Center for Innovation Pilot Awards Carolina Angel Network
OCED Technology Development Grants Angel investors
Eshelman Institute for Innovation VC investors
NC Biotech Center Grants

KickStart Award Program

RFAs are solicited each quarter from faculty founders for technical or business purposes. Typical awards are in the $25,000 to $50,000 range.


These NIH programs are designed to stimulate technological innovation, foster entrepreneurship and increase private sector commercialization of innovations developed through federal funding. Information and assistance applying for these funding programs are available through KickStart Venture Services.


NC IDEA provides grants of up to $50,000 each to NC startup companies twice per year. This funding bridges the gap between proof-of-concept funding and large investment and funds particular technology sectors and not others.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center – Company Inception Loan

Through the CIL program, loans of up to $75,000 are available for start-up life science companies in North Carolina. This program supports business inception and related activities intended to help the company position itself for start-up and early-stage funding or partnering.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center – Small Business Research Loan (SRL)

The SRL Program funds research to advance development of commercially viable technologies/products. Through the SRL program, loans of up to $250,000 are available for life science companies in North Carolina. This program supports companies in reaching specific and meaningful research milestones that would position them to obtain additional funding from private and public sources.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center – Strategic Growth Loan (SGL)

The SGL program is designed to help North Carolina life science product companies reach specific and meaningful milestones that will enable them to obtain further funding from investors and/or to commercialize their products. For most applicants, SGL awards of up to $250,000 will be matched by an equal or greater investment from one or more organized angel groups or venture capital firms.

Regional Angel Networks

Carolina Angel Network (CAN)

The Carolina Angel Network (CAN) is designed to help close the early-stage funding gap by connecting alumni, donors, parents and other members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s innovative, entrepreneurial, investment community with promising UNC-affiliated, early-stage, private companies for the purpose of facilitating angel investments.

RTP Capital

Angel network focused on providing seed stage capital for startup companies.

Triangle Angel Partners (TAP)

Triangle Angel Partners (TAP) is an angel fund formed to invest in early-stage companies in and around North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. TAP is a group of more than 40 angel investors in the high tech and life sciences industries, interested in investing their time, analysis and money into early life cycle companies. TAP members are executives, PhDs, successful entrepreneurs and professional investors.


IMAF-RTP is one of the Inception Micro Angel Funds and is a member-managed seed stage angel capital fund designed to capitalize on the growth in entrepreneurial activity and venture financing, primarily in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, greater North Carolina and in selective areas of Virginia and South Carolina.

Regional Sources of Venture Capital

Carolina Research Ventures (CRV)

An early stage investment fund providing discovery and development capital for UNC-Chapel Hill startup companies.

Rex Health Ventures

Rex Health Ventures, part of the Rex Strategic Innovations initiative, is based upon investment from Rex Healthcare and supports the development of new innovative products and services that impact healthcare.

Hatteras Venture Partners

Hatteras Venture Partners is a venture capital firm formed to invest primarily in early stage companies with a focus on biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics, healthcare IT, and related opportunities in human medicine.

Pappas Venture Partners

Pappas Ventures is focused exclusively on investing in the life sciences sector across North America.

Carolina Express License for Startups

The Carolina Express License (CEL) is a standard license agreement created exclusively for UNC-Chapel Hill startups. It is intended for early stage startup companies that do not have significant investment. The goals of the CEL are to expedite the licensing process and promote startup company formation and development with a fair financial return to the University rather than maximizing financial gain. Please see the links below and contact OCED with any questions.