Wilmington Startup Among Winners At Charlotte Competition

By Jenny Callison, posted Apr 1, 2015
Wilmington-based Surgilum came away from Tuesday’s Charlotte Venture Challenge with a check  for $7,500 and an expanded business network. The startup, which focuses on products for eye surgeons, was one of two runners-up in the competition for early-stage companies.

“We won in our category, which was Health IT and Biotechnology,” Surgilum president Rocco Quaranto said Wednesday, "and then all the category winners competed.”

The other runner-up was Quorum Analytics, a Washington, D.C.-based company launched in January by two Harvard undergraduates. The startup provides subscribers with data on every member of Congress, such as bills sponsored, votes, committees and issue areas, and whom each member most often collaborates with, according to the Quorum website.

Quorum, competing in the challenge’s IT and Informatics category, bested five other category contenders, including Wilmington-based KWIPPED, an online equipment rental service founded by Robert Preville. Preville is co-owner of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and WILMA magazine.

Surgilum and KWIPPED were the two startups chosen from Wilmington to pitch at the event.

The overall winner, garnering the $20,000 grand prize, was General Graphene, a company from Oak Ridge, Tennessee that  -- according to a company video -- has developed a method for producing graphene at a dramatically lower cost than current methods can.

Graphene is a super-strong, one-atom-thick sheet of graphite that could potentially be used in such products as ultra-light aircraft, solar-absorbing paint and flexible smartphones, company officials stated in the video.

Surgilum, a former tenant of University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, pitched its cornea-marking Robo-Marker at Tuesday’s challenge event, held during the Southeast Venture Conference. That gathering was expected to draw more than 600 investors and Fortune 500 executives, organizers said earlier.

Exposure to those investors and executives was valuable, Quaranto said.

“It always great to get out there and shake hands, so you’ll have connections lined up when you’re ready” to seek investment, he said, adding that Surgilum has no timetable at this point for a capital raise. “The longer we can bootstrap, the higher our valuation will be and the more equity we’ll retain internally.”
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