Startups To Watch In 2020

By Johanna Cano, posted Jan 17, 2020
The top startups to watch for 2020 list includes IndiOmics, a biotech startup based in Wilmington founded by Melissa Strong. (File photo)
As technology becomes increasingly more embedded into our everyday lives, some Wilmington startups are utilizing the medium to further provide solutions in relation to health, business, education and more.
From tackling opioid addiction to getting kids to do their chores, Jim Roberts, founder of Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington, and Diane Durance, director of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, share their local startups to watch for 2020.


ROBERTS: Peter and Christine Robichau got free publicity when their family financial literacy app Chorez was mentioned on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Peter Robichau has a significant background in cybersecurity but also is a parent of multiple children and knows the pain point of getting kids to do chores. This app lets kids take a picture of their work and creates a payment system.


ROBERTS: Founder Melissa Strong has scientific research background from her studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. Strong and her team developed a swab kit and lab service to check for abnormal chemicals in concerned citizens’ bodies that might lead to long-term health concerns. While similar companies like 23andMe and have educated the market on these kits, IndiOmics is serving a different concern among its future clients.

Koerner Health Solutions

DURANCE: Koerner launched VitalWatch 24 remote health monitoring and concierge nursing services in 2019, offering elderly and chronically ill patients and their families peace of mind. Affordable, wearable technology allows registered nurses to keep tabs on clients all day with 24-hour vital sign monitoring and unique CallBell service. Founder and CEO Christian Koerner is determined to help patients avoid emergency room visits, unnecessary doctors appointments and trips to labs for tests.

Lapetus Solutions

DURANCE: Lapetus, led by Karl Ricanek, develops solutions for the financial services and life insurance industries. Its technology uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to improve underwriting and risk prediction. They offer solutions in sensory analytics, facial analytics and recognition, identity validation – and more. It launched a biometric life insurance quoting tool, and Aflac has invested more than $3 million.


DURANCE: Jennifer Turnage, co-founder and CEO, leads a startup poised for a breakout year in 2020. The company continues to grow exponentially in customer numbers, usage and revenue. The CEO is an accomplished, purpose-driven entrepreneur empowering women to achieve financial independence. Turnage is also one of the 15 founders of xElle Ventures, an early-stage angel network for women founders.


ROBERTS: opiAID is working with health data and a potential wearable sensor to predict when an opioid addict will begin to search for drugs while trying to eliminate their drug addiction. This device might be able to alert family members to be part of an intervention before the next dose of drugs. This is an important topic with the opioid challenges in Wilmington.
DURANCE: opiAID partners David Reeser and Stan Trofimchuk are on a quest to end the opioid crisis. A medically integrated, personalized substance abuse treatment model delivers quality care for those suffering from addiction. The company plans to have version one of their product on the market in 2020.


DURANCE: Improving how supplies and vendor services are bid and purchased in the construction industry, QuoteQuest is developing a platform that reduces the costs for purchasers and brings new sales opportunities to vendors and suppliers. Founded by Bruce Rice, this venture will introduce a product prototype in the first quarter of 2020. With a list of waiting customers and a fine-tuned sales plan, QuoteQuest is positioned for rapid growth.

Renaissance Fiber

DURANCE: This startup, founded by Michael Long, was awarded a NC IDEA SEED Grant in 2019 used to scale up its patented process for preparing hemp fiber for the apparel market. Renaissance has relationships with farmers to secure its hemp supply and is negotiating agreements with potential customers … It is ready to set up a permanent location and be fully operational in 2020.


DURANCE: ScreenOUT has assembled an accomplished team of entrepreneurs, including CEO and founder Alan Stout, to develop a family-friendly product to help parents manage screen time. This AI-enhanced software product is created in response to increasing concerns about the mental health and developmental problems of children and others experiencing excessive use of electronic devices. This company will be bringing its first product to market in 2020.


DURANCE: Led by CEO Claire Holroyd, Skilly-do helps preschool children learn and develop critical skills through play. Skilly-do is offered as a web-based subscription for preschool parents and as a family-friendly employee benefit through UNCW and N2 Publishing. Skilly-do’s “give one, get one” social impact model is … reaches families in need through nonprofit partners including Smart Start of New Hanover County. Skilly-do is poised to add corporate clients in 2020.


DURANCE: SportGait offers a medical device used to diagnose and manage the epidemic of concussions from youth sports and accidents – and it’s being adopted by youth sports leagues and hospital systems across the country. SportGait’s senior management team is led by Tobin Geatz, board chair, and Chris Newton, CEO and president. UNCW is an owner of SportGait through a unique public-private partnership developed with Seahawk Innovation.

SWELL Systems

DURANCE: SWELL started with one goal – to provide an affordable, all-in-one application that allows small businesses to control all their processes in one place. … SWELL offers accounting, workflow automation, marketing, sales management, and other processes. SWELL, led by CEO Derek Schmidt, was selected by NC TECH as one of the state’s 10 Startups to Watch in 2019.
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