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Venture Studio

Eshelman Innovation Venture Studio is a unique public-private partnership that is complementing the rigor of academic research with the experience of practitioners in the field. The studio aims to engage and positively impact every corner of the state through our work and startups. Leveraging the UNC system, we will build on the research, talent, and network through innovation hubs in the state of North Carolina.

What is a Venture Studio?

Eshelman Innovation Venture Studio conceives of and de-risks new digital health startup ideas and then launches, capitalizes, and supports the companies.

An icon of brickwork representing build

Build

The Venture Studio’s build function creates and prioritizes software and software-adjacent business concepts in the digital health space.

An icon of a rocket ship representing launch

Launch

The Venture Studio’s launch function forms, funds, and launches startups, and recruits founders to run the startups.

An icon of a gear representing acceleration

Accelerate

The Venture Studio’s accelerate function helps startups founders gain momentum in the marketplace and attract talent.

Creating meaningful impact

Tech employees gathered in a conference room for sprint week

High Alpha Innovation Pitch Day Event

The audience prepares for the first Pitch Day event hosted by Eshelman Innovation and High Alpha Innovation. During this sprint, 25 promising digital health concepts from across the University and healthcare system came to take part in the High Alpha Innovation pilot. From the 13-week pilot program, two concepts were chosen to go through Sprint Week, a high-stakes, all hands-on-deck forcing function where teams work non-stop to test assumptions and build confidence for a go or no-go launch decision.

Two students presenting on a television to a full audience

Empowering Local Communities Through Design Thinking

Students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University pitch their ideas at the PowerUp nutrition and mental health pitch competition. The diversity of perspectives in the room was crucial to the process, with participants from various academic disciplines and backgrounds coming together to share their insights and experiences. The Power Up investor panel selected the top four ideas that were invited to the design thinking workshop the next day.

Opioid Sprint Week team members standing and smiling at the camera

Eshelman Innovation Venture Studio Holds Pitch Day Aimed at the Opioid Crisis

Members of Eshelman Innovation, High Alpha Innovation, and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) who participated in our eight-month sprint collaboration focused on addressing the opioid epidemic in western North Carolina. Sprint Day was held on February 10, 2023, where two teams pitched their concepts to a room of leading experts and venture capitalists.

Members of the Asheville OUD sprint discuss around a table.

Members of Eshelman Innovation, MAHEC, High Alpha Innovation, and local community members converged in Asheville, NC, to kick off our second opioid sprint program. Collaborators at the onsite identified and workshopped unmet pains experienced throughout the opioid use disorder cycle and received first-hand accounts from individuals actively in long-term recovery. 

The Venture Studio Sprint Process

Partnering with healthcare experts and practitioners throughout the state with our venture innovation partners, studio sprints follow a rigorous diligence and assumption-testing approach to systematically shape concepts into new businesses.

Three team members huddled up strategizing with their laptops

Our startup industry experts identify and curate concepts that they believe have an opportunity to become feasible and attractive software-driven VC backable startups. Our experts work directly with innovators to create an initial hypothesis around their business concept and potential market.

The 13-week process moves through different stage gates that require innovators to define the problem/customer market, shape a value proposition, and identify a business model. At the end, the best concepts will create a pitch deck and present it to an external investment committee for a launch and investment decision.

Once the external investment committee agrees to invest in a concept, the studio will incorporate the startup company. It will also recruit and hire the key company founders to run the company.

Once the startup is launched, the external investment committee invests about $1M of pre-seed capital, provides back-office startup services to the founders like finance, HR, payroll, legal, marketing, etc., and works together to get the company to the next venture capital investment round in the next 12-18 months.

After a Venture Studio sprint, some concepts are deemed to be very attractive potential startups, but in order to spin out, they will need key technology and/or clinical validation. These concepts would be eligible for an Eshelman Innovation validation grant.

Let’s create the next breakthrough together.

Get Started
Bob Dieterle collaborating with two team members in a conference room

Our Portfolio

Explore our current startup portfolio and upcoming venture studio sprints below.

Portfolio Brands

Terralink logo on green background

Terralink

Terralink is an integrated technology platform that will empower wellness from seed to stomach to scale community gardens in combating food insecurity in under-represented communities.

Goldie logo on a yellow background

Goldie

Goldie is a workflow management tool specifically built for Community Paramedic and Post Overdose Response Teams to support workflows, patient care, and data collection to allow for a coordinated post-overdose response to patients in need of care.

Valable logo on a green background

Valable

Valable is a mobile and web-based platform for translating the hard work of recovery from OUD into productive, economically viable success at a recovery friendly workplace. It tracks a patient’s recovery journey, rewarding them for hitting milestones and allowing them to document their progress in a “recovery resume” alongside a personalized peer support coach.

Initiatives (Sprints)

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Current
A group of Eshelman Innovation and High Alpha Innovation team members huddled in a lecture hall

Digital Solutions Addressing the Opioid Epidemic 2.0

Asheville, NC

Eshelman Innovation will be hosting a second sprint in Asheville, NC in Winter 2024. This sprint will include drivers of the crisis upstream of the consumer or patient who is impacted by OUD. What we think of as “supply” is the full network of forces and factors that exist to deliver opioids to patients and consumers who may experience OUD or even an overdose.

Completed
Two team members conversing in a lecture hall

PowerUp—Address Food Insecurity and Mental Health Challenges Faced by Black North Carolinians

Greensboro, NC

Eshelman Innovation alongside HBCUFI will help source ideas for PowerUp. Funded by the Humana Foundation, this sprint has an objective to create concepts and launch companies addressing food insecurity and mental health in the Black community.

Completed
Bob Dieterle speaking on a microphone in a lecture hall

Digital Solutions Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Asheville, NC

To address the opioid epidemic in North Carolina, Eshelman Innovation hosted a sprint in Asheville, NC. Working with our partners at MAHEC and High Alpha Innovation, we identified and built concepts around the opioid addiction cycle. Through this process, 19 concepts were identified, and two were prioritized to Sprint Week.

Completed
Tech employees gathered in a conference room for sprint week

Sprint 2.0

Chapel Hill, NC

Following a successful pilot, Eshelman Innovation partnered again with High Alpha Innovation to run a Digital Health Venture Studio sprint at UNC. 43 promising digital health concepts from across the University and UNC Health came to take part in the pilot. Following the 13-week pilot program, two concepts were chosen to go through Sprint Week.

Completed
Tech employees gathered in a conference room for sprint week

Pilot

Chapel Hill, NC

In 2021, Eshelman Innovation partnered with High Alpha Innovation to run a Digital Health Venture Studio sprint on campus. 25 promising digital health concepts from across the University and UNC Health came to take part in the pilot. Following the 13-week pilot program, two concepts were chosen to go through Sprint Week. Through this pilot program, Epulate was launched.

PowerUp

PowerUp aims to catalyze social and economic impact by supporting underserved innovators who are focused on improving health outcomes for their communities. Partnering with HBCU’s, we plan to bring a best-in-class venture studio model that will create and launch digital health startups.

PowerUp team members gathered in front of a PowerUp presentation

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