CHAPEL HILL – The LaUNCh business incubator here in Chapel Hill has a reason to celebrate. Seven new ventures are moving into the space off Rosemary St., meaning that three start-ups have graduated from the program. One of those flourishing ventures is Keona Health—a business featured in our 2013 summer series spotlighting the companies of LaUNCh.
UNC graduate student Oakkar Oakkar, CEO of Keona Health, says LaUNCh was a “game changer” for the company which he helped start with UNC Professor Javed Mostafa.
“One of the best things we have done for the company was being a part of LaUNCh. It took us to the next level. They [the mentors] always make themselves available. You don’t even need to actually make an appointment. They drop in all the time to check on us and help with anything we need,” Oakkar says.
Featured in the Wall Street Journal, Keona Health is a software program that seeks to simplify the way patients communicate with their doctors.
LaUNCh Program Manager Dina Mills explains that the Impulsonic, Turnsmith and Keona Health have successfully completed the program by meeting funding and growth benchmarks. The ventures reached the revenue positive stage, and between the three companies, they have raised $1,000,000 in funding.
Keona Health, an all-star of the incubator, will be growing its staff in 2014. Oakkar says the company will double in size over the next several months and expects it will triple in size by the end of the year.
The graduated start-ups are moving into LaUNCh’s newly-acquired space at University Square with permission from UNC. The businesses will be those offices for the next six to eight months and operate independently after that point.
“They need another six to eight months to solidify the customers they have, increase their revenue bases, and for some of them, they are in the process of finding venture or strategic funding now, so they are going into the multi-million range,” Mills says.
For the seven teams entering the incubator, the program offers an opportunity for intensive business plan development, combined with mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs Jim Kitchen, Chris Mumford and Laura Zevelson, as well as a vast network of community business resources.
“Working in LaUNCh is definitely working in a very high-energy environment. People have these great ideas, and they are trying to turn them into a reality,” Mill says.
Another mission of LaUNCh is to build the entrepreneurial community in Chapel Hill.
“Our other two big successes were bringing a full day of Triangle Entrepreneurship Week activities to Chapel Hill. They had never had a single event in Chapel Hill, and we actually had five during the week. Then we also had the first Triangle Start-Up Weekend in Chapel Hill, which again was something that had been happening in the Triangle for years but not in Chapel Hill.”
Fifteen start-ups in total, Mills says, are currently participating in the 22-week LaUNCh program.
The incubator opened in the spring of 2013.