CHAPEL HILL – Launch Chapel Hill is gearing up to send off its 13th cohort of entrepreneurs to embark on their next stage of startup growth. After spending 16 weeks developing their business model and market strategy with mentors in the accelerator, nine early-stage startups will finish off the program by pitching their products and services to a virtual audience next Wednesday.
The spring 2020 cohort was the first under Launch Chapel Hill’s new director, Velvet Nelson, who entered her role in December right as the selection committee was deciding on the current class. Nelson’s predecessor, Amy Linnane, stepped down in late-2019 to take a new position as managing director of experiential programs at Duke University Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Nelson easily transitioned into her new role leading Launch Chapel Hill, bringing more than 10 years of experience within Charlotte’s startup community. She previously worked as program manager for the Queen City Fintech startup accelerator, where she handled programming, event management and communication with mentors. Before that, she co-founded edtech startup, ProctorFree, and raised several rounds of funding through private angel groups and VC firms, in addition to an NC IDEA SEED grant in 2013. Nelson also previously worked at Huntersville edtech startup EverBlue Training Institute.
As Launch Chapel Hill’s spring 2020 program wraps up this week, WRAL TechWire caught up with Nelson to discuss her new role, her observations of the 13th cohort, how alumni companies are pivoting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her vision for the future of Launch Chapel Hill.