Wilmington startup gets picked for key fundraising show

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KWIPPED

Robert Preville

Getting a startup’s message in front of potential investors can be key to success, as Shark Tank devotees know. It’s not quite like making the popular TV show, but Wilmington-based Kwipped just won a coveted spot in a startup investment conference later this month.

The Silicon Valley Open Doors Top International Startup Investment Conference chose 40 startups from more than 400 applications. The only North Carolina presenter at the May 30 event will be Kwipped, which offers an online marketplace for companies supplying and renting equipment.

Last year’s conference winner was Raleigh-based Prsonas, which offers a virtual hologram technology.

Kwipped Founder and CEO Robert Preville previously was the first employee of Atlanta-based MFG.com, an online manufacturing marketplace later acquired by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal investment fund. Preville discussed the program.

So, it’s a Shark Tank-type deal, right?

I wouldn’t compare it to Shark Tank, because decisions aren’t made on the spot and [there are] no guarantees of investment. But these events pique the interest of investors and tend to be a lot more efficient in trying to build relationships with investors. The organizers want to make sure it is productive for both companies and investors.

How much time do you have for your pitch?

Exactly five minutes, then there is five minutes of questions and answers. It’s designed to be a commercial for our business. We’re told that the audience is made up of about 70% venture-capital firms and 30% high net-worth individuals.

What is your goal?

We hope to come out with some key introductions that can help us accomplish our fundraising goal, and meet some people who have a good understanding of what we do and can can help us navigate the opportunity.

Have you presented at similar conferences?

We’ve done similar events on the East Coast. Three years ago, we were part of the NC IDEA event. We’ve grown quite significantly and we are now ready for a larger audience.

We’re also excited about representing North Carolina. There is lots of talent and interesting things going in the state.

How is your company doing?

Our revenue is growing strongly. We have raised $1M in seed capital, and now we are looking for the next level of investment. (He declined to provide other financial details or how much money Kwipped hopes to raise.)

What do customers want to rent or lease?

We’re a business-to-business marketplace for equipment leases, facilitating the transactions not unlike Airbnb. Coca-Cola, General Dynamics, SpaceX and many other companies and universities have used the service. We have $175 million in assets for leasing.

So, is this traditional equipment leasing?

We don’t do much in traditional equipment such as excavators. But we rent a lot of specialty equipment in construction, medical, engineering and electronics. It’s not the kind of stuff you can get at United Rentals.

Who is developing your software?

It is all being done by our staff. Our chief technology officer, Wellington Souza, formerly worked at High Point University and Cape Fear Community College.

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