DURHAM, NC – June 13, 2011 – NC IDEA, an organization committed to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina, announced today that it has awarded $205,000 in grants to five North Carolina startups in one of its most competitive cycles to-date. Since its inception in 2006, NC IDEA’s grants program has awarded over $2.1M to 57 companies across the state, with these most recent awards being the eleventh cycle of the program.

The five grant recipients were chosen after a 4-month application and selection process, which drew over 110 applications from 17 counties across the state. A committee comprised of experienced venture investors, industry experts and seasoned entrepreneurs selected 23 companies to submit full proposals which was further narrowed down to ten finalists who were given the opportunity to pitch their idea in person, ultimately resulting in five winners.

“This most recent grant cycle was incredibly competitive, and we were extremely impressed with the quality of applicants,” said David Rizzo, President and CEO of NC IDEA. “As the applicant field became more narrow, our decisions became increasingly difficult. So many of the companies were deserving of the money but in the end these five companies rose to the top. Our decisions came down to where our money will make the most impact, certainly for the companies, but ultimately for the state of North Carolina. We look forward to tracking the progress of our winners and working alongside them to become major contributors to the state’s business community.”

The following five companies are NC IDEA’s most recent grant recipients for the Spring 2011 cycle:

Keona Health – Chapel Hill, NC
Keona Health makes an advanced Online Triage portal, which helps patients make smarter health choices, improves operations for healthcare providers, and saves money.  The intelligence inside is the Insight Engine, which combines knowledge of the practice of medicine with statistics from thousands of previous encounters. Learn more at www.keonahealth.com.

Loyalese – Durham, NC
Loyalese is an online loyalty platform that makes ecommerce loyalty easy for online shoppers and merchants. Consumers earn cash back and rewards for shopping, referring friends and recommending products, and merchants increase revenue through custom rewards that promote loyalty and word-of-mouth advocacy. Learn more at www.loyalese.com.

NanoForge – Durham, NC
NanoForge produces copper nanowires, which are long filaments of copper ten times thinner than the wavelength of visible light. When spread onto a surface, the nanowires form a microscopic mesh that is nearly transparent and highly conductive. Such surfaces are a critical component of all touch screens, flat panel displays and photovoltaic cells. NanoForge’s unique copper nanowires revolutionize the manufacturing of these products by providing a low-cost alternative to the currently used crystalline Indium-tin-oxide on both glass and flexible plastic substrates.

OtherScreen – Charlotte, NC
OtherScreen is a consumer technology startup building a convergence platform for television and the Internet that also offers credit repair services. The company believes there is a large opportunity to combine mobile Internet, broadcast TV, user-generated content and social gaming to form an entirely new layer of monetize-able consumer entertainment and solve the problem of partial viewer engagement. Learn more at www.otherscreen.com.

Sarda Technologies – Durham, NC
Sarda Technologies is a clean-tech startup focused on reducing power loss in a wide range of electronic systems. Sarda’s product is a more efficient semiconductor switch for voltage converters that are widely used in portable, enterprise and consumer systems. Sarda’s switch reduces power loss which, in turn, increases system performance, extends battery life and reduces system size, weight and cost.

NC IDEA’s grants program is a catalyst for technological breakthroughs developed in North Carolina that have a significant potential to successfully transition into commercially viable high-growth enterprises. The grants, which are up to $50,000 per recipient, support business plan research and development, reduce risk of early failure and advance projects to the point of suitability for angel or venture capital investment. In addition to the funding, NC IDEA and its network of seasoned business and technology partners mentor and guide the grant recipients through the complex growth cycles that young companies encounter, while also connecting the startups with other investors, institutions and business leaders to maximize their prospects for commercial success.

The upcoming Fall 2011 grant opportunity for North Carolina based companies will open in mid-August. Learn more about NC IDEA’s grant application process, timeline and criteria at www.ncidea.org.

About NC IDEA
NC IDEA, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, targets promising technology companies that need help bridging the gap between initial product development and venture capital funding. The organization helps young, innovative companies mainly by providing early financing in the form of grants. NC IDEA further supports its grant winning companies by leveraging the organization’s solid partnerships and strategic alliances to assist companies through research phases, business challenges and growth goals. Learn more at www.ncidea.org.