A Startup Community on the Rise

At the Flywheel Foundation, we’re committed to building an inclusive startup community that empowers individuals through entrepreneurship. Each year we bring together our community at New Ventures Demo Days, which has grown each year as our ecosystem continues to develop.This year was drastically different for us, as it has been for so many members of our community. We shifted our event online, developed incredible programming, and brought on partners to deliver two days of impact. 

Now, with the event in our rear-view mirror, we’d like to take a moment to share our thoughts on each of the events. Included are links to speakers and companies, so you can reach out to learn more and offer your support.

Karen Barnes was our source of energy and information throughout the event. She is a mega-connector, visionary, ecosystem builder, three-time Triad Business Journal Power Player, and Founding CEO of her sixth startup, Agile City – a nonprofit innovation consultancy focused on designing and building entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems through a suite of offerings.


Day One – National and International Models for Impact

Funding Black Founders View Recording Here

2020 has seen historic protests, collective action, and national reckoning in the wake of continued police murders of unarmed Black people. Individuals, corporations, and industries shared proclamations of support, that Black Lives Matter, and commitment to racial justice. Venture Capital has faced the ugly truth that Black founders receive <1% of venture capital. Many funds have committed capital for black founders, and investors have committed to do better. But will anything change?

Doug Speight, Founder & CEO, AnnexTech Partners

Doug Speight in an innovator of epic proportions. He is Founding Partner and CEO of AnnexTech Partners, a divestment and joint venture studio. They perform corporate software carve outs for social & economic impact from corporate divestitures of non-core SaaS software products. We empower tech corporations to generate measurable economic and social impact by unifying the company’s objectives across Mergers & Acquisitions, Product Portfolio and Corporate Social Responsibility divisions.

Calvin Williams, CEO and Founder, Freeman Capital

Calvin Williams is on a mission to close the wealth gap in America. His company, Freeman Capital, helps those who have been overlooked and pushed to the margins. Freeman Capital is an investment app that provides a hyper-personalized wealth journey that simplifies comprehensive wealth management into a monthly subscription service.

Calvin was just selected as a recipient of Google’s Black Founders Fund, which offers between $50-$100K in non-dilutive funding along with hands-on support to help their startup grow. Calvin has also been selected by NC IDEA to serve on their Black Entrepreneurship Council.


Building and Backing a Better World View Recording Here

Our systems are broken. From food and job security to healthcare and justice outcomes, we are seeing trends going in the wrong direction. These system failures disproportionately affect the most marginalized in our communities while billionaires have continued to get richer. The good news: as builders and backers, we have the resources, ingenuity and capacity to reverse these trends and to create a new, more equitable world for ourselves and our descendents. 

This Fireside Chat explored strategies that can be employed by backers to direct capital towards solving the pressing problems in our communities by harnessing the power of entrepreneurship and buildership.  Check out the recording to hear from 2x exited, serial entrepreneur Kasem Rodriguez Mohsen  as he moderates this fireside chat with Dr. Shanté Williams, CEO of Black Pearl Global Investments, and Jesse Fripp, Global Finance Expert and former GM of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance.


Flywheel Foundation Global Impact Pitch Competition 

We featured 5 top startups from around the world working in the areas of social and environmental impact. These startups will shared how they are solving problems with unique, scalable solutions that can change the world. 

After each pitch, a panel of venture capital judges asked the founders questions about their company, how they measure impact, and how they plan to grow their business. 

Judge #1: Sam Pranikoff

Sam is an Associate at Greenspring Associates, where contributes to the Firm’s client service and fundraising operations while also working alongside the investment team. Previously, Sam spent two years as an Analyst at Greenspring where he was focused on performing due diligence for direct, fund and secondary investments. Prior to joining Greenspring, Sam was an Analyst at Training the Street.

Sam attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with honors in Political Science and Sustainability Studies.

Judge #2: Tunji Fadiora

Tunji Fadiora is Founder & President of ELEV8 Ventures a startup community and platform for underserved entrepreneurs founded in 2017 that partners with some of the largest tech companies in the world and world class startup programs in an effort to strengthen our regional startup ecosystem as well as empower underserved entrepreneurs nationwide. For the past decade I have advocated for the advancement of underserved entrepreneurs and startups , as well as contributed to the development of a more robust startup ecosystem in North Florida and throughout the southeast

In 2014 Tunji founded Creative Culture Media, a creative agency and digital marketing company that serves clients nationwide and collaborates with creatives worldwide. Tunji Currently serves as the Community Leader & Lead Organizer for Techstars Startup Weekend Jacksonville, Florida. In 2020 Tunji was selected for the second class of HBCU VC 31 Under 31: The Future of Venture Capital, a list of diverse talented leaders changing the culture of innovation in 2020.

#3, Lindsay Freeman Avagliano

Lindsay has been working at the intersection of venture capital, emerging companies and corporate law for over a decade. She is currently a Principal at Prolog Ventures, where she invests in innovative health & wellness startups with a focus on infection prevention.

Prior to joining Prolog, Lindsay was Director of New York Ventures, a venture fund backed by New York State’s economic development agency, where she helped develop the fund’s investment thesis and built its initial portfolio of companies. Lindsay has also held advisory roles at startups in the e-commerce, enterprise software, and edtech spaces.  

Previously, Lindsay practiced law at two New York City law firms, Lowenstein Sandler and Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Before beginning her legal career, Lindsay worked in journalism and media. Lindsay holds a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a JD from the University of Chicago.

The judges selected the top 3 companies to win prizes from Creative Farm, Flywheel.Courses, and Pitch Space.

1st Place: NeVap, Benjamin Wang

2nd Place: Hay Trabajo, Liz Escobar

3rd Place: Luxeed Robotics, Fabio Habib


Runners Up: Henrietta, Pedro Guardado, and Fly Elevated, Abdallah Saeed 

Congratulations to all the teams for making it to the finalist round of the Global Impact Pitch Competition, and thanks for the work each of you is doing.





















Day Two – Innovation at Home

Day Two took a closer look at what innovations are happening here in Winston-Salem, where Flywheel is based. We had 58 startups exhibit on the demo floor and 15 investors selected the top 5 companies for a lightning round pitch event. The top companies selected were, in order:

1st place: Swipeby , Carl Turner

2nd place: Mini City, India Hayes

3rd place: pureskill.gg/, Bill Freeman

4th place: GoBe Kids, Joseph Blanch

5th place: Xcellent Life


New Ventures Accelerator

New Ventures invests in pre-revenue, inception-stage startups. Five startups made the 2020 cohort, working diligently to complete milestones like prototype development, beta launch, user testing, and fundraising. After three months of intense acceleration, these founders shared their compelling visions. Learn more about New Ventures here.

University Wallet

Greensboro, NC

Merle T. Murrain II, CEO, Founder

A financial app that helps students become aware of their spending.



Winston-Salem, NC

Evan Kline, CEO, Cofounder

An online-to-offline platform to discover and play tabletop games.


Winning Wise

Chicago, IL

Robyn Clark, CEO

Kate Barratta, COO

An online, proactive approach to personal change in career development.


Xpand Gaming

Winston-Salem, NC

Summer Krstevska, Alek Krstevski, Cofounders

Xpand is a networking and monetization platform for gamers.


Drive Key

New York, NY

Calin Saftoiu, CEO, Cofounder

Claudiu David

Drive Key is an AI-enabled mobile app built to support drivers in real time.



Builders + Backers

In August 2020, Builders + Backers selected cross-sector leaders from nonprofits, faith, education, finance, and entrepreneurship for the inaugural Builders + Backers Fellowship program. The Fellows Cohort spent weeks in deep learning and reflection on why and how communities are the epicenter of brokenness. Using this context, they began ideating and building solutions to the challenges they saw. The Builders + Backers presentations at New Ventures Demo Days is the cohort’s chance to share their stories and connect with Backers who can help to fund, institutionalize, grow and scale their ideas for greater impact.

Donna Harris is a Venture Partner at Praxis, the Founder of Builders + Backers, the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of 1776 Ventures and previously Managing Director of the Startup America Partnership. Donna also is a board member of both the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the National Center for Entrepreneurship, an Advisor to the Economic Innovation Group, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at The Busch School.

Through her work and investments, Donna has helped thousands of startups worldwide to grow and scale while solving some of our greatest challenges and often in heavily regulated markets. Her latest endeavor with Builders + Backers is igniting change in communities across the world using best-in-class entrepreneurial tools and approaches. From the smallest of projects to the biggest, boldest ideas, Builders + Backers is helping to unleash the power of Buildership™ so that we all can become people of action. And, in sharing our challenges and our ideas for solving them, we will see the common threads that connect us more than divide us. We can come together by building together.