Kurt Taylor Next Glass March 2014

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A day in Wilmington at the Coastal Connect Entrepreneur and Capital Conference revealed some pretty interesting, headline-grabbing young companies. Though I met some of these entrepreneurs during a visit in March, I'm struck again by the diversity of ideas in Wilmington and the national traction and attention these companies have received despite their small beach town digs.

So check them out below - 11 young companies to watch in Wilmington.

The App That Refines Your Taste

Next Glass is weeks from launching its app that uses an algorithm based on the chemical makeup of wine and beer to make recommendations based on a user's palette. The startup founded by Kurt Taylor (pictured above) and chaired by his father, serial entrepreneur George Taylor, will also announce a funding round in coming weeks. In the meantime, it has secured Harris Teeter CEO Thomas Dickson as a board member and is in the process of moving its growing workforce into two floors of a downtown Wilmington building (owned by James Goodnight, the real estate entrepreneur and son of SAS Institute founder Jim Goodnight).

The Bottle that Simulates the Breast

A pediatrician and psychiatrist in Nashville got together with an IDEO designer in 2009 to rethink the baby bottle. Too many moms were frustrated that their babies wouldn't take a bottle, or once they did, they wouldn't go back to the breast. Mimijumi bottles sold out quickly to buyers in countries around the world, bringing in $500,000 in sales but creating a supply/demand problem for the team. Moms so desperate for the bottles bid up to $100 a bottle on eBay and Amazon.

Wilmington's Seahawk Innovation Fund caught wind of the product and made an investment, bringing in CEO Brendan Collins and CMO Rocco Quaranto (who launched the Fuzzy Peach frozen yogurt chain) to lead the operation (and move it to NC), restart manufacturing, oversee the development of new products and distribute the products globally. With a new deal with France's largest retail chain (1750 stores) and a second with a large U.S. chain in 2015, mimijumi expects to sell 300,000 bottles next year. It's also looking for additional investors.

Finder of Watersport Fun Worldwide

Brothers Will and Walt Smith think of WaterPlay USA as the Expedia of watersports, with information and bookings for activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing trips and boat tours in cities around the nation. The two-year-old company raised $400,000 in May 2014 from investors like industry veteran John Stow, former president of Sabre Travel, and has since become the largest booking engine for watersports in the U.S. The brothers plan to add sales and customer support and to grow to cities around the world.

11 Bullish Beachside Businesses - 2
The Safer, Smarter Tank of Lard

Ever wonder what a restaurant does with all its gross grease and used cooking oil? In many cases, young employees carry large containers of the piping hot substance to vats outside the restaurant, which are eventually collected by renderers and sold to cosmetics, biodiesel and animal products companies for reuse.

The patented eSmartTank is a safer and smarter solution, eliminating that dangerous transport and using sensors to track activity in the tank for both restaurateurs and renderers.

Finder of Workout Partners on the Fly

Wilmington real estate agent and entrepreneur Derek Wragge got national attention earlier this year for a third place win at spring's Hackfit in San Francisco. The first-of-its-kind hackathon combines fitness activities with digital fitness hacking. Wragge's team won with an app called WolfPack that helps you find workout partners (either in group settings, or just with other individuals) in real-time.

11 Bullish Beachside Businesses - 3
Tech that Makes the Bank Branch Obsolete

nCino CEO Pierre Naude envisions a 2018 in which every bank employee every the world logs into nCino instead of email and uses his company's Salesforce-linked mobile and web tools to navigate the day with customers. With 100 employees dedicated to the cause and $22.5 million in capital raised, nCino is well on its way to providing a comprehensive solution for community banks. Soon, it will target much larger financial institutions.

Life Insurance Industry's (Pretty Creepy) Silver Bullet

Speaking of national attention, the UNCW computer and actuarial scientists who've developed facial recognition technology were featured in July in the Washington Post. They've since announced plans for Face My Age, a tool for the life insurance industry to cut down on customer acquisition costs and remove the barriers for people to obtain life insurance. (For now, it's a fun online app

How will they do it? By studying a customer's face (rather than blood or genetic makeup) to determine health, lifestyle, behavior patterns and life expectancy. Founder Karl Ricanek envisions kiosks at Walmart and Target that deploy the technology and allow underwriting to happen within minutes instead of days. The life insurance industry, he says, offers $15.3 trillion in opportunity.

There are no doubt legal implications to consider before any wide adoption of the technology. But a patent was secured in April and the team will present the technology at an insurance industry conference next year. In the meantime, they're looking for a CEO and marketing and sales leadership, and, of course, capital.

Adding Freak to Your Favorite Beverage

Quirky videos and national media stunts might seem like Zach Crain's thing, but he's even more passionate about his knit drink koozies now sold online and in hundreds of stores around the nation, including Whole Foods Markets, Barnes & Noble college bookstores and bloomingdales.com.

He initially funded FreakerUSA with a Kickstarter campaign in 2011, and then unsuccessfully tried raising funds on ABC's Shark Tank the next year. But persistence and weirdness have paid off. In February 2014 after an appearance on Good Morning America, he told the Wilmington Business Journal that sales of Freakers are growing 100 percent a year.

Here's a good background story on Crain from the Wilmington Star-News, and, check out his freakiness on Kickstarter.

Rock the Vote Software

Voting might seem simple enough to those of us showing up at the polls to make our picks each year, but it's an extremely complex process involving thousands of volunteers, hundreds of machines and several levels of government oversight. And a whole lot of that process is still manual. EasyVote Solutions isn't out to change the way we vote, but to make the process a lot easier and more efficient for people organizing elections. To more than 85 communities around the Southeast, it enables candidates for office to file online, poll workers to check in on a mobile device, voters to quickly be verified for voting and election managers to keep track of hardware's location and any maintenance required. It also helps organize early voting.

Moving Doctors Docs to Devices

23 years in the health care industry showed Julie Thomas all the inefficiencies of the paper-heavy of billing and communicating with patients. And the Affordable Care Act's mandates around electronic health records prompted action. In 2011, with two co-founders, she started DocsInk to turn billing into a secure, paperless process accessible from a mobile device, and use those devices to improve communication between doctors and patients.

This year, Thomas raised nearly $1 million and won a Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Emerging Company category.

The Auto Shop for Car Enthusiasts

One man makes this list twice, and that's NextGlass advisor George Taylor. He's also founder of National Speed Inc., the venture-backed chain of state-of-the-art automotive performance shops he founded in 2008 to serve the needs of car enthusiasts. According to a May 2014 story in the Wilmington Business Journal, the company has served 5,600 clients and earned $7 million in revenue in its Wilmington location. It will open a second shop in Richmond later this year and has expansion plans for 51 other cities around the nation.

Want a tour of the shop? Check out this video: