Join the incubator with a “home field advantage”—and dive into one of the strongest startup networks in the country 

written by Sarah Glova

RESEARCH TRIANGLE – Reviews are in — and founders are calling GRO, the incubator by CED, a “home field advantage.” 

Shane Parreco describes GRO as an opportunity for “collisions” within North Carolina’s rich startup ecosystem. 

Parreco is an Asheville-based founder who participated in the 5th GRO cohort virtually. He told us he was impressed by the powerful mentors and speakers GRO brought in, including heavy-hitters like Karl Rectanus, Cofounder & CEO at LearnPlatform, having had a recent exit; Drew Schiller, Cofounder & CEO at Validic, having raised a recent round of capital; complemented by scaling founders such as DeShawn Brown, Cofounder & CEO at Coworks; Kelly Pfrommer, CEO at CloudGiants, who are actively working on building great tech companies in our region. 

“We’re looking at them like, ’Wow! You guys are, you’re the goal, you’ve gotten there, you’ve climbed the mountain, and you’ve made it happen, and now we get to pick your brain,’” said Parreco, who’s Founder and CEO of the VR development platform Aktiga. “So I’ve felt like, I’ve gotten a lot out of that experience of being able to meet and interact with some of those folks directly, at least directly-via-Zoom.”

Andy Robinson, Founder of GxPaaS Inc., told us something similar — specifically about the coaches who spoke to and worked with GRO’s 5th cohort. 

“All of this advice that you might hear on the internet or from someone on a stage at an event, it ends up being something a lot more intimate and actionable,” Robinson told me. “This is stuff that all of the other non-accelerator entrepreneurship programs don’t have.”

Robinson also believes the local format will help boost his network now — and in the future. 

“The fact that it’s local means that it’s gonna be a lot easier to keep up with each other through the long haul,” said Robinson. “Our natural networks are going to tend to overlap a lot more. To me, that was the coolest part of the accelerator, and, more specifically, it being local versus one of these remote ones in Atlanta or San Francisco.”

Local format, local resources

For Sheetal Shah, the Co-founder and CEO of Cosmic Eats, the local format was a huge selling point.

“A lot of accelerators need you to, you know, go away, spend three months in San Francisco or something,” Shah said. “They’re just not a fit.”

Shah participated in the most recent 5th cohort while continuing to scale her Cary-based startup.

“We had lots of different organizations and groups reach out to help us, but I was particularly interested when I heard about the GRO Incubator because we’re at the stage in our company where we do need that sort of business support,” said Shah. “We’re getting ready to pitch, probably going out to meet investors soon, and so I was looking for an incubator that was going to be local and fit within my work schedule.”

Cosmic Eats is creating a food production technology that enables on-site food production, and Shah says the organization used GRO to consider new markets. 

“We’ve been focused right up until now on military customers, but we want to look at the commercial market as well, and where else the customers are for us,” Shah told us. “So this is a nice inflection point, where we also need now to go and find some external funding to help us look at those other markets and develop our product for the markets.”

Ready to grow with GRO? Apply by July 21

CED is currently accepting applications for the next GRO cohort; the deadline to apply is July 21.

Each cohort is capped at 15 companies. Together, the cohort of companies attends weekly classes (either virtually or in person). Then each company receives 1:1 coaching and custom assignments to help accelerate their venture.

According to Jay Bigelow, CED’s Head of Entrepreneurship, this personalized support from the CED network is what sets the program apart.

“The secret sauce of CED’s GRO is the network of domain experts, experienced founders, and coaches we can call on to educate and support these new startups,” said Bigelow. “Its nearly 40 years of connections in high-growth companies in the region is unparalleled.”

The twelve-week program ends with Demo Day – a high-profile pitch event supported by the CED network and the local community, where each founder shares their startup and makes an “ask.” Some ask for funding, some ask for mentorship, some ask for customers—but all get a chance to share their startup’s mission and needs with the powerful CED community. 

“The support ecosystem in this area is phenomenal, and there are so many organizations who are willing to extend a helping hand,” said Shah.

To learn more about how GRO can help you grow, visit

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