UNC Ask An Innovator

“Protopia is an easy way for people who are working on valuable ideas that have the potential to make an economic or social impact to get advice and make connections.”

Sheryl Waddell

Director, Innovate Carolina Global Network

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


As one of the most innovative institutions in the world, entrepreneurship is engrained throughout nearly all on (and off) campus programs at UNC.

But a large innovation community also presents large problems: how do you support the significant demand for entrepreneurial mentorship and networking? How do you make it simple for students to ask for advice and simple for busy alumni to help? All without throwing another platform at everyone or hiring staff to match demand to supply?


The Innovate Carolina and Kenan-Flagler Business School Entrepreneurship Center partnered to launch Ask an Innovator to students in its many interdisciplinary entrepreneurship programs.

UNC alumni and students simply ask for help, and Protopia-powered Ask An Innovator finds and recruits the best innovators available to help within UNC’s global community of proven entrepreneurs, operators, and investors.

Matched innovators can choose right from their email if (and how) they can help. And if they’re busy, Protopia’s AI engages the next expert in the queue until the student’s question has been answered.


Hundreds of innovators have been matched to and helped with requests from entrepreneurial UNC students looking for help with customer discovery, business development, fundraising, talent acquisition, and many other topics.

Check out what alumni and students say about Ask An Innovator

`”Connecting students with mentors who have the right levels of expertise is really helpful. I think that’s what made this experience so much more beneficial. The platform itself is super efficient. But for me, as a student, I think the quality of people and consistent communication was the biggest appeal and the reason why I will continue to use the system again and recommend it to other student-entrepreneurs. I’m going to make sure they know about Ask an Innovator.”

Caitlyn Kumi

Senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and founder of Miss EmpowHer

“The opportunity to receive mentoring is the reason I came to UNC. I thought Ask an Innovator was super easy. You just fill out the online form and then get an answer by having someone reach out to me within 36 hours. In my case, I was able to easily schedule a meeting with my mentor. She helped me understand the pros and cons of each option and, more importantly, think through how I approach each one as well as the next steps and tools I need to follow through..”

Leah Gallant

PhD. student of philosophy in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill

“I’ve found that Ask an Innovator is really easy to use. So much time spent as an entrepreneur is just wandering out into the unknown, and when you use a platform like Ask an Innovator, you can actually paint a clear picture for yourself. I think people would be surprised by how quickly and easy it is to get feedback on things. For students, I can’t stress enough that there are a lot of grads from UNC who will talk with you. So, I would just say the platform is incredibly easy and can be very helpful.“

Chris Lindland

UNC-Chapel Hill Alumnus and Founder and CEO of Betabrand

“I was looking for entrepreneurs to talk with and get feedback on how they run their businesses. Ask an Innovator was user friendly and it didn’t take too long to submit my request nor receive feedback. From my experience, one of the few good things that has come out of the pandemic is being able to connect with more people through virtual meetings, having one-on-ones with different people and learning from their experiences.”

Tyrell Carter

Senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and founder of ANTE

 “Ask an Innovator was a simple and good scheduling solution. The student needed specific feedback, he was prepared, and that shows. I remember reading the email from the student and relate to him concerning the inefficiencies of small business. As a mentor, I’m here to learn as well. I have been doing this for 10 years but at the same time, I feel like I’m just getting started, and I have so much to learn.”

Morris Gelblum

UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus l and founder of Sweeps

“Ask an Innovator allows students to ask meaningful questions, not just connecting for connecting sake. It forces the user to ask a question in order to participate, so you are already 10 steps ahead in the conversation. Ask an Innovator is designed in a way that makes is really easy for an advisor to answer questions directly or pass them along to another advisor who can help. It’s really nice to have that clarity ahead of time.”

Jill Willett

Assistant director of entrepreneurship programs at Kenan-Flagler Business School

Smart, simple, and scalable mentoring

Protopia helps innovative institutions connect all of their alumni and students for advice and networking. Without a new app, spam, guilt, and all that hard stuff. Oh, and with no more work for your team.

Let’s talk!

Curious if Protopia can help you connect your alumni and students?We’d love to show you how it works and figure out if it is right for you.

Let’s talk!

Curious if Protopia can help you connect your alumni and students?

We’d love to show you how it works and figure out if it is right for you.