Even during a pandemic, the deals keep flowing for VentureSouth.
The angel investment group, headquartered in Greenville, S.C., invested roughly $9.2 million in 26 early-stage companies in 2020. That’s down from $12.7 million in 28 companies in 2019, a “record-setting” year.
Over 60% of the funding went to support existing VentureSouth portfolio companies as they navigated substantial threats to their businesses in some cases, and as they quickly maneuvered to capture new opportunities in others.
Among the companies receiving follow-on investments were Proterra, PunchList, Sprockets (formerly named Sentio) and 6AM in South Carolina; Kwipped, ProctorFree, Reveal Mobile and Spiffy in North Carolina; Aperiomics in Virginia; and GoPivot in Georgia.
“Like a lot of early-stage investors, we essentially stopped looking at new opportunities in the second quarter of last year as we tried to triage the existing portfolio and figure out how to make sure those companies could survive,” VentureSouth’s co-founder and managing director Matt Dunbar told Hypepotamus.
“Then in the back half of the year, we started looking at new opportunities again.”
New investments included Live Furnish in Winston-Salem, an image production technology platform for the furnishings industry; Durham-based Seal the Seasons, a locally-sourced frozen fruits and vegetable company; Chattanooga-based Pass It Down, a digital display engagement platform; and Soelect, a Greensboro company developing advanced solid-state battery components.
“My sense is that we’re about back to normal in terms of the quantity and quality of the deal flow,” Dunbar said. “There’s always an ebb and flow to the quality of what we’re seeing – and I don’t think that’s really predictable or necessarily correlated with anything on a macro level.
North Carolina Tops List
North Carolina represented more than half of the deal flow – with $5.2 invested in 14 companies.
“A big part of that is a function of our continued growth in investors and member groups [there],” Dunbar explained.
“That growth has allowed us to get more plugged into the strong pipeline of companies emerging in various markets across the state.”
South Carolina, the firm’s home state, nabbed the second spot, with $2.5 million invested in eight companies.
The remaining four investments, totaling $1.6 million, came from other parts of the Southeast.
Other highlights from the year included a portfolio exit from Knoxville-based Vendor Registry and the launch of new angel groups in Fayetteville, NC and with affiliate partners Furman University and the Sullivan Foundation.
Looking ahead, Dunbar said the firm is looking to expand its footprint, particularly in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We’ve always had a connection to Atlanta, but it’s just such a big market that we’ve been a little bit capacity limited in the past to spend a ton of time there,” he explained. “But now that we can do that virtually, are working to understand the opportunities in that market better.”
VentureSouth is one of the largest early-stage investment groups in the Southeast, with more than 300 private investors in 13 local chapters across the Carolinas. Since 2014, the firm has invested nearly $52.8 million in over 80 companies.
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