10 Takeaways from Yesterday's Entrepreneurs Series Starring Andreessen Horowitz VC - 1

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A year ago, Bull City Venture Partners set the tone for the year with its annual Entrepreneurs Series event featuring local and national venture capitalists providing insights and advice to fundraising startups and aspiring investors.

Though venture capital investment is still down in North Carolina—companies collectively raised about $10 million (or 6 percent) less in the first three quarters of 2014 than the same period of 2013, according to the National Venture Capital Association—Bull City's panelists were among the most active in the region last year.

Nearly every panelist has made investments since last January's event. David Gardner more than doubled the size of his portfolio of local early stage startups, to 17. ChannelAdvisor CEO and co-founder Scot Wingo co-founded a mobile car washing startup, joined the board of the South Carolina 3-D printing startup ZVerse and invested again in fast-growing WedPics. ReverbNation co-founder Jed Carlson also invested in WedPics, and just yesterday announced the spin-off of real estate advertising technology unit AdWerx.

Andreessen Horowitz has yet to make a local investment, but Grotech Ventures continues to be excited about Royalty Exchange and True Ventures, Valencell. Both made follow-on investments in 2014.

The Startup Factory had a banner year with an exit and several successful series A raises within its portfolio. Triangle Angel Partners made initial investments in Adzerk, SEAL Innovations and Stealz and follow-ons in Windsor Circle, WedPics and Entigral. It also announced plans to raise a second fund. 

And Bull City closed its $26 million fund after 14 months of fundraising, announcing its first investment in Raleigh's StepLeader Digital and a second in the San Francisco-based social media mobile app startup of iContact co-founder and CEO Ryan Allis, called Connect.

Bull City partners Jason Caplain and David Jones host semiannual educational events in the Triangle to both showcase the startups and talent in our region and to build relationships with and introduce local companies to their national investor contacts, in hopes they'll make investments in the year to come. 

2014 proved to be a success, and they hope to build more momentum with this year's. To do so, Bull City invited representatives from many of the firms that invested in our region for the first time last year. Over three hours tomorrow morning (weather permitting), they'll talk about their firms and portfolios, investment strategies and tech trends. And while in town, they'll meet with entrepreneurs.

"They all want more deals here because they are flying in anyway. They have active funds and are looking to write more checks," Caplain says.

Wednesday's lineup includes the following new-to-the-region investors: Jonathan Drillings of Comcast Ventures, which led Windsor Circle's $5.5 million roundDavid Drahms of Pennsylvania-based Osage Partners, which put millions into Automated Insights; Paul Martino of Bullpen Capital, lead investor in the WedPics series B; Ian Sigalow of Validic investor Greycroft Ventures of New York City; and Imran Ahmad of Chicago-based OCA Ventures, investor in Automated Insights and WedPics.

Joining them are local angels David Gardner, Chris Heivly of The Startup Factory and Tom Lotrecchiano, the Canvas On Demand co-founder who left CafePress (Canvas On Demand's acquirer) late in 2013 and has since invested in FotoSwipe, Stealz and FilterEasy.

The only panelist who hasn't yet invested in the Triangle is Blake Patton, an Atlanta investor who grew up in North Carolina and is scouting deals in the state, according to Jones.

Year-end venture capital investment activity hasn't yet been reported (and according to CED's Innovators Report, it's missing many deals anyway), but North Carolina presumably still has a ways to go to achieve its 2010 level and standing nationally. With events like these bringing together active national and local investors with the most promising entrepreneurs in this region, Bull City's bet is that it can help move the needle. 

At the very least, the Entrepreneurs Series event will set the tone for Triangle venture capital in 2015.