The complaint is well noted—Charlotte lacks substantial capital to invest in startups.
, Charlotte Angel Fund’s
administrator, has heard it a lot. But he wants to have data-driven discussions not broad conversations that rely on anecdotes.
Brown, along with others at the forefront of the Charlotte startup scene, want to create a more cohesive early-stage investment community. That’s why CAF collected data on active angel and venture capital investors in the Charlotte area to show where they invested their money over the past five years, and where they plan to invest over the next five.
The results are in and they might surprise you, but maybe some day they won’t.
There were 61 respondents to the anonymous survey and they invested a collective $36.175 million since 2011. That number only accounts for personal investments. It does not include funds that the respondents manage on behalf of someone else or investments in businesses where the respondent is involved in management.
According to the survey results, 15 of the respondents invested $250,000 or more in an individual company, while more than half of the respondents invested $100,000 or more in a single company.
There is a considerable amount of early stage capital investment in this data set—enough to fund 14 startups at $500,000 annually—but Brown says it’s important to note that the 61 respondents account for only a fraction of Charlotte’s active investors. The survey was sent to around 200 people.
Geographically, Charlotte investors deployed nearly 34 percent of their funds in Charlotte startups and plan to invest around the same amount here in the coming five years. Just 9.52 percent went to other North Carolina companies, but when asked where they want to invest over the next five years, that percentage jumped to around 19 percent.
Not surprisingly, software and apps alongside pharma and biotech were the most popular industry sectors. Brown points out an interesting finding of the survey—that software and apps will be an even bigger focus in the next five years and significantly outpace pharma and biotech investments.
Here are the results:
So what does all this mean? There are numerous reports on the Charlotte startup world. According to Kauffman’s Growth Entrepreneurship Index, Charlotte ranked 11th out of 40 in scaling startups. The Charlotte Entrepreneur Growth Report released earlier this year states that just $8 million in venture capital investments went to Charlotte companies over a four-year period, while major players like Atlanta and the Research Triangle raked in $391 million and $246 million respectively.
That report states: "If Charlotte companies obtained venture capital at a rate similar to Atlanta, Charlotte metro companies would receive an additional $158 million of annual investment.”
According to the CED Innovators Report
, NC companies have done more deals with investors from California in Q1 2016 than in their own state. Silicon Valley is a hotbed, but CAF’s survey shows that there is capital is here. PRSONAS CEO David Rose knows that—he found investment outside of the usual suspects, including funding from CAF.
Brown hopes data from surveys like CAF’s will promote more local engagement. Transparency is important in building Charlotte’s ecosystem and therein lies the current problem—entrepreneurs and investors are unaware of all the opportunities at their fingertips. While many of the reports on Charlotte look grim, CAF’s survey shows there is real potential.
“By doing (this survey) we aim to improve investment outcomes for angel and venture capital investors in the area, increase the amount of capital that is available to local startups, and make it easier for Charlotte’s entrepreneurs to make themselves visible to local investors,” says Brown.