If anything can be learned from the Great Recession, it’s that single-sector economies are more vulnerable to market fluctuations and economic shocks—they take longer to recover from economic peaks and valleys than economies dependent on multiple sectors.
Examples abound of single-sector economies which bet on one sector came back to haunt them. Detroit’s entire economy was built around the auto industry, and we all know how that turned out for them. Hickory, a smaller city in North Carolina, was a nationally known area for furniture manufacturing until the plants relocated in other countries like China.
Similarly, when the success of a region’s startup sector relies on a single type of funding, it is more vulnerable to the overall market’s fluctuations.
That’s why today’s Innovators Report update from the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) is such good news. Both the types of funding sources and sectors receiving the funding is diversifying, a phenomenon critical to the success of North Carolina’s startup community, and its overall economy. And that’s despite national reports (which don’t include those undisclosed investors) that show the state trailing its peers in terms of deals closed and amount funded.
The Innovators Report released today is a mid-year update, tracking data through the end of June 2014. It reports the total funding raised ($266 million), the sectors the funds are going to (tech, life science, advanced manufacturing and cleantech), the sources of funding (in the aggregate), and the number of equity deals (78). For the most part, this year’s numbers don’t significantly outpace those from the same period last year. Total dollars invested is up by roughly $63 million and total deals rose from 76 to 78.
What is different about this year’s report, is that data show what experts like CED’s President Joan Siefert Rose (pictured right) say is occurring around the country—the number of undisclosed investors has sharply risen. In today’s report, undisclosed investors represent 66% of the total number of investors. In the same period last year, they represented just 36%.
Undisclosed investors come from a variety of places but can be solo angels, from an angel network, from side car funds, family offices, or part of a corporate strategy. While the number of undisclosed investors is reported, the actual dollars they invested is not. So it is unclear how much of the $266 million these individuals or groups contributed. It is possible the funds they invest are smaller amounts than traditional VCs, but the data is not available to determine whether this is true.
Most interesting in the data—the tech sector raised the most funds of any industry. With $184 million first half funding, it outpaced life science funding 6:1, a huge role reversal from years past. This indicates that North Carolina’s economy is diversifying, a good sign for the future health of our economy.
As we reflect on these changes, let’s not ignore the importance of CED’s effort to capture and report the data. Dhruv Patel, the author of the Innovators report, says—as far as he knows—CED is the only organization in the country collecting and reporting data in this way. The holistic data set is a major resource for North Carolina’s startup community and economic policy makers. For CED, knowing the source of investments enables the organization to better connect investors with those seeking investment. It also informs thought leaders and policy makers as they work to foster growth and development in North Carolina’s startup ecosystem.
So while venture capital investments in North Carolina is down (as we’ve previously reported), but if Q3 and Q4 continue in the same direction as the first half of 2014, North Carolina is not only poised to be a leader in collecting and reporting holistic data on funding sources, but in building a diverse economy supported by a healthy, robust funding system.