Many of the startups we’re watching in the new year are located within the region’s incubators and shared workspaces, the places meant to provide the community and density helpful to entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses.
January 6, 2015
2015 WATCH LIST: American Underground’s Top Fundraisers
Tracking young venture-backed startups and funds in the Triangle
But there’s another key indicator of potential success too. Money.
We scanned the rolls at American Underground and HQ Raleigh for startups that (publicly) raised money from angels or venture capitalists in 2014, and starting with American Underground, remind you of their plans in the months to come. (American Underground startups raised nearly $21 million from October 2013 to October 2014, as per its inaugural annual report last year.) We also include the venture funds based in the Underground that added to their pools in 2014.
The first half of 2014 was all about this Durham-based customer retention software startup. One of two startups from this region to be selected for Google for Entrepreneurs’ inaugural Demo Day, Windsor Circle came out on top of the 10 companies selected from around the nation. Several months later, it landed a lead investor in Comcast Ventures and closed a $5.5 million round. Comcast immediately surrounded co-founder and CEO Matt Williamson (see above) and his team with resources from within the global telecom, and will help it grow beyond its 200+ online retail customers today and into new verticals, all while continuing to improve a platform already turning more online shoppers into buyers.
October funding from a handful of social venture and angel investors, including VRBO founder David Clouse and the local Sovereign’s Capital and Cherokee, is helping this software and outsourcing firm get ever closer to a goal of employing a million underemployed workers in the developing world by 2017. CloudFactory handles the time-intensive, data-driven tasks of major corporations like ESPN using a software platform along with a process of rallying small teams of workers in Nepal and Nairobi around tasks and promoting the top performing workers to more complex projects over time.
Founder Mark Sears started the company after realizing the latent talent within the two African countries and developing a passion for helping those young people contribute in the workplace.
Both Washington D.C.-based startups, Orate and CareLuLu traveled to Durham to participate in The Startup Factory this year, each raising at least $50,000 from the accelerator in return for three months of mentoring and a small stake in each company. An introduction to 500 Startups’ founder Dave McClure at the accelerator’s May pitch event won online day care marketplace CareLuLu funding and a spot in the Silicon Valley accelerator, which led to a $1.7 million seed round including Khosla Ventures and CrunchFund. The company is now based in San Francisco and launching its platform around the country.
Orate finished The Startup Factory in November after closing a $400,000 round including D.C. investors. The partners are still working in Durham on a pilot of the marketplace for aspiring public speakers and event organizers.
RevBoss is serial entrepreneur Eric Boggs’ follow-up to Argyle Social, the social media management startup he founded and then left in 2013. RevBoss handles outbound business development on behalf of startup and other clients, creating a software that helps find and validate email addresses.
Mati Energy, the healthy tea-based energy drink maker in Durham, is making its way into hundreds of Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger stores across the Southeast. Founder Tatiana Birgisson will also introduce a new flavor, and a method of preserving the drinks so they can sit on shelves instead of refrigerators.
AnyCloud, the brainchild of a Silicon Valley veteran, is a software that makes it easy to store and find any photo from any source on a computer or online. The software has been in testing since winning the NCIDEA grant earlier this year.
CellBreaker is the personal mission of founder Jon Colgan to help people break their cell phone contracts and save an average of 62% on cell service. The just-launched software platform will eventually be used in other verticals too. Colgan has also been successful at drumming up national media attention prior to launch.
CrowdTunes, born at Duke University, is a digital jukebox software and service for restaurants and bars. It lets patrons and diners select and bid on music to be played in the venue, and from their mobile device. The founders merged with a pair of serial entrepreneurs earlier this year, won the NC IDEA grant and announced a plan to get the software and service into 50 bars and restaurants by year’s end.
It took about 18 months from when partners Jason Caplain and David Jones announced they’d raise a new fund to invest in startups both within the Triangle and North Carolina and around the nation. In June, the fund closed and they set a plan to make two to four investments annually over the next five years. Since then, they’ve funded the new venture of iContact co-founder Ryan Allis, now in San Francisco building Connect, a platform for locating and communicating with friends around the world.
The network of nearly 200 investors around the nation—the oldest impact investment group in the U.S.—raised a new round of funding in May 2014 with plans to make $250,000 to $500,000 investments in entrepreneurs making a positive social or environmental impact. The organization’s goal is to put $100 million into qualifying startups by 2020, all while conducting research, planning events and growing local angel investing networks in cities around the nation (Today, there are six).
The group moved its headquarters to Durham in 2011 when it merged with the local SJF Institute, which works around the nation to support and connect entrepreneurs interested in sustainability.
Acorn partner Michael Noel started 2014 with $2.5 million of a planned $5 million White Oak Innovestment Fund to invest in startups addressing environmental challenges. The fund has five local portfolio companies, two of which have raised money since Acorn made its initial investment. According to securities filings, the remainder of the fund did not close in 2014.