By: Kevin Meinecke
During my process of interviewing with VentureSouth, I spoke with a person I interned for who runs a venture capital firm. I have a massive amount of respect for him, which is why I asked for his advice about joining VentureSouth. The warnings he gave me were about the deal flow in the Southeast, the deal quality in the Southeast, and that running an angel network is more of a side hobby. Here are my thoughts after two and a half months working in the Southeast.
Deal Flow: I wasn’t sure what the deal flow would look like in the Southeast as anywhere outside of California, New York, and Boston aren’t typically known for having robust startup scenes. There will obviously be a few good ones, but there can’t be too many. I can now gladly say I couldn’t have been more wrong. There are 2,250 rounds recorded in our database, and I have at least seven more in my inbox that need to be added. I am constantly surprised by how many young and exciting companies from every industry are in this region. Right when I’m starting to feel we must know about all the companies, I’ll see a newsletter or a local event talking about 10 more I’ve never heard of.
Deal Quality:Before digging through the VentureSouth portfolio, I couldn’t have named a startup company out of the Southeast. All the “famous” startups seemed to be in Silicon Valley, so that must be where all good startups are. I was wrong again. Turns out, I did know a few Southeastern startups, I even knew a few in the VentureSouth portfolio (Farmshots, Proterra, and Spiffy). All it took was digging a little deeper. I had no idea a company trying to become the “Airbnb for the outdoors” was located in the Southeast. Or that Raleigh-Durham is an innovation hub for medicine and science. Or that a company in Greenville was revolutionizing cancer treatment, which is way cooler than most of the “cool” startups in Silicon Valley.
Professionalism: Most angel groups are a side project that a couple volunteers in the group run. I repeatedly heard this. I knew VentureSouth wasn’t like this, but I had no idea how large the gap was. Almost every entrepreneur who has been through our process since I’ve been here has made a comment about how refreshingly professional VentureSouth is. Given I have no leverage in terms of funding, I believe their comments. From new members and potential members, I have heard the same word, “professional.” While I haven’t had the opportunity to visit other angel groups to compare, going through investments in Crunchbase, nearly all the angel groups I find made a couple investments and went defunct. And that’s not an insult to them; it has been an eye opening experience seeing what it takes to manage a portfolio of nearly 50 companies, in between running meetings and looking at new deals.
There has been no shortage of exciting, new companies so far. I’ll report back in another two and a half months.