Top 10 Angels Sends a Strong Signal for SC

Matt Dunbar writes about the top 10 angels sending a strong signal for SC here.

Top 10 Angels Sends a Strong Signal for SC

Two weeks ago, CB Insights, a leading data provider for the venture capital industry, released a ranking of U.S. angel groups based on the Investor Mosaic algorithm they developed to score venture capital firms.

When the analysis of 370 angel groups was complete, an unexpected result emerged. Among a list of premier groups from traditionally strong venture markets like California, Boston and New York, a group from South Carolina landed at number 8.

While the top 10 ranking is certainly nice recognition for the investor members of the Upstate Carolina Angel Network, we think the accolade signals something more important for the Upstate and for South Carolina. Namely, to borrow a phrase from the classic Jim Collins book “Good to Great,” the Flywheel Effect is taking hold in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Thanks to years of steady, strenuous pushing by a cadre of dedicated visionaries and partners, we’re building towards sustainable momentum as a place where entrepreneurs, investors and our economy can thrive.

We don’t know all the particulars of the CB Insights algorithm, but we do know that it includes factors such as portfolio selection (attractive companies), co-investment partners (successful syndication) and investment returns (exit events).

For UCAN to have success along any of those dimensions means that our ecosystem is attracting talented entrepreneurs, who are creating strong companies, that are attracting smart risk-tolerant capital from local investors, and generating attractive financial returns from exit events – which is ultimately the key to keeping the flywheel spinning. In other words, UCAN’s ranking is a function of the leaders, entrepreneurs and investors in our community who have been willing to risk failure for a chance to build successful new companies and a healthy startup community.

Here are three quick examples of successful UCAN investments that have drawn from the growing strength of that ecosystem – and surely helped generate points for UCAN in the CB Insights scoring system.

In 2006, aspiring entrepreneur Michael Bolick attended an InnoVenture conference where he learned about a Clemson University technology that he later licensed to form Selah Technologies. After receiving critical funding from individuals, SC Launch and UCAN, Selah Technologies eventually became Selah Genomics, which was recently acquired by EKF Diagnostics for $75 million, creating a several-fold return for investors.

In 2010, concerted efforts by city, county and state leaders, along with economic developers like GADC, Upstate Alliance and SCRA, led to the relocation of electric bus-maker Proterra from Colorado to Greenville. In 2011, key local business leaders partnered with UCAN and SCRA to provide the company with critical bridge funding while prestigious venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins considered an investment.

Since then, Kleiner has led multiple rounds of venture capital investment totaling more than $100 million alongside key industry leaders like GM Ventures and Edison Energy. As evidenced by the announcement last week that Seattle may order up to 200 Proterra buses, the company is well positioned to handsomely reward its angel and venture investors.

In 2011, Peter Barth sought to bring noted venture capitalist Brad Feld to Greenville as part of the NEXT initiative of the Chamber of Commerce. Those conversations led Barth to launch a startup accelerator now called the Iron Yard, which has helped launch over two dozen companies since 2012.

One of those companies is AuditFile, which moved to Greenville from the Bay Area to participate in the accelerator program. After receiving some local funding from UCAN and others, the team moved back to San Francisco and recently announced they have secured over $3 million in funding, led by legendary investor Tim Draper. AuditFile is now off to the races – and the Iron Yard has launched a code academy that has grown to over 10 cities in less than a year, creating another promising investment for UCAN.

There are many more stories to be told, (ask us about Charleston Pharma, Verdeeco, New York Butcher Shoppe, KIYATEC and others) but this small sample highlights that UCAN will only be as successful as the ecosystem in which it operates. Our group is a glad beneficiary of the momentum that’s been accelerating the local flywheel, and UCAN members are trying to do our part to accelerate the effort.

But just because we made a top 10 list doesn’t mean we can relax. We still have significant work to do in fully funding the promising entrepreneurs who create companies here. We need more accredited investors to participate in local funding efforts. We need entrepreneurs to continue recycling their intellectual and financial capital in building successful companies. We need our state and local agencies to make it easier, not harder for startups to set up shop and grow in our communities. We need more recognition by a broader audience that startups are key to our long-term economic vitality (it turns out startups create all net job growth in our economy).

UCAN is working to help build the infrastructure for that early stage capital marketplace by supporting the launch of new angel groups as part of the South Carolina Angel Network (SCAN). UCAN has also helped launch the Palmetto Angel Fund, which has closed on over $1 million in funding to co-invest with SCAN groups. With these efforts and others, we hope to create a more efficient marketplace for early-stage capital in South Carolina.

Our flywheel is spinning, but it’s not a perpetual motion machine. It is certainly easier to keep it spinning now than it was just five years ago, but if we don’t keep up the steady pressure, we could lose the momentum we’ve built and never make the transition from Good to Great.

UCAN Managing Director Elected to Angel Capital Association Board of Directors

Congratulations to Matt Dunbar, UCAN’s Managing Director, on his recent election to the ACA’s Board of Directors. Click here to view the official press release:

06-24-13 ACA Press Release – Board Elections Matt Dunbar


Read about UCAN Managing Director Matt Dunbar Elected to ACA Board here.

Matt Dunbar Elected to Angel Capital Association Board of Directors

North America’s trade association for accredited angel investing elects four new directors

Kansas City, MO, June 24, 2013 The Angel Capital Association (ACA), the North American trade association of angel groups and private investors that invest in high growth, early-stage ventures, has elected Matt Dunbar, Managing Director of Upstate Carolina Angel Network (Greenville, SC) to the Board of Directors.

ACA has also elected three other new directors: Theresa Sedlack of Innovation Notre Dame (South Bend, IN), Curtis Gunn of Desert Angels (Tucson, AZ), and Parker MacDonell of Ohio TechAngels (Columbus, OH).

“In our role of advocating on behalf of accredited angel investing and nurturing investing best practices across North America, ACA is pleased to bring new talent to our board to continue to best serve the needs of our constituents, said David Verrill, ACA Chairman. ACA provides professional development for angel groups, family offices and individual accredited investors and delivers services and benefits to support the success of the portfolio companies of ACA members. ACA also serves as the advocacy voice and the trusted authority on accredited angel investing.

“There’s never been a more critical time to increase the reach and resources of angel investors who provide vital early stage capital to the entrepreneurs who drive job creation and economic growth,” said Dunbar. I am honored and excited to have this opportunity to serve on the ACA Board as we work to attract and support those investors especially in underserved markets like South Carolina, where early stage capital is scarce.

As Managing Director of Upstate Carolina Angel Network, Dunbar is responsible for the strategy and operation of the Greenville-based group of investors that has invested $7 million in 26 companies since its founding in 2008. Dunbar began his career as a chemical engineer with Eastman Chemical Company and later worked with several Fortune 500 clients as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group after completing his MBA at Stanford.

Active in his community, Dunbar also has a passion for education and serves as a Visiting Lecturer in Venture Finance in the Clemson University MBA program and with the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. He is a volunteer Board Member of Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina, which teaches young people finance and business and empowers them to own their economic success. He also serves as Director on multiple portfolio company boards, providing guidance and education to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We look forward to working with the new board members,” said ACA Executive Director Marianne Hudson. “Each brings new talents and perspectives to help us continue to develop new programming that furthers the personal success of our members and strengthens our innovation economy.”


About Angel Capital Association (ACA)

The Angel Capital Association is the leading professional and trade association supporting the success of angel investors in high-growth, early-stage ventures. ACA provides professional development, industry voice, public policy advocacy and an array of benefits and resources to its membership of 200 angel groups and more than 8,500 individual accredited investors.; Twitter: @ACAAngelCapital.

About Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN)

The Upstate Carolina Angel Network, LLC (UCAN) is a group of accredited investors located in Upstate South Carolina who invest in and support start-up and early-stage, high-growth businesses in the Southeastern United States. UCAN members possess a broad array of business experiences and skills they bring to bear in helping to screen and evaluate potential portfolio companies. They also serve as a valuable resource for guidance and advice to entrepreneurs and their businesses once an investment is made. Since its inception in 2008, UCAN has invested more than $7million in 26 companies.