VentureSouth, an angel investment network, is starting a Wilmington chapter seeking to connect local investors and provide funding opportunities to entrepreneurs in the region.
Wilmington will be VentureSouth’s 14th location, according to a news release Tuesday.
“Growing our angel investment community, giving our entrepreneurs greater access to capital and seeing strong deals from throughout the Southeast are significant steps toward putting Wilmington on the map as a region with a strong entrepreneurial culture,” said Rob Kaiser, director of VentureSouth Wilmington, in the news release.
Kaiser is the publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and WILMA magazine. The Business Journal will serve as a contractor for the local chapter to organize members, plan meetings and host events, Kaiser said.
VentureSouth was first exposed to the Wilmington region through KWIPPED Inc., which the network previously invested in.
Kaiser and Robert Preville are part owners of KWIPPED. Preville is also part owner of the Business Journal.
Since investing in KWIPPED, "we have been impressed with the growing energy around starting and scaling early-stage companies here,” said Charlie Banks, managing director with VentureSouth, in the release. “We feel as if our professional process and regional deal pipeline for investors will be a welcomed addition to the ecosystem and are excited to fly the VentureSouth banner in Wilmington.”
VentureSouth considers investing in companies that are tech-enabled and have high-growth potential. The network does not typically invest in companies that have consumer products or are lifestyle- and service-based, Banks said.
The investment network looks at 20 to 30 investment deals per month across the Southeast and then narrows it down to a handful that goes through a screening process, Banks said.
“At that point, investors dictate which company will go through a formal due diligence process,” Banks said. “Then we go on a roadshow to various affiliates across the Carolinas making pitches. In the end, the findings are reported to the investors ... and they decide whether to invest.”
The roadshows consist of entrepreneurs traveling to affiliate groups to give live presentations to investors in each community.
A new angel investing network will expose more people to what is happening in Wilmington, Kaiser said.
“Having angel investors is a huge piece of the entrepreneurial puzzle. We probably have much more than the average number of people who are starting ventures here,” Kaiser said. “We've had some angel activity here, but the more we can ramp it up, the better it's going to be to get more business going here.”
For local investors, the network will allow them to learn about businesses and be part of the deal, Kaiser said.
“I think it's a good way for people who are here to get an early look at local promising companies as well as promising companies throughout the Southeast,” Kaiser said. “When a promising company is doing a roadshow at another dozen cities around the Southeast they will come through Wilmington, and we'll get a chance to evaluate them and members will have a chance to invest in them early on.”
Besides raising money, the Wilmington network can provide valuable resources for entrepreneurs and their businesses.
“One nice thing about being plugged into VentureSouth is they have a lot of connections with the next level of investors that you would go to,” Kaiser said. “When you look at this network of very experienced, connected business people, there's a lot of resources and expertise there. That is sometimes just as valuable or more valuable than the dollars that are invested.”
VentureSouth has invested in companies in the Southeast seeking $250,000 to $1 million, according to the release. Other VentureSouth groups are in Charlotte; Asheville; and Greenville, South Carolina, among others.
Its 300 members have invested a total of $35 million in 66 companies including Durham-based FarmShots in 2018.
The local chapter will have an information session
May 14 and 15 at Country Club of Landfall.
The introductory meeting is to inform attendees about goals, track record and get members on board.
“Our hope is that we can engage eight to 10 core members that would serve as a foundation for organic growth of the group,” Banks said.