A dozen Triangle startups raised $66.7 million in venture capital in the first quarter, a decent start to the year but significantly less than each of the preceding three quarters.
The amount of money raised by up-and-coming Triangle companies in the quarter was roughly on par with the first quarter of 2016, noted Laura Robinette, who heads the Raleigh office of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The latest data was compiled and released by the accounting firm and CB Insights.
For reasons that aren’t clear, Triangle technology startups historically have gotten off to a slow start in raising the funding they need to develop new products and boost sales and marketing efforts. Last year, for example, Triangle companies raised $63.7 million in the first quarter and substantially more in the last three quarters of the year – peaking at $117.4 million in the fourth quarter.
Triangle venture capital numbers can vary widely from quarter to quarter as a few large deals more or less can skew the numbers significantly.
In the latest quarter just two Triangle companies raised $10 million or more, with Cary business software firm Samanage raising $20 million and Boragen, a Research Triangle Park company developing a next-generation fungicide, raising $10 million. Boragen is the first startup launched by RTP’s AgTech Accelerator.
Robinette said she was struck by the fact that two-thirds of the local companies that raised money in the quarter were neither biotechnology nor healthcare companies.
“That’s so surprising because usually the larger deals in the Triangle, as well as the number of deals, are so heavily focused on biotechnology,” she said. Three Internet companies and two mobile and telecommunications companies raised money in the quarter.
The Triangle usually accounts for the lion’s share of the venture capital raised statewide, but not in the first quarter.
More than 20 companies across North Carolina raised a total of $288 million, with more than half of that amount going to one company: Charlotte-based SmartSky Networks, which raised $170 million. SmartSky is rolling out a system to to improve Internet connectivity for airplane passengers.
Nationwide, 1,104 startups raised $13.9 billion in the first quarter, a 15 percent jump in dollars raised and a 2 percent increase in the number of deals compared to the fourth quarter of 2016.
“We are seeing the U.S. funding environment slip into its new normal,” CB Insights co-founder and CEO Anand Sanwal said in a statement. “2015 was irrationally exuberant and the 2016 pullback was a reaction to that.”
Venture capital funding nationwide fell 20 percent in 2016 versus 2015.