State of venture capital in the Triangle

This article was written for our sponsor, Vaco. 

Now is an exciting time to do business in the Triangle area. That’s particularly true for companies that are just getting started and looking for funding. “There are more options now for someone raising money than there ever have been,” said Josh Haymond, managing partner of talent solutions company Vaco’s Triangle presence.

Not only that but there are more local options.

“There has always been an interest in our marketplace for emerging-growth companies through venture capital funding,” said Haymond. “But it does seem like the buzz is at a really high pitch right now.” North Carolina was ranked America’s Top State for Business in 2022 by CNBC, a distinction that comes after its No. 2 ranking last year and top 10 position since 2007. The state is successful because state leaders craft legislation that benefits business and the economy, making decisions that transcend political divisions, according to CNBC.

“The other main reason that we continue to be at the top of many ‘best places to work’ type of lists is the focus in North Carolina on emerging-growth companies, specifically within software and life sciences or, you could say, technology and life sciences,” said Haymond. Venture capital investment helps new companies grow, and it’s changed significantly as people recognize it more than a couple decades ago. “Along those lines, globally there has probably never been a better time to start a company than there is now,” said Daniel Caldwell, a growth consultant at Vaco. “I think that’s because more people are aware of what venture capitalism is, and legislation has been passed for more people to invest in venture capital.”

The past year has been a big change in the business climate in the Triangle area.

“Talent attracts talent,” said Caldwell. “Our university and community college systems are the best in the country. In addition, Raleigh is a recipient of massive amounts of talent and expertise due to the migration of the pandemic. There are a lot of talented people who weren’t here maybe 6 or 12 months ago. I think Raleigh-Durham is poised to do really well.” It’s not just awareness that’s high; a fifth of public U.S. companies got venture capital financing in 2015, according to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. So, there are opportunities for people with innovative ideas. “That means there is more money to get companies started than at any point in human history,” said Caldwell.

The two big things local VCs look for before choosing to invest are an entrepreneur’s previous experience and passion for the venture, he said.

“VCs want to know that entrepreneurs are willing to disrupt their traditional professional career paths in order to make their company successful,” said Caldwell. “VCs first invest in people. Business owners must be able to prove their ability to develop professional teams and networks. These teams and networks succeed and repeat, and an entrepreneurial ecosystem is created. With these parameters, RDU has one of the best startup ecosystems in the country. Red Hat, an RDU-based company, is a great example. They’re a company that invests in teams and networks and has home-grown companies built within.”

Caldwell knows the challenges that come with starting and running a successful business.

“In 2016, I founded a technology venture-backed company, and in 2021 that company was acquired by a Fortune 100 company,” he said. “I was passionate about hiring technical talent, and that’s why we were so successful. As a three-person startup sitting in a 300-square foot basement apartment with no windows, my company needed the autonomy and expertise of independent experts. We were blessed to recruit a senior software engineer from SAS. Investing in – and trusting – top talent allowed our users an amazing experience and ultimately developed a technical platform which caught the attention of a Fortune 100 company.”

In the Triangle area, businesses have been able to move from relying on outside money to relying on local venture capital firms. When Triangle companies receive support, it benefits the entire local ecosystem. “When you also think about the value of a local investor versus an outside investor, the local investor has a lot of other local relationships that can benefit that founder or company,” said Haymond. “Thinking through a service provider network: Who are the best attorneys? Who are the best banks that will give us the most favorable rates? The more local arms we can get around an emerging-growth company early on, the more investment we see in the Triangle business ecosystem.”

The growth is only going to continue as the local ecosystem gets stronger and feeds back into itself. “We need to continue the energy surrounding creating locally-focused investors, angel investment groups, and venture capital funds,” said Haymond. “A lot of the venture capital funds that are popping up came from an investor who created their own successful company. There are wins being celebrated, investments being made, new investors jumping in. The Triangle is moving forward.”

This article was written for our sponsor, Vaco. 

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