While national venture capital (VC) activity continues to drop, investments in North Carolina companies continue to rise.
According to the National Venture Capital Association, venture capital investments are up nearly $9 million since this time last year in NC. The pure number of VC deals struck this far, 32, is also up from the 29 reported a year ago.
But of those 32 deals, five are notable for their size. Those deals add up to $185.4 million, or 75 percent of the total raised to date in 2016.
The top five dealmakers share a few common characteristics. They’re mostly biotech companies—with the exception of one medical device company—and they’re mostly based in the Triangle, except for one in the small western NC town of Brevard.
While the number of deals is up—as is the total amount raised during the two quarters—no single deal comes close to matching last year’s top raise of $225 million by Charlotte accounting systems software company, AvidXchange.
Notably, no tech company makes it into the top five biggest raises so far this year either. The largest tech raise was by PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh-based drone development company, who brought in $18 million.
Wilmington-based banking software provider nCino’s $15.6 million and Raleigh biometric sensor maker Valencell’s $11 million are the second and third highest raises by tech companies so far this year.
The Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Joan Siefert Rose says years of data show a sort of pendulum swing between tech and biotech—when tech is up, biotech is down and vice versa.
Perhaps that trend is continuing this year, or perhaps the big deals we’ll see in the tech sector are yet to come. We’ll know more in coming months. But for now, here’s where things stand according to data obtained from CED.
The Top 5 Largest Venture Capital Raises in Q1-Q2
1. $49.4 million: Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc.
Founded in 2014, Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc. is a UNC-Chapel Hill spinout founded to advance research and clinical trials conducted by Dr. Richard Jude Samulski, director of UNC’s Gene Therapy Center. Bamboo is testing the use of four patented gene therapies to treat four of the rarest central nervous system and neuromuscular diseases. Each drug is in a different stage of testing and development and more are expected to be added to the pipeline in future years.
In January, this startup acquired the Vector Core facility (a viral gene therapy manufacturing facility) from UNC to expedite drug manufacturing. Then in February, the Chapel Hill-based biotech company raised a Series A round of $49.4 million to expand clinical trials and scale product development.
2. $49 million: Arrivo BioVentures, LLC.
In May, Arrivo BioVentures, LLC spun out of Arrivo BioVentures with leadership from serial biotech entrepreneurs Michael F. Ackermann and Stephen Butts and $49 million committed funding from Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Rex Health Ventures, and Solas BioVentures. The company specializes in drug development, although so far it has yet to commercialize any products.
Rather, the business structure is more akin to a venture capital firm than a traditional biotech company. Meaning, the partners will collaborate with drug makers, creating a portfolio of four to six companies that they can help shepherd through the drug development and clinical trial process.
3. $47 million: G1 Therapeutics
G1 Therapeutics is a RTP-based biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing and testing cancer treatments. Its specialty is in the development of a family of proteins called cyclindependent kinases or CDKs that are in various stages of development and testing.
The recent $47 million Series C round announced in May will help the company invest in clinical trials and development.
4. $20.8 million: Gaia Herbs, Inc.
Founded in 1986 by the herbalist and botanist-researcher Richard Scalzo, Gaia Herbs is easily the oldest company on this list. Based in the western NC town of Brevard, the vertically integrated company both grows and harvests a variety of herbs from which they manufacture medicinal herbal products like caplets, teas, oils and liquid herbal extracts. Gaia sells its products online and through wholesalers like Whole Foods, Earth Fare and other natural food stores. The recent $20.8 million sum is the company’s third raise, but first since 2011.
5. $19.2 million: TearScience, Inc.
The leading cause of dry eyes is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD. But reversing and treating the dysfunction is a lot more complicated than using eye drops. TearScience, Inc. was co-founded by Dr. Donald Korb in 2005 to develop a solution to MGD.
TearScience developed two tools to identify and treat the disease: a diagnostic tool called LipiView II and a treatment tool called LipiFlow. Between the two devices, the company has filed for and received 38 patents. Sales to eye care professionals increased over 50 percent in one year, leading to the Series D round raise of $19.2 million in April.