Startup Southerner is proud to present the Southern Startup Report in partnership with LookFar, a New Orleans software development studio committed to supporting and accelerating technological innovation in the greater Southeast. The Southern Startup Report is a twice-monthly, curated newsletter covering the latest startup happenings in the American Southeast. Subscribe here if you like what you’re reading.
Southern Startup News for May 19-June 2:
Atlanta, GA – Engage Ventures Launches $15M Early Stage Fund – SSR veterans should be familiar with the Engage Fund. The Atlanta-based firm first made waves way back in January. It’s ambitious, it’s big, and it’s uniquely Atlanta; the groups behind it include highly-regarded Georgia Tech accelerator ATDC, representatives from the office of Mayor Kasim Reed, and a rogue’s gallery of corporate giants, Cox, AT&T, and Delta Airlines among them.
It’s a public/private/academic partnership at a level that’s become routine for Atlanta, but unheard of in most other cities. Now, the fund is officially opening for business. Startups can apply for a coveted spot in the three-month program, which brings with it mentoring, direct access to partner companies, and some serious funding – $75K to start, with the promise of knock-on capital for high-performers. Thiago Olson has been named Managing Director of the fund.
Durham, NC – American Underground Acquires Big Top – Terms haven’t been disclosed, and there’s no unicorn involved on either side of the table, but the Triangle may have just seen a milestone acquisition. American Underground, one of ten North American Google Tech Hubs and a gathering point for Durham’s rising entrepreneurial scene, has just acquired Big Top, a career placement company active since 2011. ExitEvent, a tech media company owned by American Underground, will manage operations in tandem with Big Top’s existing team.
Created by original MapQuest co-founder Chris Heivly, Big Top is an odd duck in the career fair world. Their events flip the usual formula on its head; employers pitch to employees, who then talk further to interesting companies. It’s an interesting way to solve the talent pinch that Southeastern ecosystems often feel, and it seems to be working, as Big Top sits on a database of over 4,000 high-skill prospects.
That number’s sure to grow moving forward, as one of American Underground’s stated priorities is to ramp up the number of Big Top events currently held. Reach is also a primary goal; ExitEvent editor Laura Baverman has stated that she’s interested in eventually seeing Big Top move beyond North Carolina’s borders. All told, it’s a major aggregation of entrepreneurial resources, and may prove to a novel, robust solution to a tech talent bottleneck in the The Triangle.
Memphis, TN – Innova Memphis Raises New AgTech Investment Fund– Agricultural innovators have a major new source of capital to tap in Tennessee. Innova Memphis is a fund started by Tennessee 501c3 and entrepreneurial support organization Memphis Bioworks. Since its inception in 2007, Innova has invested in over 60 companies across the mid-South. They’re broad-spectrum in nature, and focus on seed to early-stage companies in healthcare, tech, and agtech verticals. Their newest asset is the Ag Innovation Fund IV, valued at $31M. As with past funds, Innova intends to invest the capital across a number of regions, relying heavily on local organizations as they do so.
Across the South – WeWork Opens Competition for $1.5M in Grants – Attention Southern entrepreneurs in search of capital: WeWork wants to talk to you. The unicorn coworking space startup is offering grants ranging from $18K to $360K to qualified startups hailing from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. The cash is part of WeWork’s $20M Creator Awards program, which awards grants to idea, early-stage, and scaling startups.
Now. How can you get your paws on it.
Pretty simple – the Southern Creator Awards take place in Austin, TX at some point this month. Applications to pitch for an award are due in by June 12, so hustle up and get your name in.
Birmingham, AL – Alabama Launchpad Awards $90K in to LEAP Competition Winners – Alabama Launchpad is at it again. One of the South’s most active, and most effective channelers of capital, has split $90K in funding to three local companies. I’m reporting on this for a few reasons. First, yes, we have an open crush on Birmingham, won’t even try to deny it. Second, $90K’s a lot of cash in a relatively small startup ecosystem. Finally, this is noteworthy because LEAP(Leading Entrepreneurs, Accelerating Progress) is a competition open only to past winners of Alabama Launchpad events. Xpert Dox, Brewery Buddy, and Swell Fundraising had already picked up competition funding before, and their success at LEAP comes about only after going on to survive and scale.
Given how often startups – even funded startups – crash and burn, the success of these LEAP companies suggests that Alabama Launchpad’s doing something right.
Atlanta, GA – BAM Worldwide – $10M
Durham, NC – CloudFactory – $7.3M Series B
Little Rock, AR – Apptegy – $5.7M
Miami, FL – Entic – Undisclosed
West Palm Beach, FL – N2W Software – Undisclosed
June 4 – Nashville, TN – 36|86
June 7 – Kennesaw, GA – Edge UP Conference for Entrepreneurs
June 10 – Atlanta, GA – 500 Startups Unity and Inclusion Summit
June 13 – Triangle, NC – Women Entrepreneurship Entredot Expo
June 16 – Atlanta, GA – Pendomonium
June 21 – New Orleans, LA – Silicon Bayou Summer Kickoff Party
June 23 – Atlanta, GA – We Rise Women in Technology Conference
On the Blog – Net Neutrality in the Southeast: Why Emerging Hubs Should Fight for Title II – LookFar President Chris Reade weighs in on the net neutrality debate. Spoiler: we’re on the “keep it neutral” side of things here. If you’re an entrepreneur off the coasts (or one on the coasts who’s a fan of fair competition), this is a big, big deal. I think you should read this, and talk to me if you’d like to add your voice to the discussion.