The Southern Startup Report is a twice-monthly, curated newsletter covering the latest tech startup happenings in the American Southeast. It is produced by LookFar, a New Orleans-based software development studio. Subscribe here to get the SSR delivered to your inbox.
The big money headline of the past few weeks comes from Atlanta (a $4.9 billion acquisition), but as you’ll see below, there have been plenty of other recent funding rounds, acquisitions and mergers across the Southeast.
While summer can make things seem slow, it’s a great time to plan ahead. The Upcoming Deadlines section below feels heftier than usual, as accelerator programs and pitch competitions are gearing up for a busy and productive fall.
Speaking of sections… which section of the SSR is most useful to you? News, Recent Rounds, Upcoming Events? The “What I Wish I Knew Then” founder feature? Leave a comment and let me know!
~ Mallory Whitfield, Director of Marketing at LookFar, a New Orleans-based software development studio.
New Orleans, LA — This week our friends at The Idea Village announced that Jon Atkinson will be joining them as CEO on July 9. Atkinson, who has over 10 years of experience in finance, investment, entrepreneurship, and education, will replace Sally Forman, who has served in the Acting CEO position since last year. Atkinson is the co-founder of the local angel investment fund Lagniappe Angels and has most recently served as the first director of Loyola University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development. Meanwhile, a professor at the University of New Orleans has been awarded a three-year, $1.8 million grant to study patterns of black entrepreneurship in urban communities.
Atlanta, GA — Two notable acquisitions of Atlanta-based startups made headlines in recent weeks: healthcare payments company Cotiviti has been acquired for $4.9 billion in cash, while Neurotic Media, a digital music platform, became fitness company Peloton’s first acquisition. Atlanta-based agile software testing platform QASymphony has merged with global company Tricentis, and the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech has announced a new health tech program in partnership with ATL-based health IT provider NASCO. Atlanta-based Southern Company and the Israel Innovation Authority have joined forces by offering $2 million to fund technology-based and scientific projects that spur collaboration between the two regions. The impact investing fund GoATL Fund has closed on its second investment, committing $500,000 to support a program of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs which assists Atlanta-area minority and immigrant business owners.
Austin, TX — Atlanta isn’t the only Southern city with major acquisition news, as Austin’s WP Engine acquired Dallas-based StudioPress, further strengthening its position as a leading provider of WordPress solutions. Austin-based startup Austemper Design Systems Inc. was also recently acquired by Siemens for an undisclosed amount, and e-commerce platform BigCommerce announced that they’ll be opening their first European office later this year in London. The University of Texas at Austin announced 2 big wins: they’ll be receiving $2 million over the next 5 years from Ripple to support their Blockchain Research Initiative, and they will soon begin offering a highly selective integrated honors degree program that combines business and computer science courses, positioning students for entrepreneurship and leadership roles at tech startups.
Birmingham, AL — The 5th and final tech ecosystem insight report from Innovate Birmingham has been released, and it outlines a vision of Birmingham’s future, 5 years from now. The organization outlines an ambitious goal of doubling the city’s startup activity, aiming to have 140+ funded startups by 2023. In nearby Bessemer, Amazon has announced that they will be building a $325 million advanced, robotic fulfillment center that will initially employ 1,500 workers. Facebook is also investing in Alabama, further north in Huntsville, with plans to build a $750 million data center that will bring with it 100 local jobs.
Dallas, TX — The mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth have been on the road in Europe, singing the praises of North Texas’ “thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem” in London, Paris, and Brussels, while closer to home Joshua Baer has taken the next step in his mission of uniting entrepreneurs from across the state, as Capital Factory (which originated in Austin) opened the doors of its first Dallas location. Dallas-based startup ShearShare continued its winning streak, as the app for freelance hair stylists took home $10K at the recent Reshape the World Challenge.
Durham, NC — Fifteen North Carolina startups have been chosen from a pool of 208 submissions as the first micro-grant recipients of the NC IDEA SEED pilot program. More than $147,000 in total has been awarded to innovative startups that have the potential of becoming a seven-figure company within 5 years.
Fort Lauderdale, FL — When the SUP-X Startup Expo kicks off on July 26, it will begin with #women4women, a forum devoted to female founders, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and technologists. Florida’s largest early stage startup conference made the announcement earlier this week. The forum, which is chaired by Marcia Dawood (Angel Capital Association board member and General Partner of Mindshift Capital), will include panels on raising capital and entrepreneurship, a keynote address by direct deal expert and business builder, Samira Salman, and specialized networking for the forum participants.
Jackson, MS — The current Delta I-Fund cohort is underway, focusing on high-growth companies which have the potential to positively impact the low-to-moderate income communities throughout the Delta region, including rural areas in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. In his recent column for the Mississippi Business Journal, Matthew P. McLaughlin pinpointed two of the cohort’s startups worth watching: EasyKale, a consumer food product business, and OutFirm, a subscription-based legal services company that works with startups.
Tampa, FL — Founded in 2008 as a peer group for local tech entrepreneurs, Tampa Bay Wave is celebrating ten years of accelerating startups this week. Since launching its programs and services in 2013, Wave has worked with over 200 startups in the Tampa Bay ecosystem. Those 200+ startups have raised over $150 million in investment capital and have created over 1200 jobs in the Tampa Bay area. In other good news for the region, the new Seed Tampa Bay Early Stage Investment Fund is preparing to launch, 18 months after winning a federal grant to create an investment fund for young startups.
WHAT I WISH I KNEW THEN…
“Building a company from the ground up takes real guts and true grit — but it does not have to be a miserable grind! The sheer opportunity to create something from scratch is a beautiful, messy and incredible growth experience — both as a professional and an individual.
It’s equally important to take time to dream big and take a step back as it is to put your head down and work hard. Always take time to refocus and appreciate how far you have come while keeping in perspective the amazing future ahead.”
~ Laura Hearn, Co-Founder of Glean, Raleigh, NC
Glean is an innovative health foods company helping farmers find a profitable home for their fruits and vegetables by creating clean label, alternative products and donating pound for pound to fight hunger.