As it prepares for Venture 2004, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) has released the results of its recent venture investors survey.

The survey, which asked about investment priorities, portfolio performance, as well as metrics used to gauge the vibrancy of various innovation-based regions, was completed in anticipation of the CED’s venture conference scheduled for April 27-28 at The Friday Center in Chapel Hill, the group says.

“We hope the survey results bode well for Venture 2004 presenters and for all North Carolina innovation companies,” said CED President Monica Doss. “Given the challenging funding environment lately, particularly for early-stage companies, we’re very pleased to learn that investors are optimistic about the prospects for new companies on the horizon.”

Among the survey’s most significant findings were that 86 percent of respondents said economic conditions had been more favorable in 1Q 2004, compared to 1Q 2003. Of those investors surveyed, 82 percent said their portfolio companies were stronger now compared to this time last year.

For 2004, some 42 percent of VCs said they would invest more money when compared to 2003, and 50 percent said they would close a greater number deals this year as opposed to last year. Of those deals, 45 percent of survey respondents said they planned to make significant investments in new companies this year.

Venture capitalists said a critical mass of serial entrepreneurs was the leading factor they consider important when determining a region’s investment potential. In terms of the vibrancy of an innovation region, VCs cited successful exits and favorable business climate/cooperative local government as their two most widely used metrics.

Survey respondents outside of North Carolina said the top three regions, in order, where they pursue deals were Boston, Silicon Valley and San Diego. RTP placed highly among other regions, along with Atlanta, Austin, and Seattle. When including N.C.-based respondents in the total data, RTP ranked as the most desirable innovation-based region.

For its survey, the CED contacted leading investors from across the country, and 74 venture capitalists responded. Approximately 25 percent of survey respondents came from North Carolina, and approximately 20 percent came from investor-rich regions Boston and San Francisco, as well as Atlanta, Birmingham, New York, and Washington, DC.