Venture capital funding fell in North Carolina, across the southeast and also nationally, according to new data from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Entrepreneurs in North Carolina attracted more than $122 million in venture capital investment in the third quarter, a decline of $14 million from the previous three months but $19 million higher from the year’s first quarter.

Most of the deals totaling more than $100 million were made in the Triangle, led by a $40 million round landed by Durham-based iContact, an e-mail marketing firm.

Dealmakers made 17 investments, the highest quarterly total of 2010. Sixteen deals were reported in the second quarter, 12 in the third.

Venture funding increased slightly in Georgia, however, to $61.9 million spread across 16 deals. In the second quarter, 19 deals produced $53 million. Investors made 15 deals worth $117 million to start 2010.

The North Carolina action set the pace for the southeast, were 51 investments worth $240.4 million were reported. The second quarter included 54 deals totaling $328.9 million while the first quarter report included 46 deals that produced $255.5 million.

In South Carolina, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported no deals in the third quarter after noting two deals in Q2 and 3 in Q1.

However, South Carolina-based Red Ventures did land an investment from a private equity firm in August. The amount was not disclosed.

National overview

Nationally, VCs poured less money into U.S. startups in the third quarter and split this among more companies, signaling that investors are trying to be more economical with their funds.

VCs made 780 deals totaling $4.8 billion, down 31 percent in dollars and 19 percent in number of deals from the second quarter.

“While overall funding in traditionally strong sectors like Life Sciences and popular Clean Technology were down, Biotechnology continued to bring in significant funding while Software took the lead as the top generator of VC dollars in Q3,” said Tracy Lefteroff, the global managing partner of the venture capital practice at PwC. “Compared to the third quarter of 2009, investing remained relatively flat; however, despite declines for the quarter, funding remains on course to pass investment levels of 2009.”

Mark Heesen, president of the , put a positive spin on the news.

"Despite investment declines, there are reassuring signs of stability in the third quarter numbers,” Heesen said. said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA. “While the burgeoning clean technology industry will experience significant investment volatility as the sector matures, the established software and life sciences sectors continue to benefit from a steady commitment of venture capital dollars being put to work within meaningful pockets of innovation. Cloud computing, social media and security continue to show tremendous promise on the IT side while medical advances abound in biotechnology and medical device fields. But what is even more reassuring is that first time financings are holding strong, evidencing that venture investors are making a steady stream of new bets and filling the innovation pipeline, driving our industry and our future economy."

Startup investments declined 7 percent to $4.8 billion in the July-September period, compared with $5.2 billion invested during the same three-month period in 2009. A total of 780 startups received funding during the quarter — 9 percent more than the 716 companies that took slices of the investment pie last year.

Clean-tech funding falls

The study, which was conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data from Thomson Reuters, said that much of the decline stemmed from a drop in large investments in clean technology. Funding in clean-tech startups, which include alternative energy, recycling, conservation and power supply companies, has been mercurial lately. It fell every quarter last year compared with the previous year, but has been climbing this year — until the third quarter.

Despite the third-quarter funding drop, though, funding for the full year still looks to be higher than it was in 2009. So far this year, venture capitalists have invested $16.7 billion in 2,497 startups; in all of 2009, $18.3 billion was funneled into 2,916 startups.

More startups in the expansion and later stages of development got funding than last year, and, as usual, companies in these two stages received the bulk of funding. This comes as the market for acquisitions and initial public offerings for mature startups continues to be rough, which means venture capitalists are likely to be waiting for quite some time before profiting from their investments.

The number of startups in the seed stage that got funding dropped 11 percent. Companies in the early stage of development that got funding climbed 21 percent. This seems to show that investors are being more cautious about investing in wholly new ideas but remain interested in putting money toward younger companies that still have a lot to prove.

The study said that first-round financing rose nearly 60 percent to $1.2 billion, and 255 companies got their first financing in the quarter, compared with 176 in the third quarter of 2009. Most of these deals were with companies in the seed and early stages of development, which is consistent with past activity.

By industry, software startups got the most funding in the quarter — $1 billion — while biotechnology startups came in second, garnering $943.7 million. Investments in clean technology, which was higher last quarter at $1.5 billion than any quarter since the study began keeping track of investments in 1995, fell to $625.2 million — a drop of 32 percent from the same quarter in 2009.

Trilliant Inc., which makes wireless equipment for utilities to manage smart grids, snagged the quarter’s biggest single investment of $106 million. The second-biggest investment, $75 million, went to Merkle Inc., which offers database marketing services.

(The AP contributed to this report.)

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