With a number of unknown deals in the pipeline still expected to close today, North Carolina startups and emerging companies have a chance to produce the second best year ever for raising venture capital at more than $846 million.

That total is some $5 million than reported earlier today after finding two more deals worth some $5 million.

WTW will continue to update this data as more information becomes available.

As encouraging as the money total is, perhaps most encouraging for startups – especially early stage – is the number of investments made. The deal count is now 79.

That’s the highest since 78 deals in 2002 as “nuclear winter” set in.

This is only an estimate, but it’s based on a review of securities filings, media reports and data from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Moneytree report.

A reminder: Fourth quarter deals are still being reported and wrapped up. Plus, not every company reports raising funds, and changes in SEC guidelines help firms withhold from disclosure some money raising. So more news is likely to emerge.

And as a flurry of recent activity as December draws to a close is an indication that more deals are in the pipeline.

Final figures won’t be compiled by PWC, the National Venture Capital Association, Reuters and Dow Jones until sometime in January.

However, here’s what WRAL TechWire concludes are the totals through Dec. 30:

  • 34 deals in the fourth quarter
  • Total value of those: $251 million

Year to date:

  • 79 deals
  • $846 million

Best previous year for fund-raising: 2000 at the height of the “dot com” boom at $1.8 billion

Second-best year: 1999, $854 million.

What a difference from 2012 …

There’s no doubting that the fundraising climate across the state has improved dramatically since 2012. The Skinny took a lot of criticism for writing that investment capital from VC firms was approaching irrelevancy. But there were a mere 36 deals worth a scant $203 million.

As more startups grew – especially in the Triangle – and several landed “exits” through acquisitions or IPOs, the money has followed.

In 2013, the deal count grew to 53 and investments totaled $261 million.

Last year, deal flow ticked up to 56 but some larger investments pushed the capital flow to $348 million.

The 2015 “perfect storm”

But in 2015, a “perfect storm” of better companies, a broader reach of investors from the Valley and elsewhere, and the region’s strong biotech industry has delivered an impressive year.

All those startup incubators and accelerators and shared office space efforts are no doubt helping create the companies and the environment needed to bring dollars to town – or to pry them out of local investors’ holdings. (The American Underground’s recent annual report is just one example of these startup efforts.)

The third quarter was especially strong with $363.5 million across 18 investments, ranking North Carolina fifth in the country, according to PwC.

Interestingly, dealflow has surged this current quarter to 32 but the dollar amount is down to $246 million. Yet it’s possible there are two or three big deals bubbling away that could lead to another $300-million-plus quarter.

The rash of smaller deals as compiled to date also reflects a growing source of early-stage funding, in particular from angels.

Those small deals now are bets for the Appias, Brontos and other “exits” of the future.

Yet don’t overlook big bio deals

However, before all the chest-thumping cheerleaders start yelling about how the Triangle (and North Carolina) have finally arrived as a major destination for VC dollars, some facts should be noted:

  • In the fourth quarter, one biotech deal (Humancyte, $150 million) made the quarter.
  • Novan Therapeutics, another biotech, raised more than $32 million – and earlier this year it pulled in another $50 million.
  • One big tech deal (Avidxchange, $225 million) made the third quarter.
  • Yes, there have been five-figure tech deals with NetSertive ($24 million) being the most recent. But they remain rare.
  • Investment capital also remains tough to get, as pointed out in a recent North Carolina Department of Commerce report.

But The Skinny is not Scrooge.

2015 is wrapping up as a strong year for North Carolina’s tech and life science sectors in more ways that fundraising. However, it’s certainly worth noting that the state’s entrepreneurs are on the radar screen for investors like they have not been in a long time.