DURHAM – It’s no secret the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) has gone through some changes over the past year. But their core mission—to connect entrepreneurs to resources that will help them thrive and succeed—remains the same. Similarly, the Connections to Capital service has new leadership in CED’s long-standing Director of Entrepreneurship, Jay Bigelow.

Yet its purpose—to use CED’s data to connect entrepreneurs raising their first major fundraising round to strategic investors—continues.

“CED’s Connections to Capital serves a two-sided marketplace. Previously, our team had one staff member dedicated to investor relations while I focused on the entrepreneurs. The two of us would put our heads together to do the matchmaking. Ultimately, our experience is that you have to know both the companies and the investors. So last fall we reorganized our programs and services and how we staffed them,” Bigelow tells WRAL TechWire.

“I’m now able to commit the majority of my time to the Connections to Capital service. Actually, we are doubling down on this service by hiring a second full-time person. Look for an announcement soon. ”

CED also released its latest detailed Innovators capital report this week, in which Bigelow is very involved, noting in detail where and how more than $1 billion in investment capital was generated:


The service originally began in 2015 under former CED employee Dhruv Patel’s leadership when he began leveraging the data behind the Innovators Report to connect entrepreneurs seeking funds with investors looking for strategic investments. By mid-2016 it had helped six North Carolina based companies raise a collective $55 million. The service’s efficacy helped it earn its own funding in 2016—$150,000 from an NC IDEA Ecosystem grant.

Bigelow officially took over the service in the fall of 2017, but helped manage it since its inception. Prior to Patel’s departure, Bigelow partnered with Patel by tracking and managing the relationships with entrepreneurs while Patel did the same with investors. They then coordinated with each other to “matchmake” investors with entrepreneurs. Bigelow now spends about 80 percent of his time managing the service and soon will be joined by a new hire who will assist in managing the data and making connections.

Connections to Capital is primarily for first-time entrepreneurs or startups raising their first series A round or institutional investment. CED focuses on this specific group of entrepreneurs because they see the greatest need for assistance in this stage of the investment process. As Bigelow says, most entrepreneurs don’t need assistance from CED in getting in front of angel investors to raise a seed or friends and family round. Nor do they need assistance in raising subsequent rounds post Series A—once a startup has built an investment network, they no longer need assistance in connecting to funders. But identifying and connecting with the first institutional investor is difficult, says Bigelow.

The dataset the service rests on has grown substantially over the past few years. Today, the database contains over 1,400 separate investment firms—900 of which are venture capital firms. In 2016, the database contained 300 venture capital firms. Bigelow says they regularly communicate with 200-300 of the investors on a regular basis.

Working with Southeast Investment Group

Bigelow has also continued CED’s strong partnership with the Southeast Investment Group—a regional member organization of 65 different funders who meet monthly in Atlanta to hear pitches from startups. CED recommends their member companies—like Stealz—aligned with SEIG’s interests to the organization.

SEIG members make their own individual investment decisions, sometimes pooling investments, sometimes not. But instead of pitching 65 separate times to investors, a startup can pitch one time to 65 investors in one room. Bigelow says, “it’s a very efficient way for a company raising a Series A to get in front of a number of investors all at the same time.”

On average, Bigelow makes two introductions between entrepreneurs and investors per week and at any given time is working with five to ten companies. Sometimes he introduces one entrepreneur to one investor and sometimes it’s four-to-five investors. It all depends on the entrepreneur’s needs.

Even with the assistance from CED, raising a Series A or securing one’s first institutional investment is a long process. Bigelow says they can make an introduction and not see a result for a year. CED tracks the introduction from start to end from both the investment and company side. And should an investment occur, the amount will contribute to the figures found in the next Innovator’s Report.