RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – With more than $2.7 billion raised in capital, North Carolina entrepreneurial firms and investors put together a record year for deals in 2018. And the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s annual Innovators Report provides a wealth of information about one big, busy year.

Jay Bigelow, Director of Entrepreneurship for the CED, provides a deep dive of insight into the report, which was published Thursday, in a Q&A with WRAL TechWire. This is the first of two parts.

  • What were the big surprises from the report?

Certainty $2.7 billion is a big number for our state. Moreover, the fact that the largest single VC deal in the US was here in the Triangle [Epic Games, $1.25 billion]  is eye opening.  A little more “in the weeds”, and something that might be surprising to some, is the fact that nearly 200 unique investment firms participated in deals in NC in 2018.

Report: NC entrepreneurial companies raise record $2.75B in 2018; Epic tops list

  • Other than Epic this was still a strong year – what did you see as key factors as the overall strength of the companies’ performance in funding?

It was a strong year period. Venture funding is a two-sided marketplace. By that I mean we need both great companies that are scaling and investors willing to put money to work.  The past few years have seen record levels of dollars going into private equity and venture capital funds. It’s also clear that North Carolina is producing multiple, investment ready, high-growth, high-impact companies.

  • Will Epic deal bring more attention to NC? If so why, and will it be for areas other than gaming?

Absolutely! I can’t tell you the number of calls we have received from investors since that deal was announced that want to know what’s going on in North Carolina.

High profile deals like Precision Biosciences [IPO on THursday], Red Hat/IBM [$34 billion merger, pending] and Epic certainly bring additional attention to the region.

  •  The Triangle is back as the top fund-raising hub after a year – and Durham dominates there. Why so much activity in Bull City?

From an investor perspective, the physical address of the company really doesn’t matter. These companies are all part of the larger region. We need to stop thinking Durham or Raleigh or RTP if we expect step up /play in the big leagues.

  • Deals made across the state – do you see a broader ecosystem developing outside of Triangle and Charlotte?

Yes, there are multiple areas across our state that are developing innovative and entrepreneurial companies. Entrepreneurs and their businesses are the economic engine of today. It behooves each region to find ways to develop its entrepreneurial ecosystem while also playing to the unique strength of that area.

  • What impressed you about the numbers and mix of investors?

Life Science really surged in 2018.  That’s an important and somewhat unique sector within our region so it bodes well to the long-term sustainability of our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Also impressive was the 40 unique institutional firms that invested are from California.  It is time to put to rest the notion that venture funds won’t get on a plane.

Inside CED’s Innovators report: What do numbers for 2018 imply for 2019?