U.S. startup funding is heating up in the Southeast, although not every state is seeing the same benefits.
That’s according to a report out today called “The State of Startups in the Southeast,” authored by BIP Capital, a venture capital and private equity firm based in Atlanta. The report details trends in venture capital funding over the past five years in nine states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. BIP Capital used data from Pitchbook and CB Insights, current as of August 31.
The report found that, overall, the amount of venture capital startups in the Southeast secure each year has gone up almost every year since 2012. Last year, startups in the region secured $4.3 billion in venture capital funding, compared to $2.9 billion in 2012. Total annual deal count has also shown positive growth — increasing from 997 deals in 2012 to a peak of 1,580 deals in 2014.
Over the past two years, however, that number has decreased, to 1,201 deals in 2016. BIP Capital notes that the largest decline in the number of deals has occurred in the early-stage market, even though the total number of angel investors in in the Southeast has increased since 2012.
BIP Capital also found that of the 108 unicorns in the U.S., seven are based in the Southeast: GreenSky, Kabbage, and Rubicon Global in Georgia; Fanatics, JetSmarter, and Magic Leap in Florida; and AvidExchange in North Carolina.
One industry in the Southeast that shows promise for growth is B2C. As BIP notes, 44 percent of unicorns in the U.S. are B2C companies. Although only 25 percent of deals funded in the Southeast over the past six years focused on B2C companies, the Southeast has roughly the same percentage breakdown of B2B to B2C unicorns as other parts of the country. This means that B2C companies are growing quickly, even if there’s not yet a high concentration of venture-backed startups in this area in the Southeast.
“We believe that the Southeast will continue to invest in this vertical, given the track record of success to date and the presence of so many Fortune 500 companies in the region,” BIP Capital CEO Mark Buffington told VentureBeat in an email.
The report found that the Southeast lags behind other regions in terms of number of unicorns — and one of the reasons for this may be the lack of collaboration among regional venture capital firms. “Limited collaboration among regional funds reduces the amount of private investment capital to help growth-stage companies accelerate. This limited capital is holding the region back from maturing further and turning out larger exits,” the report notes. “Companies end up either having smaller exits or moving elsewhere as they mature.”
Naturally, the three states that are home to the Southeast’s only unicorns — Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina — have also garnered the most venture capital south of these states since 2012. Georgia startups have secured $5 billion in venture capital since 2012, while Florida and North Carolina startups secured $7 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively. These three states also have an advantage, given that they are home to multiple large research universities, like the University of North Carolina, University of Florida, and Georgia Tech. They also boast large metropolitan areas that are home to multiple Fortune 500 companies. Buffington notes that in Georgia, 98 percent of venture capital funding has gone to startups in the Atlanta metro region.
The state from this region that’s struggling the most is Mississippi. Startups in the state have only secured 46 venture capital deals since 2012, for a total of $76 million. What’s most worrisome, however, is that venture capital investment has gone down each year since 2012 and is on track to decline by nearly half this year from 2016. Other states that performed poorly include Kentucky and Alabama, whose startups have received $406 million and $551 million, respectively, since 2012.
Buffington writes that in order to increase startup density, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Alabama should look to Atlanta as a model.
“In Atlanta, the city and state have invested in education and innovation to create an environment where talent wants to be — all of the necessary ingredients for companies to start and grow,” Buffington writes.