Atlanta-based Panoramic Ventures has launched with one of the largest funds ever by a venture firm in the southeast.
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The new firm is a partnership between entrepreneur and investor Paul Judge, and BIP Capital. Its $300 million fund will be used to look outside Silicon Valley and the Northeast to other emerging tech hubs — from Florida to Minnesota and as far west as possibly Nevada — while also focusing on racial and gender diversity.
“This region of the southeast and the midwest has been overlooked,” said Judge, managing partner and co-founder of the firm with BIP Capital co-founder Mark Buffington.
Buffington, who has invested in more than 80 companies, said he believes this new fund to be the largest ever raised by a venture capital firm in Atlanta.
Buffington said there is somewhat of a disconnect between where venture capital is being raised and the general startup community.
“More than 50 percent of unicorns start outside the Bay Area, but 75 percent of (money for) new (U.S.) funds are in the Bay Area,” he said.
Atlanta continues to emerge as one of the U.S.’ largest tech hubs outside of New York and California. According to Crunchbase data, funding for venture-backed startups based in the area hit nearly $2 billion across 188 deals — a five-year high. The city also has witnessed three companies become unicorns in the past six months — Greenlight, SalesLoft and Calendly.
“There is a growing swell of innovation here,” Buffington said.
Panoramic anticipates continuing that swell, leveraging the city’s colleges and universities, large corporations and its influence on U.S. culture, said Judge, adding there are 30 Fortune 1000 companies in Georgia.
Searching for diversity
Along with concentrating on overlooked markets, Panoramic will try to identify diverse founders. The firm’s team has a history of backing minority and woman founders, including investments in LeaseQuery, Cove.tool, OncoLens and Eventeny.
Aside from co-founding companies such as security firm Pindrop, consumer Wi-Fi company Luma Home and web security company Purewire, Judge himself is co-founder and partner at incubation center TechSquare Labs and sits on the investment committee of the SoftBank Opportunity Fund, which is focused on Black, Latinx and Native American founders.
He said it is often difficult for minority entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door at many venture capital firms, and although the advent of things such as Zoom may have enabled more meetings between firms and minority founders in different parts of the country, it is still not enough.
“It has helped, but the playing field has been unlevel for 400 years,” he said. “So even if we made 10 years of progress we still have 390 years to make up for. That’s just the reality.”
Judge said he applauds the efforts many corporations and venture capital firms have made in the wake of the George Floyd killing, but more has to be done to get minorities in general partner and decision-making positions at venture capital firms.
“When the person making the decision can relate to the person who walks in the front door, even implicit bias goes away,” he said.
Diverse founders uncover problems other entrepreneurs may not since they have had different life experiences, he added.
“I joke sometimes that being Black in America equips you to be the perfect entrepreneur,” he said. “You have to learn how to perform in the face of adversity, learn to have grit. All the things you look for in an entrepreneur.”
Panoramic will look at a wide range of categories to invest in, including cybersecurity, enterprise IT, work-from-home technologies and fintech — a sector that Atalanta knows well as the home of companies such as Kabbage and Greenlight.
The new fund will be “stage agnostic,” Buffington said. “We can write a $100,000 check to a startup or a $20 million check to a company that is scaling.”
Although this is the first fund Panoramic will launch, it will not be the only fund the firm handles. Four of BIP Capital’s previous funds — with more than $640 million invested — will be handled by Panoramic as BIP’s venture capital arm is rebranded.
As Panoramic grows, the hope is the venture market around the southeast also will grow and offer opportunity to those often left behind in the investing world.
“There’s still not extremely meaningful venture capital in this region, and we just looked and thought ‘what should this look like in 10 years?’” Judge said.
Image: Paul Judge and Mark Buffington, co-founders of Panoramic Ventures. Photo courtesy of Panoramic Ventures.
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