Among American startup hubs, North Carolina’s Research Triangle region has long ranked as a solid producer of tech and life sciences companies. Silicon Valley, however, it’s not.
But now, with Raleigh-based First Citizens BancShares acquiring much of the remains of Silicon Valley Bank, the North Carolina region is positioned for a higher profile. That could boost expansion of what was already one of the nation’s fastest-growing metros for venture investment.
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In announcing the purchase agreement Monday, First Citizens relayed its intention to leverage some of SVB’s connections and expertise in its own hometown. It touted the deal as a way “to support growth in the innovation and technology sectors in both Silicon Valley Bank’s markets and in the Research Triangle.”
For now, we don’t have a lot of detail on what that might mean in practice. Research Triangle was already a region on most venture investors’ radar, home t0 both to Fortnite publisher Epic Games and a well-funded cluster of life sciences companies.
It’s also home to two universities — Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — which rank in the top 15 nationally for R&D spending. Plus, per Crunchbase data, there are at least 40 venture firms, banks and other institutions based in the state that have made one or more startup investments since last year.
North Carolina was also one of a few states that saw an increase in funding last year, even as global and U.S. venture investment levels declined markedly. Overall, North Carolina saw nearly a $1 billion increase in venture capital going to the startups in its borders.
For perspective, we chart out venture funding for the past six years below:
The Research Triangle Region, anchored by the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Carey and Chapel Hill, draws the majority of venture funding that goes to North Carolina. The Charlotte area, a major financial hub that’s home to Bank of America, is a somewhat distant second.
For a sense of how Research Triangle specifically is performing on the startup funding front, we charted out investment to companies in the 15 largest towns and cities that make up the region:
To make sense of the numbers, it’s essential to take note of the dominant role Epic Games alone plays in the funding tallies. The Carey, North Carolina-based company has pulled in $4.5 billion in venture investment from VC and corporate backers since 2020, per Crunchbase data. That’s nearly half of all funding to the region. And while Epic remains a private company and several of its more recent rounds are classified by Crunchbase as venture investments, it was founded in 1991, so it’s no freshly minted startup.
Beyond Epic, other prominent local companies that have raised big rounds in the past couple years include:
- Pathalys Pharma, a Raleigh-based developer of therapeutics for late-stage chronic kidney disease, raised $150 million in a January Series A.
- FlexGen, a Durham-based developer of energy storage management software, pulled in $100 million in a July Series C. The fundraise came less than a year after its $150 million Series B.
- Pendo, a Raleigh-based product analytics platform, has raised more than $350 million in venture funding to date, including $150 million in Series F investment in July 2021.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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