On-demand dog walking startup The Waggle Company rebrands as Skipper and will expand to Austin

Written By: Kylie Moore of Charlotteagenda.com

 

The Waggle Company, a Charlotte-based on-demand dog walking startup, will change its name to Skipper today ahead of plans to expand to a second city — Austin, TX.

Co-Founder and CEO, Meggie Williams shared with the Agenda that the name change reflects the company’s broader vision to shape the future of pet care services.

Williams and her husband Sebastian founded the company in February 2016 with a $5,000 investment and just one dog walker: herself.

In just over two years, they’ve grown to serve 950 homes in Charlotte (totaling 1,300+ pets) and have completed more than 50,000 visits.

Today, the company employs 61 people (including 49 team members and 12 full-time, back-office staff) and has been named StartCharlotte’s startup of the year.

Earlier this year they raised $900,000 led by Charlotte Angel Fund and recently completed Techstars Austin, a prestigious 13-week impact accelerator program.

[Agenda related story: The 34 most powerful startups in Charlotte]

 

Skipper has rapidly grown the Charlotte team, adding a social media & content manager, developer, and HR manager in the last 3 weeks. Each dog walker is professionally trained and Skipper sends real-time updates and a visit report with a GPS-tracked map and pet photos.

With all of this under its belt, Skipper is ready to expand and will launch in Austin at the end of the month.

In researching over a dozen potential expansion cities, Williams found that Austin was one of the most practical and viable markets for the service after in-depth demographic research.

It was a discovery that made participating in Techstars, and then expanding to the city, a no-brainer, Williams told the Agenda last Thursday. She’s counting on the built-in network that comes with participating in the program will allow the company to hit the ground running.

Along with its expansion will come changes to the company’s offerings, which Williams believes the new name reflects.

 

Until now, the company offered just weekday walks, but will debut weekend service, group play sessions and mobile grooming services later this summer.

“The new name – Skipper – allows us to emphasize the feeling of movement, exploration and empowerment that comes from being the captain of your own adventure,” she said in a statement.

Charlotte will continue to serve as the company’s headquarters throughout the changes.

Sebastian will oversee operations here, while Meggie plans to live in Austin and visit periodically to check in as the market grows. And it won’t stop there. They’ve got plans to raise additional funding in the next 24 months.

“The focus of future funding will be to support faster expansion into new markets as well as into new verticals,” Williams said. “to effectively build a healthy business that delivers a white-glove, personalized service, at scale.” Charlotte will serve as the centralized hub supporting new markets.

Skipper will celebrate its (re)launch this Wednesday June 13 at 6 p.m. at Sycamore Brewing during their weekly group dog walk, which will now be called Skip For Your Beer.

The Waggle Company raises $750,000 in seed round led by Charlotte Angel Fund

Written by Charlotte Bellomy of the Charlotteagenda.com

Charlotte dog-walking startup The Waggle Company has had a big six months.

They were named StartCharlotte’s startup of the year, then selected from more than 1,000 applicants to spend 13 weeks at the prestigious Techstars Austin accelerator.

Now the company has taken another huge step forward: The Waggle Company has closed on a $750,000 seed round of funding.

It means a great deal to the company, which had been bootstrapped since it was founded two years ago by Meggie Williams. In that time, dog owners around Charlotte have come to know and love the on-demand dog walking service founded on trust and targeting peace of mind. Among the features include via real-time updates, GPS mapping of your dog’s walk, and close communication with your dog walker.

Williams and husband Sebastian, now The Waggle Company’s CFO, started the company with a $5,000 investment and with Meggie as their sole dog walker (traveling by scooter, no less).

The seed round was led by Charlotte Angel Fund. “It’s Charlotte helping Charlotte,” Williams said.

 

Meggie Williams, founder of The Waggle Company

The Waggle Company team plans to use the money to continue hiring — including a lead software engineer, and expand into new markets.

There’s no timeline yet on when or where Waggle will expand.

Greg Brown, managing director of the Charlotte Angel Fund, says the fund’s members liked The Waggle Company’s approach to the Charlotte market and how they built out their platform to be able to scale beyond the city.

Even as the company expands, Williams said she intends to bring the same thoughtfulness to the company built on local community.

“Something that we care a lot about is being very hyperlocal,” Williams said. “We are a Charlotte company and we do right by our Charlotte clients, and it is a very homegrown feel. That is something that we would never want to lose…It is a family, it is a local family, and that is something that we’re trying to build.”

What does this mean for the larger Charlotte community?

Williams describes this $750,000 investment as a win for the Charlotte startup ecosystem.

Williams first presented her company at Charlotte PitchBreakfast, and she credits much of her preparedness for her later presentation to the Charlotte Angel Fund to the feedback she received there.

Directed by Juan Garzón, also the founder of StartCharlotte, Charlotte PitchBreakfast offers local startups the opportunity to pitch to panelists and an audience who provide feedback from which they can hone their pitch and brand message.

In turn, The Waggle Company is now giving back to the local startup community.

“They’re just genuinely nice people, always willing to give you their time and be supportive of other entrepreneurs…and really interested in the community as a whole,” Garzón said.

 

PitchBreakfast at Packard Place

The Waggle Company’s Charlotte roots and support network dig deeper still.

While preparing to raise money, Williams collaborated frequently with peers and friends who founded the likes of 2ULaundry (a previous Techstars selectee) and EcomDash, the recipient of Charlotte Angel Fund’s only other investment in a Charlotte-based company.

Williams has also spent the past six weeks at Techstars learning and living with the founders of Charlotte-based companies SkillPop and Milkful.

“We think [The Waggle Company] have done a great job at building the brand and the business model here in Charlotte,” Brown said. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with them as they look to expand within Charlotte as well as another market or two.”

Are Charlotte startups too shy when it comes to seeking funding?

(Note: This is a monthly startup series authored by Charlotte investor Greg Brown, the administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund, where he will discuss the current batch of startups presenting to the fund’s membership as well as topics that may be of interest to those who care about Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community.)

Much has been written on the topic of angel and venture capital availability for Charlotte-based startups.

I think that it’s fair to summarize the situation as follows:

Glass half-empty: Charlotte doesn’t have any resident venture capital firms. Further, there are relatively few active angel investors as compared to other cities of our size.

Glass half-full: We are now home to two startups with > $1 billion valuations in Red Ventures and AvidXchange.

Clearly it is possible for Charlotte startups to raise capital and build an extremely successful business. Additionally, energy and enthusiasm within the Charlotte startup community is at an all-time high.

Startups often think that they should start with angel investors. Using an example of a software company, what they will often hear is that angel investors judge them to be “too early” if they don’t have product released and a handful of paying customers. If having product released is required to attract angel investment and it takes $50,000 to build the first version of the product, where can that capital be found?

A source of early capital

NC IDEA is a private foundation with various programs intended to support entrepreneurial activity within North Carolina.

Its most well-known program is the seed grant program where startups can receive up to $50,000 in non-dilutive funding. Charlotte startups are generally aware of NC IDEA and the seed grant program.

I recently accepted an invitation to join the NC IDEA board of directors. It is something that I’m excited about doing as a way to champion the cause of Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community.

Charlotte’s relationship with NC IDEA

During the board interview process, I was asked about my impressions of the NC IDEA organization. Recognizing an opportunity to mount my soapbox, I didn’t hesitate to proclaim that NC IDEA needed to be less Triangle-centric.

Specifically, I stated that they need to be less Triangle-centric in their seed grant awards.

With 119 grants having been awarded since the program’s inception in 2006, surely the fact that only nine of the grant recipients have been from the Charlotte area is an indication of anti-Charlotte bias.

Then, they hit me with it.

“Greg, do you know how many of the over 150 applications from the most recent grant cycle were from Charlotte area companies?”

(Awkward silence)

“Two, and one of those was awarded a grant.”

(Note – WedClique was that recipient)

Two? Only two Charlotte startups put forth the effort to apply for the best known seed grant program in NC?

What needs to happen

Charlotte startups need to get into the game.

Winning an NC IDEA seed grant is one of the best ways that a company can receive non-dilutive funding and create visibility for themselves among North Carolina’s angel and venture capital investors.

In the case of Charlotte Angel Fund, we’ve invited sixteen NC IDEA seed grant winners to present to our members over the past three years and funded three of those companies. Even if you don’t win a grant, the opportunity to receive feedback from and gain visibility with NC IDEA’s grant application reviewers is invaluable.

Yet only two Charlotte companies applied.

Maybe some companies didn’t apply because they have heard that NC IDEA is biased against Charlotte companies.

Are you really going to let that stop you?

Maybe some didn’t apply because they applied in a prior year and didn’t win.

Are you not going to show more persistence than that?

Yes, it will be great when there are a greater number of active early stage investors in Charlotte. Yes, it will be awesome when more VCs are coming to Charlotte to meet with our startups in search of the next AvidXchange or Red Ventures.

Until then, be persistent. Get into the game. Utilize the resources that are available. Apply for an NC IDEA grant. Investigate whether or not Charlotte Venture Challenge is a good fit for you. Find a way to get on stage at the CED Tech Venture, 36/86, and Dig South conferences.

Kick down the door rather than waiting for someone to open it for you.

Who presented to Charlotte Angel Fund in July?

Catapult

This Charlotte-based company has developed a web-based application to streamline the RFP submission and response process. Their initial target market are retirement plan sponsors who periodically issue RFPs as a means of ensuring that their plan fees and returns are market competitive.

Clinical Sensors

Clinical Sensors is developing sensing technologies for use in hospital point of care devices. The RTP-based company is initially targeting early detection of sepsis infections with its technology.

The Waggle Company

This Charlotte-based company delivers on-demand dog walking services with same-day scheduling. They hope to expand their service offering to include managed dog park services for apartment complexes.

Here’s why we invested $125,000 in Ecomdash and what’s next for our Angel Fund

(Note: This is a monthly startup series authored by Charlotte investor Greg Brown, the administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund, where he will discuss the current batch of startups presenting to the fund’s membership as well as topics that may be of interest to those who care about Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community.)

Charlotte Angel Fund made a $125,000 investment in local company Ecomdash in late 2016. You can read about that here.

This investment was the ninth made by our group since formation in December 2013.

Notably, it was our first in a Charlotte-based company.

 

Dion and Liz busy running through forecast models (or working on their putting stroke) at the Ecomdash office.

Why Ecomdash?

We’ve known this company since 2014 when they initially went to market. In fact, they presented to our group on two previous occasions before we invested. Extended exposure to the company gave us an opportunity to see how they executed their business over time. Their achievement of milestones that they told us they would hit gave us confidence in the management team and prospects for future success.

Management of inventory is a complex issue for online retailers who sell on via multiple channels (Amazon, eBay, Etsy, company websites, etc.). We were able to speak with multiple customers who confirmed the value that Ecomdash brings to their businesses.

Lastly, we witnessed the rapid growth in the business from 2014 – 2016 and can see how the company can grow significantly from here.

In summary, we found Ecomdash to have a quality management team, a product providing a solution to a big problem, and opportunity for rapid growth. Those are things that early stage investors seek in their portfolio.

 

Ecomdash team photo via Facebook

Key message for other Charlotte startups

An important part of the story here is that our pass on the opportunity to invest in Ecomdash at earlier dates wasn’t a permanent “no.”

It is a complex set of things that must align for an investment to take place. The point is that founders should be politely persistent as they seek capital from investors.

An answer of no received today doesn’t mean that the answer won’t be different later.

Take note of what potential investors cite as their reasons for not moving forward. Keep them updated on progress and periodically inquire as to whether the time is now right to resume discussions.

State of angel investing in Charlotte

In 2016, we conducted a survey which showed that 61 surveyed local angel and venture capital investors personally invested over $35 million within the past five years. One third of that investment was in companies from the Charlotte metropolitan area.

Charlotte Angel Fund’s growth is one indicator of investor interest.

We started with fewer than twenty members at launch in December 2013, and closed 2016 with sixty active members in our fund.

Those sixty individuals are enthused about investing in early stage companies and supporting Charlotte’s developing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Beyond investing, we will attempt to support the Charlotte entrepreneurial ecosystem in multiple ways. Our members’ efforts in this area will include hosting forums at which startup founders learn about investor perspective, support of various programs for startups such as Charlotte Venture ChallengeCityStartupLabs and Queen City Fintech, and mentorship of Charlotte area entrepreneurs.

What next for Charlotte Angel Fund?

In response to interest from our existing members and others who would like to invest with us we recently launched Charlotte Angel Fund II.

Our investments going forward will be from the combination of capital remaining in the first fund and that which is raised in the new fund.

To date, we have added approximately one new company to our portfolio each quarter. That pace can be expected to continue in 2017 and beyond.

The average size of our investments will likely increase as we add to our total capital via admittance of new members to the fund.

Who presented to Charlotte Angel Fund in January?

Our lineup of presenters this month was:

Canopy

This Charlotte-based company has developed a personal financial wellness software platform. They are marketing this as an employee benefit that companies can offer to their staff. The thinking behind this is that employees who are more financially secure are happier and more productive.

Malartu

Malartu’s core offering has been a web-based platform for equity crowdfunding by companies located in the southeastern U.S. This Durham-based company is now coming to market with a suite of business analytical tools based upon data gathered from companies who provide data on their crowdfunding site.

Seamless.AI

This Ohio-based company has a web browser add-on product that is designed to provide sales organizations with highly accurate and useful contact and background information on prospects. Revenue is generated from software licenses as well as sale of leads generated by the company using its platform.

What do Charlotte companies need to know about crowdfunding?

(Note: This is a monthly startup series authored by Charlotte investor Greg Brown, the administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund, where he will discuss the current batch of startups presenting to the fund’s membership as well as topics that may be of interest to those who care about Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community.)

The concept of crowdfunding for companies has greatly increased in popularity in recent years. Companies that are developing their financing plans need to understand the different types of crowdfunding and the impact that each method may have on their ability to raise capital in the future.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital for a project or company from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. It can be applied to for-profit ventures, creative projects, social causes, or initiatives such as collecting donations to cover someone’s medical expenses. GoFundMeKickstarter, and AngelList are each examples of crowdfunding sites, each serving very different purposes.

There are three primary ways that a company can raise capital via crowdfunding.

(1) Pre-selling product

Sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter can be used to take pre-orders for a company’s products. It is often used to raise the capital required to produce the afirst units of a product, including tooling or other costs of manufacturing setup.

This type of crowdfunding is a very good way to test the market for a consumer product idea. If the concept generates enough enthusiasm to get people to pay in advance of the product being available for delivery, the chances are good that the product is in fact addressing a market need.

Angel and venture capital investors will look at a successful crowdfunding campaign of this type as a positive signal, thus it will enhance the company’s ability to raise equity capital in the future.

(2) Selling equity to accredited investors

The concept of crowdfunding can also be used to sell equity ownership to what are known as accredited investors. The term accredited investor means a person or entity that is free to invest in non-publicly traded stock via meeting the government’s income or net worth criteria. Right or wrong, the government views these people as having the level of financial sophistication required to understand and take the risk associated with illiquid investments.

Sites such as AngelList and Malartu are used by early stage companies to raise capital from accredited investors. A startup or a fund might decide to use such a site in order to increase the audience that is exposed to their investment offering. An example of this is the QC Fintech accelerator program, which has raised funds for its program via the Malartu platform.

Having raised equity capital via an equity crowdfunding campaign that is limited to accredited investors will not in any way impair the company’s ability to raise future funds from angel or venture capital investors.

(3) Selling equity to non-accredited investors

This is where things start to get complicated. Recent legislative changes allow companies to raise a limited amount of capital from non-accredited investors. There are also restrictions on the total amount that a non-accredited investor may invest in any one year. Such offerings must be conducted via an online crowdfunding platform.

The idealist in me likes the idea of people being able to do what they please with their money. The realist in me foresees problems for all involved.

Angel and venture capital investors pay a lot of attention to who the other shareholders are when they make investments. This is important because an upset shareholder can create a lot of headaches for the company and anyone involved with it. They want to know that the other investors have reasonable expectations, and understand the risk that they took when making their investment.

Because non-accredited investors are likely to have very little experience with such investments, and little tolerance for the financial risk associated with them, investors will be extremely hesitant to provide subsequent funding to a company that raises capital via this method. I do not envision that Charlotte Angel Fund would ever fund such a company.

Startups need to be very mindful of the impact that raising capital via this method will have on their ability to obtain future funding.

Who presented to Charlotte Angel Fund in November?

Our lineup of presenters this month was:

Felix Gray

Felix Gray is an eyewear brand based around eye health in the digital age. This New York-based company offers eyewear with specialized lenses to filter blue light and eliminate computer glare.

ThreatSwitch

This Charlotte-based company has developed a software platform where security managers of federal contractors with security clearance can access and stay compliance with required regulations. It aggregates regulated information on employee behavior, contracts, facilities, and documents and facilitates management of compliance with security clearance standards.

Voxelight

This Raleigh-based company has developed the Sunscreenr device that allows consumers to see whether they have missed a spot when applying sunscreen. They have successfully completed crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and plan to deliver their first products to consumers in Q2 2017.

Does a startup company need to leave Charlotte in order to get funded?

(Note: This is a monthly startup series authored by Charlotte investor Greg Brown, the administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund.)

No, it does not.

Founders who do a good to great job of building a company in an interesting market will have capital available to them.

The following Charlotte area companies agree with me.

AvidXchange – raised $225M of growth funding in 2015.
MapAnything – raised $7.3M of venture capital funding in 2015.
Passport– raised $8M of venture capital funding in 2016.
Payzer – raised $4.2M of venture capital funding in 2016.
RedVentures – raised $250M of growth funding in 2015.

The 61 Charlotte area angel investors who invested over $12M of their personal funds in Charlotte-based companies over the past five years also agree with me.

The truth is that there is less early stage capital resident in Charlotte than there is in most cities of its size.

There is no venture capital firm that calls Charlotte home, and most of Charlotte’s high net worth individuals are much more comfortable with later stage investments than they are with investing in startups.

However, this should not deter a Charlotte-based entrepreneur from starting a business in the Queen City.

Investors live and die based upon deal flow. Finding high quality investment opportunities is difficult, and investors will stretch their geographic boundaries for a good to great company.

Charlotte-based entrepreneurs will have to be creative and diligent in order to win mindshare from investors who typically focus on other geographies, but it absolutely can be done and we have the examples above to prove the point.

What investors won’t do is go out of their way for a mediocre opportunity. But founders, you aren’t building something mediocre, are you?

Who is presenting to Charlotte Angel Fund in September?

Our lineup of presenters this month is as follows:

Design Trade Service

This Texas-based company has developed an online marketplace that connects interior designers with furniture manufacturers. This marketplace allows individual designers to access better product and pricing than they are otherwise able to acquire.

iScribes

This Durham-based company offers a solution which reduces the time and money involved with medical documentation. Its mobile application, initially targeting the orthopedics market, connects physicians with trained medical scribes who prepare patient visit notes in real time.

Tenant Turner

Tenant Turner is a Y Combinator alumnus that has developed a software solution that helps landlords reduce vacancy. This Virginia-based company vets and scores tenant leads and schedules viewings with the property manager or self-access lockbox.

Why do Charlotte angel investors like to invest in certain industries and not others?

(Note: This is a monthly startup series authored by Charlotte investor Greg Brown, the administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund, where he will discuss the current batch of startups presenting to the fund’s membership as well as topics that may be of interest to those who care about Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community.)

Entrepreneurs are often frustrated when they hear the following from a potential angel investor.

“Your industry just isn’t one that is a good fit for angel investment. That doesn’t mean that your business cannot be successful, but it isn’t the sort of high return opportunity that angel investors require.”

In order to understand what makes a particular industry appropriate for angel investment, we must first understand the basic math related to angel investing.

Looking for 20% IRR, and 10x opportunities

You will often hear that angel investors and venture capitalists are seeking an internal rate of return (IRR) of 20% or greater on their portfolios. The reason why that required rate of return is so high is that the return has to be that large to justify taking the extraordinary amount of risk associated with investments at a company’s early stage.

In 2012, Willamette University conducted a study of US and UK angel investing returns. Their findings are shown in the following chart.

 

In summary, the findings were:

  • Average return on angel investments is 2.5x the amount of capital invested (i.e. $100,000 invested would return $250,000).
  • In any one investment, the angel investor is more likely than not to lose money.
  • The production of cash is highly concentrated in winners, with 90% of all cash returns produced by 10% of the exits.

For the overall portfolio math to work, the angel investor needs a portfolio where the successful companies have the opportunity to return extraordinary amounts of capital. This is commonly referred to as 10x, meaning that if the company is reasonably successful there should be an opportunity for the angel investor to receive a $1,000,000 return for each $100,000 invested.

The truth of it is that the portfolio winners have to cover all of the angel investor’s losses, plus provide all of the portfolio gains. This is why an angel investor would never want to invest in something where the maximum gain potential was a doubling of the investment. If half of the investments are going to fail, having the other half double in value is not nearly enough to bring the overall portfolio to a return of 2.5x the invested capital.

Here are the attributes of interesting industry sectors for angel investors

In looking for investment opportunities that have the opportunity to return 10x, the savvy angel investor will consider the following relative to the startup’s sector:

  • Is the potential market large enough to support a 10x return at reasonable (5% or less) market share attainment?
  • Is the business able to scale in a capital efficient manner? This is important because any future capital that is required will dilute the angel investor’s ownership stake in the company, and likewise the return received when the business is eventually sold.
  • Can the business produce high enough profit margins to entice an acquiring company to pay a large multiple of revenue or profits?

Thinking about the above, it is easy to see why angel investors love software companies. They can typically scale easily (no geographic limitations) and in a capital efficient manner (no brick and mortar facilities) while having an opportunity for high profit margins (small incremental costs to add another customer). Conversely, the following industries can be seen as relatively unattractive for angel investors:

Real estate: 10x returns typically not possible, and expansion requires a lot of additional capital.

Brick and mortar retail: Geographically limited with high cost to expand.

Services: Relatively low margins due to additional labor cost for each new customer, difficult to hire fast enough to allow for explosive growth, and geographic limitations.

Who is presenting to the Charlotte Angel Fund in August?

Our lineup of presenters this month is as follows:

International ThermoDyne

This Charlotte-based company is developing devices that harvest energy from unique sources, and converting that energy into electricity. Its initial product is PhelTex, which is a cloth-like material that captures heat and motion energy.

ProctorFree

This Huntersville-based company has a software solution that provides automated, online exam proctoring for educational institutions, certification bodies, and businesses. This company, and its founders Mike Murphy and Velvet Nelson, have been long-time members of the Charlotte startup scene.

uVision 360

This Triangle-based company has developed a hysteroscopy system designed to allow more gynecological procedures to be performed in an office vs. hospital setting. They are raising capital to fund what they hope to be the final stages of their FDA approval process.

 

Charlotte Angel Fund Invests in InHerSight

Robust User Community and Increasing Societal Focus on Women’s Workplace Issues Drive Funding

Charlotte, NC – Early stage investment group Charlotte Angel Fund announced today a $100,000 investment in InHerSight., a company focused on bringing transparency to the working world for women.  This investment was a part of the Company’s $750,000 equity funding round. This is the Fund’s tenth investment since formation in December 2013. 

InHerSight, based in Durham, NC, has created a company ratings and jobs platform for women.  Among the factors making this an attractive investment were the more than 37,000 rated companies and the increasing awareness and importance of women’s workplace issues.

In addition to funding from Charlotte Angel Fund, participants in the InHerSight funding round included The Motley Fool and Hunt Technology Ventures, L.P. 

A significant factor in the Fund’s investment selection was the strong InHerSight co-founding team of Ursula Mead, Daniel Stapleton, and Adam Hill, who were in leadership roles at The Motley Fool prior to founding InHerSight. Their experience and expertise in user community development gained at The Motley Fool is a significant asset to the Company.

“InHerSight has done a terrific job of building a community that is exchanging of information about the items which matter most to women in the workplace,” stated Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund’s Administrator.   “Insights gained from this will be extremely valuable to employers as they seek to ensure that they are attracting and retaining top female talent.  We are pleased to have participated in this financing, and look forward to the continued development of the company and this exciting platform.”

Charlotte Angel Fund Selects Ecomdash As Its First Charlotte Investment

CHARLOTTE, Jan. 03, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ecomdash, an ecommerce automation software, has been selected to receive investment capital from the Charlotte Angel Fund. The selection marks the first Charlotte-based investment by the capital group.

"We are very excited to have had the opportunity to add Ecomdash as our ninth portfolio investment,” said Greg Brown, Administrator of the Charlotte Angel Fund. “Their dramatic growth over the two years that we have followed the company are a tribute to the entire Ecomdash team. Importantly, this is our first investment in a Charlotte-based company.”

Ecomdash CEO Nick Maglosky presented Ecomdash to the Charlotte Angel Fund. The process included a formal pitch, due diligence, and a final vote by the members of the fund. Ecomdash will receive $125,000, which is part of a larger round of financing. Funds will go toward a few key strategic initiatives as well as sales and marketing efforts.

“We’re very excited to have Charlotte Angel Fund as part of our investor team,” said Maglosky. “We are particularly proud to call Charlotte our home, so this investment is about more than just Ecomdash. It’s about fueling the continued growth of the Charlotte startup ecosystem.”

The Charlotte Angel Fund cited Ecomdash’s sustained growth as a major driver in its decision.

“Ecomdash is a sterling example of the development of Charlotte's entrepreneurial community,” said Brown. “That growth will certainly lead to further investments by our group in local startups.”

About Charlotte Angel Fund

Charlotte Angel Fund was formed to invest in high growth, early stage startups in the Charlotte region and across the Carolinas. It is a committed capital group, meaning the 60+ members of the Fund have pooled capital for investment in these opportunities. Monthly meetings are held where new opportunities are presented to all members. The group remains open to new members. For more information, please see www.CLTAngelFund.com or contact Greg Brown at gbrown@CLTAngelFund.com or 980-307-0754.

About Ecomdash

Ecomdash is a software-as-a-service that automates backend operations for ecommerce sellers. Ecomdash streamlines and integrates omni-channel retailers’ inventory, sales orders, product listings and shipping processes across marketplaces like Amazon and eBay as well as ecommerce-ready website platforms like Shopify. Ecomdash gives merchants the ability to grow sales, save time, and increase customer satisfaction. For more information, please see www.ecomdash.com or contact mktg@ecomdash.com or 704-687-8067.

Charlotte Angel Fund Releases Results of Charlotte area Early Stage Investor Survey

Charlotte, NC – Charlotte Angel Fund, an early stage investment group, today announced the results of a survey that it conducted of Charlotte area angel and venture capital investors.  The survey’s purpose was to gain a better understanding of the investment history and outlook of Charlotte’s early stage investment community. 

The survey respondents were 61 Charlotte area residents who identified themselves as active angel or venture capital investors.  Those 61 respondents reported that their personal investments in the categories of angel or venture capital within the past five years totaled $36.175 million.  It should be noted that this represents investment of personal funds rather than any funds which the respondents may manage on behalf of others, and excludes investment into any business where the investor is involved in management.

“The total of over $36 million of angel and venture capital investment made by Charlotte area residents demonstrates that there is a significant level of early stage capital available in our city,” stated Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund’s Administrator.  “That equates to $7 million of investment per year, or 14 startups that can be funded at $500,000 annually by those who responded to the survey.  It should also be noted that the 61 survey responses represent only a fraction of Charlotte’s active angel and venture capital investors.”

The survey gathered data with regard to the geographic regions where those 61 investors made their investments over the past five years, and where they believe that their investments will be made over the next five years.

“The data clearly indicate that Charlotte investors disproportionately invest close to where they live, with a full one-third of their capital going to early stage companies in the Charlotte metro area,” said Brown.  “It is interesting to note that while the Raleigh-Durham area is seen as North Carolina’s hotbed for startups, Charlotte investors have deployed more than three times as much early stage capital in Charlotte-based companies as they have in the remainder of the state.  Looking at the prospective data, the investors intend to increase even further their commitment to investing in Charlotte, the state of North Carolina, and the southeast U.S.”

With regard to investment by industry sector, software & apps as well as healthcare were the most popular.

“As expected, software and healthcare were the sectors which received the most early stage investment dollars,” commented Brown.  “Of note is that Charlotte investors expect to increase their allocation to software over the next five years, with a corresponding decrease in healthcare startup funding.”

Charlotte investors have also demonstrated a willingness to provide substantial capital to individual companies.  Over half of the survey respondents have invested $100,000 or more in a single company, with 15 of them having provided $250,000 or more in investment to an individual company. 

“This survey data should be seen as extremely positive news for Charlotte as a whole, and in particular for our city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” stated Brown.  “Charlotte residents have demonstrated a willingness to provide capital to startups in this city and throughout the state, and intend to increase their allocation to those areas.” 

Brown continued, “It is heartening to see the increased level of attention being paid to Charlotte’s entrepreneurial companies, as it is from that community that the drivers of Charlotte’s economic future will emerge.  Hopefully this survey will enable data-driven discussions between policy makers, entrepreneurs, and investors rather than having to rely upon anecdotes.”

Brown concluded, “This survey was conducted as a part of Charlotte Angel Fund’s efforts to create a more cohesive early stage investment community in Charlotte.  By doing so we aim to improve investment outcomes for angel and venture capital investors in the area, increase the amount of capital that is available to local startups, and make it easier for Charlotte’s entrepreneurs to make themselves visible to local investors.

Charlotte Angel Fund Invests in PRSONAS, Inc.

Charlotte, NC – Early stage investment group Charlotte Angel Fund announced today a $94,000 investment in PRSONAS, Inc., a company focused on development of holograms which use artificial intelligence as a means of augmenting their customers’ branding efforts.  This investment was a part of the Company’s $525,000 convertible debt funding round. This is the Fund’s sixth investment since it formed in December 2013. 

PRSONAS, based in Durham, NC, was an attractive investment due to its unique position of being a cutting edge technology company that has product in the market and a significant customer base.  The company’s holograms are used by over 40 customers as digital greeters in a variety of settings.

In addition to funding from Charlotte Angel Fund, participants in the PRSONAS funding round included IMAF Coastal Plain, IMAF Sandhills, and IMAF East.  Concurrent with the funding, PRSONAS also added former Red Hat executive Tom Rabon and former DigitalSmith’s executive Petra Weishaupt-Smith to its board of directors.

A significant factor in the Fund’s investment selection was the strong PRSONAS co-founder team of David Rose and Chuck Rinker.  Their combination of experience and expertise in the areas of sales and technology development were keys to the investment decision.

“To have been able to develop a sophisticated technology product, launch it, and land over 40 customers with no external funding speaks volumes about the PRSONAS team,” stated Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund’s Administrator.   “We are pleased to have participated in this financing, and look forward to the development of the company and this exciting technology.”

Charlotte Angel Fund Invests in Camras Vision, Inc.

Charlotte, NC – Early stage investment group Charlotte Angel Fund announced today an $81,000 investment in Camras Vision, Inc., a medical device company focused on developing a treatment for glaucoma.  This investment was a part of the Company’s $600,000 Series Seed funding. This is the Fund’s fifth investment since it formed in December 2013. 

Camras Vision, based in Research Triangle Park, NC, was an attractive investment due to its novel approach for treatment of moderate to severe glaucoma sufferers, and its strong management team.  The Camras Shunt, which is designed for glaucoma patients who have failed pharmaceutical therapy, is less invasive and provides patients with an accurate pressure adjustment.

To date the company has been engaged in pre-clinical testing of the shunt and development of its patent portfolio.  A six month animal study in expected to conclude in 2016, which will pave the way for first in-man studies.

In addition to funding from Charlotte Angel Fund, participants in Camras Vision’s Series Seed round include IMAF Coastal Plain, IMAF Sandhills, IMAF East, RTP Capital, and IMAF RTP.  In addition, the company has received grant funding from the NIH and NSF.

A significant factor in the Fund’s investment selection was Camras Vision’s strong management team.  The company’s Chief Scientific Officer is Dr. Lucinda Camras, who developed the Camras Shunt.  CEO Ray Krauss previously served as COO of Summit Technology (developers of LASIK eye surgery technology) and Division VP of Johnson & Johnson’s Ophthalmic Division.  Roberto Alfaro, President, brings operational and financial expertise to the team.

“The Camras Vision team brings passion, focus and a strong background in ophthalmic technology and business development,” stated Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund’s Administrator.   “We are pleased to have participated in this financing, and look forward to participating in the development of the company and this exciting technology.”