Keep those nominations coming for our second annual Startups To Watch list, which we’ll reveal at an invite-only event on Sept. 29. We’re looking for early-stage (<$3M in ARR) tech or tech-enabled startups HQ’d in the Triangle. Sorry, no agencies or consultancies, and no life sciences/biotech/medical devices. The deadline for nominations is one week from today—Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m. ET.
Hot Off Presses
No post-holiday weekend lull today—let’s hit the ground running with the news that Morrisville-based ChannelAdvisor has been acquired by New York-based CommerceHub in a deal worth $663M that will result in publicly-traded ChannelAdvisor becoming a private company. The real driver here seems to be New York-based PE firm Insight Partners, which acquired a majority stake in CommerceHub in 2020 in a deal that reportedly valued CommerceHub at $1.9B. Now that Insight Partners has combined CommerceHub and ChannelAdvisor, a common PE playbook is to continue to grow via acquisition for several years before another exit, whether to another PE firm, a strategic buyer or even another IPO. If the combined company does grow, will that growth be in the Triangle? And what will it look like? We shall see!
Not surprisingly, nobody at ChannelAdvisor or CommerceHub is talking publicly beyond a predictably anodyne public statement about how the deal is a “tremendous opportunity.” Though they do say that the boards of both companies have approved the deal that is priced at a 57% premium to ChannelAdvisor’s closing stock price on Sept. 2, which already feels like a million years ago. ChannelAdvisor’s shareholders will still need to approve the deal, which should close by the end of the year if all goes to plan. At that point (or before) we hope to hear and share more from ChannelAdvisor CEO David Spitz, as well as the take of Scot Wingo, who co-founded the company and led it as CEO through its IPO.
Brooks Malone doesn’t typically break news in The Download, but hey, today is one of those rare days. This week’s subject is Levitate Founder and CEO Jesse Lipson, who is taking advantage of the Download’s powerful spotlight to announce two things: 1) the launch of a new software product called Coffee, which is the startup’s second offering; 2) they’ve raised $6M in new funding. The name “Coffee” might be ironic considering that, as you’ll learn in the Q&A, Jes doesn’t even drink coffee. Then again neither do I, and I spent years taking pictures of myself in coffee shops, so here we are. Just read the Q&A.
Road Trip Taker
We mentioned a few weeks back that CED is taking 10 CEOs of Triangle tech startups on a free trip to Boston for the prestigious Business of Software conference on Sept. 26-28, thanks to a donation by fresh-off-an-exit Bill Spruill, the CEO of Raleigh’s Global Data Consortium. Today we’re bringing you the story of the one startup in the group that we hadn’t written about before: Raleigh-based XForms.
Founder James Young’s startup enables field technicians in a variety of industries to easily create and manage forms from their mobile device to keep workflow processes humming. The bootstrapped startup has customers in fields as disparate as waste management, electric utilities and egg distributors. Read our full story on XForms here.
Raleigh-based edge computing startup EDJX and its Co-Founder and CEO John Cowan have been one of the hotter stories in the Triangle over the past few years. John has been a Download subject, EDJX was an NC TECH choice as a 2021 Startup To Watch, and EDJX was featured in TechWire’s “Tomorrow’s Unicorns” series in which you might recall that I marveled at John’s bold pronouncements like, “We could far exceed Pendo.”
Fast forward to last Friday, when TechWire reported that John left the company in March due to “creative and strategic differences of opinion” with the board, i.e. he was forced out. EDJX also confirmed that it had closed on $3M in new funding led by Durham-based Intersouth Partners, which surprised me most of all because I did not think that Intersouth was making any new investments but simply managing what remained in its portfolio. That portfolio already included EDJX from a 2010 investment in Cowan’s previous startup, 6Fusion, which spun out EDJX. But hey, edge computing is undeniably still a hot area, and as EDJX’s CFO and CTO wrote to TechWire in a statement, John is far from the first founding CEO who got replaced as a startup moved from development to commercialization.
Here’s something I’m confident in telling you: Durham-based Wolfspeed is building a new semiconductor plant. Where? Good question. TechWire is reporting that its sources say that Wolfspeed has picked Chatham County. TBJ isn’t willing to go that far yet, but says that a decision is close and it’s looking pretty good for the Triangle. Hey, we report what they report, and you decide.
If I asked you to name the tech billionaires in the Triangle, you’d likely be able to come up with SAS co-founders Jim Goodnight and John Sall, plus Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney. But would you have named Patrick Soon-Shiong? I definitely wouldn’t have, even though as a journalist I am familiar with the name because he also owns the Los Angeles Times. Though to be fair, his Triangle connection is pretty modest.
Soon-Shiang also owns NantWorks, a network of public and private companies focused on health, energy and communications. One of those companies is medical software company NantHealth, which was founded in California but quietly began listing its HQ as Morrisville last year. If you haven’t heard of NantWorks, don’t blame yourself—its stock has been trading below $1 for most of the year. That’s why, TBJ reports, it’s executing a reverse stock split in an effort to avoid being delisted by NASDAQ by jumping above the $1 floor.
We’re not done yet with news and notes: 1) Here’s a good combo platter for you—a WRAL.com story about how downtown Raleigh’s population could double in the next decade and has nearly $2B in active development projects, paired with a TBJ feature on Patrick Young, the man arguably most responsible for managing that growth and the planning and development director of the City of Raleigh.
2) TechWire’s Triangle Startup Guide has a Q&A with Sheryl Waddell, UNC’s Director of Economic Development and Innovation Hubs and a recent GrepBeat story subject, on the plans for Innovate Carolina’s new innovation hub, which will include coworking.
3) There have been internet rumors that Elon Musk might buy Fortnite, which seem to be mostly tongue-in-cheek. Of course even if Musk actually signed a contract to buy Fortnite/Epic Games, I still wouldn’t believe it will really happen, and neither should you.
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The application deadline for startups to present at The Launch Place’s Big Launch Challenge has been extended to Monday, Sept. 12. This year’s event will be held in RTP on Oct. 13. It will cap a multi-day event that includes ACA (Angel Capital Association) Angel University. The 10 startups chosen for the Big Launch Challenge will compete for $15K in prize money. You can find more info and apply here.
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