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New Investment Fund Will Target The ‘Tweeners’ Of The Triangle’s Startup Scene

Zachery Eanes The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Zachery Eanes reports, "Influential Triangle entrepreneur Scot Wingo is launching a new investment firm focused on the region's fastest-growing technology startups."

Raleigh

Called the Triangle Tweener Fund, the fund will seek out startups that are small but primed for growth, targeting so called "tweener companies," which have revenues of at least $1 million or employ more than 10 people.

That definition is based on a running list of Triangle startups that Wingo publishes every year. There will be some flexibility on the lower end, Wingo said, noting that a company with an experienced CEO might get an investment before meeting the criteria.

Wingo, the founder of mobile car servicing startup Spiffy and the e-commerce company ChannelAdvisor, has been active in the region's startup scene since the 1990s.

Since 2015, he has published his "Tweener List," which has grown rapidly in the past five years, as Raleigh and Durham have gained attention as a hub for startups. A company graduates from the list, if they reach $80 million in annual revenue or have 500 employees.

In 2015, just 50 companies met the criteria of the list. The latest edition counts 227 "tweeners."

"Think of Triangle Tweeners as the 'Goldilocks' companies in the Triangle — not too small and not too large," Wingo wrote in the most recent edition. "These are our future breakouts, big fund-raisers, acquisition targets and (fingers crossed) IPOs."

Some notable "tweeners" include, to name a few: the Cary-based cybersecurity firm JupiterOne; the Durham Bitcoin rewards company Lolli; the furniture startup Nugget; and the Research Triangle Park-based agtech company Pairwise.

How the investment fund will work Wingo said the fund will go active in January. Accredited investors are able to participate in the fund with a minimum investment of $20,000, according to Wingo. The fund will operate similarly to a subscription service, where investors can pause or cancel their contributions after a year.

The fund hopes to make three to four investments per month. Wingo will serve as the firm's single general partner for now, signing off on all final investments that the Tweener fund will make. But it could add more partners as it grows.

"This won't be like a (venture capital) fund that tries to pick a few winners per year," he said. "We will take more of an index approach."

Already, the Tweener Fund has attracted investors that represent a collective who's who of successful entrepreneurs.

Some of the fund's first investors include: Robbie Allen, founder of the artificial intelligence company Automated Insight; Mike Capps, former president of Cary's Epic Game; Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Durham-based Wild Earth; Doug Kaufman, founder of the Ford-acquired software company Transloc; among many others.

Wingo said he hopes companies will be interested in taking investments from the Tweener Fund because they will get access to entrepreneurs who have expertise in a variety of fields and who have had recent success.

"Sometimes when people climb the ladder and have success, they take the ladder with them," Wingo said. "This is about creating more ladders and realizing that it is not a zero sum game in the Triangle."

Wingo said the Tweener Fund is already in conversation with several companies about an investment.

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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