(EDITOR’S NOTE: For past three years, we have asked individual fund managers in our East Tennessee region to share with us their thoughts on the year that just ended and the year ahead. This is the fourth article in a six-part series. We thank the participating individuals for their input.)
TODAY’S QUESTION: What about the deals you have been seeing this year? Are you seeing more deals or fewer ones? Are they better than in the past, about the same, or of lower quality?
- David Belitz, Partner, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund – We are seeing more deals than ever. Quality is all over the place. I don’t think this will ever change. There are definitely improvements, which should not be that surprising with the availability of the accelerator programs throughout the state. Start-ups have more access to quality tools now than they have ever had.
- Eric Dobson, Chief Executive Officer, Angel Capital Group – More and better deal flow this year. We set new records this year for size of our investments, individually and as a broad syndicate. We expect to do more deals next year and with larger investments.
- Kristina Montague, Managing Partner, The JumpFund – This year, we have seen fewer but higher quality. Part of that is our own intake system and a better understanding from companies of our criteria and interests. We continue to see exciting, investable women-led companies from throughout our region.
- Geoff Robson, President, The Lighthouse Fund – More deals and higher quality deals which is exactly what we expected to see when we started the Lighthouse Fund. We do, however, see certain areas of improvement that need to be addressed by all high growth companies. The management team is an area of improvement for most seed/early stage deals. Generally, it is a very high quality environment in East Tennessee.
- Grady Vanderhoofven, Fund Manager, Meritus Ventures – I have seen fewer deals this year relative to the past couple of years, but the quality of deals continues to increase over time. I think the knowledge and sophistication of the entrepreneurial and investor communities in this region continue to increase over time. People in the “ecosystem” generally are becoming smarter, wiser, and more experienced, and I think that produces more, higher quality deals over time.
- Ken Woody, President, Innova Memphis – Innova has expanded its focus into agriculture, so we’re seeing a lot more deals than previously. We continue to see strong high quality opportunities in medical and tech and are pleased with the maturity of many of these deals.