By John Moore
New companies require capital to scale and capture market opportunities when they appear.
They need funds to finalize product designs, add staff and accelerate sales and marketing.
Some companies are able to fund growth with internal cash flow, an approach known as
“bootstrapping,” while others must seek outside investors in exchange for an ownership stake in
their business (think “Shark Tank” but sans Mr. Wonderful).
When raising outside capital, entrepreneurs must typically look beyond commercial banks to
more risk-accepting groups like angel investors and venture capitalists — two investor types not
traditionally associated with our region or state. Though groups like Capital Insights and Reedy
River Ventures operated here funding growth companies in decades past, today we find our
market continuing to struggle with access to capital for high-impact ventures.
With that said, there are encouraging signs that our capital situation is strengthening.
First, one of the largest angel capital firms in the Southeast, VentureSouth, is headquartered
here. Its first investment group, the Upstate Carolina Angel Network, was launched in
Greenville in 2008. Today, VentureSouth operates in 13 communities across both Carolinas
and just announced expansion into Virginia. Since 2014, they have invested over $50 million in
80 companies and are a great example of growth capital leadership originating out of Upstate
A second bright spot is the recent announcement that Cultivation Capital, one of the country’s
most active venture capital firms, opened an office at NEXT on Main in downtown
Greenville in late 2020. The office is their first outside the St. Louis, Missouri, market where they were
founded and will serve as a base for investing across the Southeast. It’s also the first full-time
office established in the Upstate by an outside venture capital firm — a very encouraging
Investment capital propels business growth. The continued rise of VentureSouth and the
announcement from Cultivation Capital are major milestones for our innovation ecosystem. We
still have a long way to go to make capital access a strength for our region and state. With
commitment to closing the gap, we can and will move forward. These recent tailwinds will help.
John Moore is founder and principal with Momenteum Strategies, a Greenville consulting firm specializing in developing innovation ecosystems and entrepreneur support programs for communities and economic development organizations around the world.