VentureSouth, one of the country’s leading angel investment groups, has launched an affiliate group specifically for faculty, staff, alumni and students of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s 70 partner colleges and universities across the southeastern U.S.
The group, called VentureSouth Sullivan, is one of 14 angel investment groups and funds operated by VentureSouth, headquartered in Greenville, S.C. With its formation, anyone from the Sullivan Foundation’s partner schools can become a member of the South’s largest and most successful angel network and invest in innovative startup businesses that will drive the region’s economy. Additionally, 25 percent of their annual membership fees will be donated to the Sullivan Foundation. All proceeds will be used to financially support students, faculty and staff from partner schools who participate in the foundation’s events, programming and education initiatives focused on making positive change in their communities.
Members of VentureSouth Sullivan can also donate a percentage of any profits derived from their investments to benefit the Sullivan school of their choice.
Matt Dunbar, a managing director of VentureSouth, is an alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University and received the 1999 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. “I was fortunate and humbled to be presented the Sullivan Award upon graduating from Clemson, and, through chance, recently reconnected with the foundation,” Dunbar said. “Creating this affiliate group specifically for Sullivan alumni and donating a portion of the annual fees is one way of supporting the Sullivan network of schools and encouraging students to choose a path of service to their communities.”
The 2019 Angel Funders Report, released in July 2019 by the Angel Capital Association, recognized VentureSouth as one of North America’s top 10 angel investment groups based on capital invested by its members in the previous year. VentureSouth was listed alongside some of the largest and most respected angel groups in the U.S. and Canada, including Tech Coast Angels in California; New York Angels and Golden Seeds in New York; and the Central Texas Angel Network.
Since its inception, VentureSouth has invested nearly $50 million in more than 75 companies, with a focus on the Carolinas and adjacent states. Companies in its portfolio include innovators like Altis Biosystems in Chapel Hill, N.C., which specializes in next-generation stem cell technologies designed to make drug discovery faster, cheaper and safer while reducing the need for animal testing; Actived, the Greenville, S.C. developer of a technology platform for movement-based learning—such as walkabouts—to get kids out of their desks and onto their feet as they’re learning language arts and mathematics; and Proterra, an innovative leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission buses that save money on fleet operations while reducing the transportation industry’s dependency on fossil fuels.
Joining VentureSouth Sullivan’s group allows Sullivan alumni to invest in similar early-stage companies with major growth potential. It’s also a chance to make a difference in an economically disadvantaged region of the U.S. VentureSouth’s motto, after all, is “Make Money. Have Fun. Do Good.”
“For VentureSouth members, ‘doing good’ comes from multiple levels of impact created by our investing activity,” Dunbar said. “We know that all net job growth in the economy comes from young companies that grow fast—and which don’t usually have access to other forms of capital—so our investments really help fuel the growth of good jobs and opportunities and wealth creation in our communities.”
“Additionally, many of our portfolio companies are working to solve serious problems in arenas like cancer diagnostics, infant screening, women’s health, public transit and clean energy,” Dunbar added. “So we are helping advance significant efforts to save lives and protect our environment. Lastly, our model allows VentureSouth members to share their experience and wisdom with the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, which creates a wealth of good in the form of passing it down and paying it forward.”
With the new angel group for Sullivan alumni, Dunbar is paying it forward to the Sullivan Foundation as well. “I have to admit that I didn’t know much about the award or the Sullivans before I became a recipient at Clemson,” he said. “But once I had a chance to learn about the history and legacy of the award and its namesake, I was extremely honored and humbled to share the award with such a long line of great servant leaders. Even now I am still challenged and inspired to try to live up to the principles and values it represents.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the VentureSouth Sullivan angel investment group can join an upcoming series of online Q&A sessions in September. The sessions will be held at venturesouth.vc/venturesouth-sullivan at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 1; 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9; and 11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 17.
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