VS: Issue #1

You work yo' thing, I'll work mine

The Introduction 👋

“I really need another newsletter about venture capital and startups… please.”

Yeah, nobody said this. Nowadays, there’s an abundance of content replete with VC wisdom, founder hustle porn, failed IPO commentary, and straight-up yogababble (and that’s just VC Twitter). 

In regions like the Southeast, you can also get another layer of obfuscation — because there is naturally less activity than in markets like Silicon Valley and the Northeast, there’s a tendency to focus only on a few highly-successful people or shiny, but shallow, “Top 10 XYZ!” lists.

Missing amidst the ‘Silicon Peach’ (one reference and we’ll never do it again, promise) headlines, is a realistic, frank take on the region’s startup chops, investing landscape, and general cultural relevance.

What we won’t promise you is that this ‘non-newsletter’ will be objective, comprehensive, or unbiased. There are many publications and websites you can go to for good, solid news coverage (read: TechCrunch, Hypepotamus, or ThePLUG).

What we do think we can unearth, however, are some hopefully novel hypotheses, observations, and conclusions about why the South’s startup scene is the way that it is — and how it’s changing as we head into a fresh new decade.

For example, a few things Ventured South might dig into:

  • An informal breakdown of black venture capitalists found that Morehouse College, an anchor of the Atlanta University Center, produced about 40 percent of total HBCU graduates working in VC. Yet only one (Dr. Paul Judge) has built a VC career in Atlanta. Zero alum of Clark Atlanta, also in the top 10 on the list, or Spelman, #2 for women HBCU graduates in VC, have built careers in Atlanta — supposedly one of the best cities in the country for black people in tech. What is going on here?

  • It seems like every other week the Southeast sees the launch of another accel-incub-bootcamp-venturestudio-erator. These programs sell founders on promises of stars and unicorns, but for a price — whether that be equity, cash, or something else. And after a little digging into the Southeast’s most valuable startup in each state, it’s not clear that any one of them used such a program to build their initial product. So what is actually worth giving up a few shares for, according to the founders who have been there, and what is little more than unicorn dreams?

  • Last decade saw the rise of the athlete-investor, exemplified by much-hyped — and lucrative — investments in startups such as Acorns, Lime, Postmates, and Casper. Beyond capital, startup brands benefitted from the investor’s accompanying celebrity brand and influence. These earnings are no small potatoes for athletes, especially considering that within five years of retirement, the percentage of athletes that go into bankruptcy is staggering. However, there’s little training, formal or informal, for these unconventional angel investors. Is this trend a good thing for startups, will it continue, and how can the VC community integrate these powerful individuals into their ranks?

If these are questions in which you are also interested, let’s explore them together. Each month, you’ll dive in with us into a trend or topic that we think is shaping the startup ecosystems of the Southeast in a notable way. We’ll strive to provide you with evidence and new perspective, and hopefully inspire some debate.

We’ll also touch on a few high-level hits and announcements that caught our eyes over the month, and explain why they might be consequential for the region.

Here are the principles Ventured South will hold to: we will not press the easy button and parrot the headlines as they’re written. We will ask experts when we don’t know the answers (which will be often!) And above all, we will treat the places, people, and problems of the Southeast with absolute respect.

Why? Because beyond the funding numbers and firewalls, we believe there’s a story to tell of Southern entrepreneurship, and the culture that it creates.

You made it all the way down here? Thanks for reading! If you think you’ll like Ventured South, please share with your family, friends, colleagues!