Greenville–based VentureSouth said it invested more than $4 million in Southeastern startups in 2016, a record for the early-stage investment firm, and a 15 percent increase over the prior year.

The network invested in 15 companies last year in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, bringing its total portfolio to more than $20 million invested in 55 companies. The group also distributed more than $1 million of investment returns to its investor members from exited investments.

VentureSouth began in 2008 with the launch of the Upstate Carolina Angel Network in Greenville and has grown to 11 angel groups across the Southeast. Three new groups were added in 2016: Salt Marsh Angels in Hilton Head, Grand Strand Angels in Myrtle Beach, and VentureSouth Charlotte.

The group also launched the VentureSouth Angel Fund II last year, its second co-investment fund, which has made its first investments. Collectively, VentureSouth includes more than 200 individual angel investors, making it one of the largest angel groups in the country.

Matt Dunbar, a VentureSouth managing director, said, “2016 was a pivotal year for VentureSouth as we continued to expand our investor base across the Southeast and improve our operational efficiency. We are grateful for the impressive depth of expertise we can tap into across our investor network, and we are excited about our increasing capacity to fund promising early stage companies in the Southeast.”

To close the year, VentureSouth led an investment in KWIPPED, an online B2B equipment rental marketplace in Wilmington, N.C.

Earlier in the fall, it invested in Vendor Registry, a Tennessee-based company with a software platform to improve the ability of local government agencies to procure services, as well as co-leading an investment in Durham, N.C.-based FarmShots, an agricultural technology company that uses advanced drone and satellite imagery to manage farms.

The group also invested additional capital to accelerate the growth of eight existing portfolio companies, including electric bus manufacturer Proterra and cancer diagnostics firm KIYATEC in Greenville; PharmRight in Charleston, makers of the Livi automated medication dispenser; and Sensory Analytics, an optical sensor technology company in Greensboro, N.C.

“We are very excited about these new investments, as well as the progress of many of our portfolio companies over the last year,” said Mac Lackey, a VentureSouth managing director. “They are addressing significant problems across many industries and gaining national recognition for their innovative solutions. We look forward to even stronger progress in 2017.”

To learn more about VentureSouth, go to www.venturesouth.vc.

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