Cheers to 2017

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American Underground takes pride in measuring the growth, success and impact of its community year after year, hosting an annual celebration to reveal the stats and thank partners, sponsors and members. And while we've still yet to dive into the 2016 version of its annual report, here's a deeper look at some of the companies that contributed to $26.7 million in AU community-wide funding this year. 

Note that the total funding figure was 10 percent down from 2015, but that shouldn't come as a huge surprise considering a statewide slowdown in funding to tech companies

We chose to feature eight companies this year, down from 10 last year. While others in the AU community may qualify as top fundraisers, these companies have disclosed venture capital raises since last year's list. Too many companies would have been in competition for the ninth and 10th spots, so we narrowed in on the largest sums.

Notable here, is that three of the top eight companies are led by women. That's up from one (Mati Energy) in 2015. The stat aligns well with American Underground's increasingly diverse community—29.1 percent of companies in the space are led by women, a 30 percent increase over 2015. The AU team believes that inclusion starts from leadership—if leaders are diverse, they are more likely to value it and pursue it among their teams. That philosophy, and emphasis on supporting female founders, seems to be playing out well.

Also important to note is that six of these companies are new to the list this year. A quick check in with last year's top fundraisers revealed one shutdown (PredictifyMe), one move (Sqord to Seattle) and at least four startups either closing another round or starting to fundraise in early 2017. Stay tuned for their news.

In the meantime, check out this year's list of top fundraisers at American Underground (Editor's note: ExitEvent is owned by and housed within American Underground):

Sift Media

2016 raise: $3.25 million
Investors include: Wakefield Group, Idea Fund Partners, Piedmont Capital, Alerion Ventures, Digital Turbine
The back storyAfter Digital Turbine acquired his last startup, Appia, Jud Bowman took a year off work, traveled and got married. The time off energized him and ultimately led to the creation of his third startup, Sift Media, which is spinning technology out of Digital Turbine. 

Still operating in a somewhat stealth mode, the startup is led by the same executive team of founders who led Bowman’s previous two startups (Appia and Motricity). After launch, the team quickly raised a $3.25 million seed round and anticipate raising a series A in 2017. 

On average, each smartphone owner has 41 apps on their phone. Sift collects that data, and any other data they can find to create a “digital fingerprint” for every smartphone user they can locate data for. As of the CED Tech Venture Conference in September, the team had created 640 million profiles, 336 million of which are in the U.S. Sift then uses that data to determine in real-time whether clients should bid for mobile advertising space in auctions hosted by the likes of Facebook and Google. The team has brokered at least five partnerships so far, and more are to come. Amy Huffman contributed.

Jud Bowman reveals his new startup Sift Media at the CED Tech Venture Conference in September 2016. Credit: CED

410 Medical

2016 raise: $2.24 million
Investors include: Sovereign's Capital, angels
The back storyThis medical device startup has a mission of saving the lives of critically-ill patients. Its first product, a quick way of delivering fluids to patients, called LifeFlow, received FDA approval in August. The news was quickly followed by the close of a funding round. 18 investors participated. 

Founders are Mark Piehl, a pediatric intensivist at WakeMed Children’s Hospital who serves as CEO, and Luke Roush, a Silicon Valley-based Sovereign’s Capital co-founder and managing partner who previously worked on the management teams of life science companies TransEnterix and Liquidia Technologies. Leading the day to day operations at American Underground is Galen Robertson, a former R&D director and engineer at TransEnterix and Ethicon Endo-Surgery.

410 Medical device
Credit: 410 Medical

Mati Energy

2016 raise: $2.1 million
Investors include: Duke Angel Network, Duke Innovation Fund, angels
The back story: Call 2016 the year Mati Energy went mainstream. The Durham startup opened its first manufacturing facility to make tea-based energy drinks in house. Equipment there allowed cans to be pasteurized for the first time, which led to distribution deals with Kroger and a launch on Amazon. And speaking of Amazon, Mati became a top selling energy drink brand not long after it started selling on the platform. 

Founder Tatiana Birgisson's Duke connection—the company started in her dorm room there in 2012—led to an investment from its new angel network and innovation fund in August. Other investors haven't been named. For more on Mati's recent growth, here's the full profile on ExitEvent.

Mati cans (non headline image)


2016 raise: $1.3 million
Investors include: Cindy Whitehead, angels
The back storyLaunched by a pair of Duke University athletes committed to preventing serious athletic injuries, BioMetrix is a wearable sensor that can be placed on the heel, hip or knee to measure stability, motor control, symmetry and execution and detect any changes in real time. 

The startup has taken advantage of many of the Triangle’s entrepreneurial resources, which led to a local investment from The Pink Ceiling's Cindy Whitehead and helped the company close a $1.3 million round this year. Co-founder Ivonna Dumanyan was also named a Thiel Fellow, joining a global fellowship program that trades $100,000 for a commitment by college students to drop out of school for two years to work on their companies alongside a network of mentors from around the world. 

A banner 2016 will lead to the launch of a new line of high performance devices that will be used by a dozen NCAA institutions by April 2017, Dumanyan says. Here's the profile on ExitEvent.

Ivonna Dumanyan of BioMetrix, (non headline image)
Ivonna Dumanyan is co-founder of BioMetrix, a wearable device that tracks the stride and technique of athletes to prevent injury.


2016 raise: $750,000
Investors include: Sovereign's Capital, Idea Fund Partners
The back storyA pivot for this real estate technology startup has led to national attention and a bridge round as it preps a larger fundraise next year. First is applying its monstrous database of information about potential homebuyers in a new platform that Realtors can use to connect with people in their network at just the right time they may be ready to buy. It offers a variety of ways for Realtors to contact and market to those clients too, including an integration with fellow Durham startup Adwerx. Here's our most recent story on First.

First Mike Schneider Jess Martin
Jess Martin, left, and Mike Schneider are cofounders of First, a predictive analytics startup that helps Realtors target potential homebuyers when they're most likely to buy.


2016 raise: $525,000
Investors include: Charlotte Angel Fund, several local IMAF groups, angels like Robbie Allen of Automated Insights and Brian Handly of Reveal Mobile
The back story After winning corporate customers like Microsoft, Ricoh and HP, the startup offering holograms as concierges, translators, sign language interpreters or salespeople closed a round from mostly North Carolina investors. Soon, it will also announce a major partnership with a company that will market, sell and distribute the technology with its own clients too. 

An A round, likely to come in 2017, will help the startup add more staff and customers. So far, there are six full-time and contracted employees working in American Underground’s Market building. Especially exciting to founder David Rose is sign language interpretation—every healthcare provider, government agency and transit agency could take advantage of his patent-pending holograms. Here's a full profile of PRSONAS on ExitEvent.

Kathy, the PRSONAS hologram retail product specialist, interacts with customers at the Microsoft retail store in Seattle, WA. Credit: PRSONAS


2016 raise: $500,000
Investors include: Alchemist Investment Fund, angels
The back storyWhat started as a way to create beautiful multimedia experiences for museums and galleries—an offshoot of the founders’ popular Hillsborough gallery and publishing company Daylight Books—has become a storytelling platform used by major brands to tell their stories, sell goods and track engagement around brands. Since the platform launched in 2015, clients have included Forbes, Game of Thrones, SXSW, Oracle, Hulu, GE and Microsoft. Here's the original profile we published when Fabl was called Daylight Digital.

Fabl screenshot


2016 raise: $475,000
Investors include: The Motley Fool, angels
The back story: InHerSight launched its platform for female job seekers and female-friendly workplaces in Washington D.C., with the founders' DC-area workplace The Motley Fool as a seed investor. But they wanted to save on business costs, get close to top talent and focus on faster user growth, so they chose Durham as headquarters. So far, growth plans are panning out. Hundreds of thousands of women visit the site each month and 135,000 of them have registered to be matched with potential jobs or rate workplaces, up from 45,000 in June 2016. 

More than 25,000 companies have been rated for their friendliness to female employees, up from 8,500 in June. Advertising and branding campaigns are InHerSight's planned revenue stream. Since raising a pair of seed rounds, CEO Ursula Mead has taken advantage of Triangle resources like the Soar Network to prep to raise additional funds in the future. Here's the full InHerSight profile on ExitEvent.

InHerSight team
Daniel Stapleton (left), Ursula Mead (middle) and Adam Hill (right) created InHerSight to bring companies and women together, with definitive, quantitative data. Credit: InHerSight