Engage, the Atlanta-based corporate-backed venture fund and startup growth program, has announced investments into eight startups for its second growth program. Engage counts 10 of Georgia’s biggest corporations and Invest Georgia as its backers, making it the largest grouping of corporate players in one independent fund in the country.
Each company will receive initial investment and entree into the highly-curated Engage network of entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Three are headquartered in Atlanta — STORD, ThingTech, and Verady — and another, DEV/CON Detect, recently expanded operations from Memphis into Atlanta with acceptance into the ATDC portfolio.
The additional four companies come from all over the country — Engage’s Managing Director Thiago Olson says, after the proven success of their first program, they have been largely recruiting from leads sent by other VC firms and investors.
Though only a $16.5 million fund, Engage’s unique structure is specifically geared to create a network of connections between the entrepreneurs and corporate players. Its backers are AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco, The Home Depot and UPS. Invest Georgia, the state’s investment program, also joined with an additional $1.5 million in October 2017.
“We chose to participate after seeing the unique approach that the Engage fund places on curating useful and long-term dialogues with their corporate partners,” says Sean Henry, founder and CEO of STORD. Henry was recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list and says the company is growing and hiring quickly.
“Not only does it provide a direct line of contact to some of your best potential customers and partners, but it provides an open way for you to determine how to add value to each other’s businesses,” he says.
Olson says that these eight startups have averages of over a million in revenue and $3.5 million in funding already raised per company, compared to averages of $900,000 in revenue and about $2 million raised in Engage’s first group of investments.
They also include a wide range of emerging technologies. Seattle-based Pryon is an AI company being built by a team who developed the technology sold to Amazon for its Alexa speaker. San Francisco-based SkyRyse is building technology for autonomous flight — the startup, which is still somewhat flying under the radar, raised $15 million in its Series A round, according to PitchBook. Other Engage companies include those in the AdTech, fintech, blockchain, and IoT industries.
The first Engage cohort has raised about $18 million total in follow-on funding thus far, according to Olson, and generated 24 signed contracts. They continue to work with the corporations and contacts they made during the program, he says.
“Investing with Engage has allowed us to tap the latest in disruptive technologies and look for potential collaborations with our own digital transformation efforts,” said Christian Fischer, president and CEO of Georgia-Pacific, in a statement. “This program model is working — the caliber of innovation that these companies have brought to the table has been impressive.”
The Engage growth program runs for three months as the entrepreneurs meet with corporate executives, attend exclusive CEO dinners and prepare for even more growth ahead. The Fund is managed by Tech Square Ventures and led by Managing Partner Blake Patton.
Engage’s second round of investments are as follows:
- Dev/Con (Memphis, TN) — SaaS-based cybersecurity software that eliminates advertising fraud.
- Homee (Tampa Bay, FL) — On-demand home servicing app that provides instant access to handymen, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing providers.
- Intrinio (Tampa Bay, FL) — Fintech marketplace with access to more than 200 financial data feeds that cover 350,000 global securities.
- PRYON (Seattle, WA) — Developing an AI platform with the accuracy and security features necessary for enterprise applications.
- Stord (Atlanta, GA) — Real-time global warehousing network that connects independent, third-party warehouses via an enterprise software platform to drive inventory efficiency.
- SkyRyse (San Francisco, CA) — Delivering autonomous flight technologies to revolutionize on-demand transportation.
- ThingTech (Atlanta, GA) — IoT service platform that connect assets, fleets, heavy equipment, sensors, machines, and mobile workforces in real-time.
- Verady (Atlanta, GA) — Combines blockchain and industry thought leadership to bring accounting and audit technology to cryptocurrencies.