Venture funding rises in state

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2014 - 7:56 PM

Eight of the 14 Minnesota firms that attracted capital infusions in the fourth quarter were medical device manufacturers.

Minnesota companies attracted $116.9 million in venture capital in the fourth quarter, the best three-month period for the state since 2008.

The late-year infusion in venture capital rescued the state from what had been a considerably down year, according to the MoneyTree Report by the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), using data from Thomson Reuters.

“It was a nice comeback quarter,” said Mark Scholtes, a Minneapolis-based partner for PwC.

Eight of the 14 companies that received venture funding in the last three months of 2013 are in the medical device industry; three are in software. Of the 14 deals, only one was a seed deal, and three were early-stage.

The rest were for more established companies to grow and expand. The largest early stage deal was for Minneapolis-based Cardialen, which makes a product that treats cardiac arrhythmia. The firm attracted $3 million.

Nationally, venture capital investment was up 6 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter. Software, with its low capital requirements and quicker payoffs for investors, continued to get the most funding, attracting 34 percent of U.S. venture dollars in the fourth quarter.

Medical device investment continues to decline. It fell nationally in dollars in the fourth quarter and for the year, from $564 million in 2012 to $460 million in 2013.

In Minnesota, the amount of venture funding in medical technology has yet to return to prerecession levels, which has been viewed as a troubling sign for the state economy.

But new data from the trade group LifeScience Alley offers encouraging signs for the medical device industry. Including venture capital, angel funding and investment in small firms by large companies, funding of young life sciences firms rose 81 percent in 2013.

Start-ups that have just recently gotten going are getting funding from angel investors or major companies like Medtronic and Boston Scientific. Later, when they look to expand, they turn to venture capital, according to a <URL destination="https://www.lifesciencealley.org/content/documents/LifeScience%20Alley%20Minnesota%20Investment%20Report%202009-2013.pdf">report from LifeScience<PARAGRAPH style="$ID/[No paragraph style]">cq

“CEOs of start-ups in Minnesota indicate that they are more likely to pursue angel or corporate investment for early-stage capital needs as VCs shift to later stage deals,” Frank Jaskulke, the report’s author, wrote.

Overall 2013 investment in life sciences firms hit its highest point in the five-year period for which the group collected data, at $341 million including venture capital, angel investment and corporate investment.

The report’s authors argue that perceptions of declining investment in Minnesota’s life sciences industry can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and are not accurate.

“A shift in how companies raise early-stage money and the way data is reported may explain in part the perception of investment decline in Minnesota,” Jaskulke wrote.

LifeScience Alley has created its own database of investment and will regularly publish its findings to complement the MoneyTree report and other industry reports that the group believes have undercounted Minnesota investment.

According to the MoneyTree report, the biggest Minnesota deal in the fourth quarter was for Plymouth-based Coventus Orthopaedics, which develops less invasive ways to repair bone fractures and raised $17 million.

Shoreview-based Torax Medical, a company that develops products that restore lower esophageal sphincters, attracted $13.7 million. Monteris Medical Holdings, also in Plymouth, which makes surgical lasers, attracted $13.3 million.

The top venture capital recipient in the United States in 2013 was Genband Inc., a Frisco, Texas, firm that attracted $343 million to develop voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) infrastructure. Uber, the mobile car service, received $258 million, and Pinterest, the online photo-sharing website, received $225 million.

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