Spiffy’s CEO Scot Wingo unveiled his 2022 Triangle Tweener List today, and 37 new startups joined the list of 251 startups overall in the region that fit the “Tweener” criteria.
Last year, there were 227 startups on the list, showing an overall 11 percent growth pattern of startups in the Triangle for this year. There were 176 Tweeners in 2019 and 143 in 2018.
The new additions include Acre, Arpio, Atmos, Bloom AI, Bytebase, Cameyo, Cinetic, Cycle Labs, Dart Displays, Dendi Software, Dental HQ, Devana Solutions, E-emphasys Technologies, EarthOptics, Enmass Energy, Flexgen, Green Places, GrowPath, Higgs Boson Health, LogistiVIEW, Microgrid Labs, MuukTest, Omni Creator Products, Participate, Persistence AI, Playmetrics, Protochips, PRTI, RepVue, Resultid (previously NanoVest), Rownd, Security Journey, Serve Finance, Transmira, Tribe, Trulab, Tumult Labs and WorkDove. (Note: the links are to GrepBeat feature stories on those startups.)
However, 13 startups exited the list this year because they were either acquired or earned more than $80 million in revenue, thus “graduating” from the list. The latter included tech unicorn Pendo.
As Wingo defines it, a “Tweener” is a tech startup right in between early stage and a larger corporation. They must generate more than $1 million but less than $80 million in annual revenue, and/or employ at least 10 full-time workers but no more than 500.
“Think of Triangle Tweeners as the ‘Goldilocks’ companies in the Triangle—not too small and not too large,” Wingo said. “These are our future breakouts, big fund-raisers, acquisition targets and (fingers crossed) IPOs.” (Note: all quotes in this story are directly from Wingo’s Tweener list.)
This year’s Tweener list showed exits were up 100 percent year over year due to a surge in private equity deals. Last year’s exits included 12 former Triangle Tweeners. In order, these are:
- Pro-ficiency was acquired by NovaQuest last February
- Pureport was acquired by Digital Realty last March
- Republic Wireless (a spinout of Bandwidth, itself a former Tweener Graduate) was acquired by Dish Network last March
- d-Wise was acquired by Instem last March for a reported $31 million
- Joulebug was acquired by Carimus last April
- Core Compete was acquired by Accenture last April
- Vanguard Software was acquired by Wolters Kluwer for $100M last May
- Fantasy Life was acquired by Betsperts last May
- Spoonflower was acquired by Shutterfly for $225M last June
- EmployUS was acquired by Hireology last July
- SignalPath was acquired by Verily last August
- Brightdoor was acquired by Cecillian Partners last October
- Boostopia was acquired by SupporTrends last October
- ReverbNation was acquired by BandLab last November
Overall, investments grew by 248 percent, revealing what Wingo said was ultimately an incredible year for fundraising for Tweeners (without even including Pendo’s $150M and $110M raises). Around 40 Tweeners ultimately raised $700M over the last year.
“For a long time, I’ve argued that, yes we need more VCs in the area, but if we build great companies, investors will come,” Wingo said. “That was really proven out in 2021.”
Wingo said this year’s 12 acquisitions and Pendo’s graduation from the Tweener list will hopefully create a new crop of entrepreneurs that start new companies, secure funding, and continue the cycle.
“The Triangle startup ecosystem is a flywheel and what makes the flywheel go faster are entrepreneurs, investment capital, revenues, M+A and graduations — all in an interconnected circle,” Wingo said.
In January of this year, Wingo also launched a Tweener Fund that invests in “Tweener” aged startups with more than 100 investors. The minimum investment to join is $20,000 compared to $300,000 plus for traditional venture fund investments.