Startup founders across the Triangle tech community gathered at Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh on Thursday night for a celebration of the annual Triangle Tweener Awards. Heavy rains forced the event inside rather than the planned outdoor tents, but certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm.
The Tweener list—compiled annually by Spiffy CEO and serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo—highlights tech startups nestled in what Wingo calls the “Goldilocks” phase 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.
Thirty-seven new startups made it on the list this year out of 251 total. Last year, there were 227 companies on the list, showing an overall 11 percent growth pattern of Tweener 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 (which we wrote about when it was called NanoVest), Rownd, Security Journey, Serve Finance, Transmira, Tribe, Trulabs, Tumult Labs and WorkDove. (Note: all links are to previous GrepBeat stories on those startups.)
During the Tweener Awards, Wingo announced the top exits and fundraisings as well as the new Tweeners over the past year.
Durham startup Spoonflower was awarded as the top exit, having been acquired by Shutterfly for $225 million last June.
Durham-based Phononics, which says it is revolutionizing heating and cooling, was one of the top investments over the past year, raising $50 million from Goldman Sachs in August of last year.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Phononic CEO Tony Atti said. “We founded a company located here in RTP, a story that not many people know. We could put Phononic anywhere in the world. We’ve had investors coming from Singapore to New York to Silicon Valley. I had the choice of the Valley, Phoenix, Austin, RTP, or Boston and we chose to put the company here.”
Some new Tweener additions, including Raleigh-based Cycle Labs, have created software that helps other software companies.
“Oftentimes these systems that drive your mission-critical business processes go untested,” Cycle Labs CEO Josh Owen said. “So we built test automation software to provide quality assurance on these mission-critical processes at the enterprise level.”
In January, Wingo also launched the Triangle Tweener Fund to more directly fuel the growth of these Triangle-based startups.
“It occurred to me in 2018, this is a great group of companies—there’s got to be a way to invest in them,” Wingo said. “There wasn’t, so we created one called the Tweener Fund.”
With more than 100 investors currently, the Tweener Fund requires a minimum investment of $20,000 compared to $300,000 plus for traditional venture fund investments.
(We covered the full Tweener reveal and report in more detail here.)