Primordial Launches To Invest In Early-Stage Tech Startups In Triangle

The Primordial team (from left): Zing Jao, Finance + Operations; Jenn Summe, Director; and Joe Colopy, "Chief Soup Maker."

Durham-based Colopy Ventures has just spread its wings further by launching a new initiative, Primordial, to invest in early-stage tech startups in the Triangle.

Jenn Summe is Primordial’s Director and will lead the day-to-day operations, while former Bronto Co-Founder and CEO Joe Colopy—aka the GrepBeat Godfather—is adding another title as Primordial’s “Chief Soup Maker.”

Summe said that Primordial’s goal is to invest in tech startups that are showing early signs of traction and whose founders are passionate about the problems they seek to solve. Primordial will focus on tech and tech-adjacent verticals such as ecommerce and SaaS (Software as a Service); it will not invest in biotech, medical devices or life sciences companies.

Primordial aims to fill a funding shortage that the team noticed in the Triangle at the pre-seed stage. There is a strong entrepreneurship community that includes angel capital and grants to help turn an idea into a startup, Summe said, and once a company hits about $1M in annual revenue it can usually find investors at the seed and Series A stage. But in between is a hole that can seem like a chasm to a fledgling startup.

“We’re wanting to fill that gap and be able to inject critical capital and provide programmatic support to founders that are at the really early stage,” Summe said.

The name Primordial is in keeping with the prehistoric naming of Colopy’s other ventures (aside from GrepBeat). Brontosauruses—the inspiration for the name Bronto—were found in the Late Jurassic period, which is why Colopy Ventures’ growth-stage investment arm is called Jurassic Capital. Continuing with the metaphor, to find earlier-stage startups would necessitate moving back in time to the “primordial soup.”

Outside of Jurassic, Colopy has also done a fair amount of angel investing the past few years in early-stage startups in Raleigh-Durham and the surrounding area, which Summe said Colopy noticed was very impactful. From there, she said that he wanted to do something more programmatic to help companies start off.

Summe said that Primordial is defining “early stage” as pre-seed and seed round companies. As a general rule they will focus on startups with less than $500K in annual revenue, and will even consider pre-revenue startups.

At the moment, Summe said they are self-financed by Colopy, but are hoping to bring in outside investors in the future. She said they are thinking about putting together a fund but want to make sure they have their processes and thesis together first.

Primordial has not made any investments yet, but Summe said they are hoping to write between 10 and 15 checks a year, averaging about one per month. The plan is to start by writing smaller checks—around $25K-$50K—and working their way up to $100K.

“Once we get started, hopefully we are very active in that space,” she said.

Other than investing, Summe said they hope to provide programmatic support, like office hours, for their portfolio companies. To better understand what help will be most beneficial, she said they plan to learn from current and former founders about the specific challenges faced at the early startup stage.

Summe said that even though she comes from a tech startup background and not an investing one, when she saw the position listed on LinkedIn, she knew it was the perfect fit for her. She said she is very passionate about what Primordial is doing and is excited to help carrying out Colopy’s vision.

“After our first one or two conversations, I knew that this was going to be the right job for me,” she said.