PhillyInc: Venture capital looking up in Phila. region

Posted: April 23, 2013

Venture-capital activity may have been down in terms of deals and dollars during the first quarter nationwide, but the second-tier Philadelphia market did pretty well.

Thirty-three companies raised $142.4 million during the first three months of 2013, compared with 44 companies attracting $54.5 million during the fourth quarter, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree Report.

SevOne Inc., a Wilmington software developer, was listed as the big wheel landing the biggest deal: $60 million. Except, I remember my colleague Joseph N. DiStefano writing in January about SevOne's attracting $150 million from Bain Capital.

What gives? Well, about $90 million of the proceeds from Bain were used to buy out SevOne's early investors. The MoneyTree survey nets out such activity to focus on capital raised for growth.

Even at $60 million, the SevOne deal was big enough to make it the eighth-largest investment nationwide on a list that includes Pinterest Inc. ($200 million) and LivingSocial Inc. ($110 million).

I often quibble over the geography the MoneyTree report uses to describe the Philadelphia market. I don't tend to think of Scranton, Hummelstown, and Bethlehem as being in this area. So my inclination is to ignore venture deals from outside the region to get a better picture of what's happening in the city and suburbs.

But when any Pennsylvania company attracts $22.4 million, it's worth a peek. Bethlehem's Saladax Biomedical Inc. received that big investment from a Chinese pharmaceutical company, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., in early March. Founded in 2004, Saladax has developed blood tests that are designed to help oncologists better manage the treatment of chemotherapy patients.

Discarding Saladax would leave Monetate Inc., a homegrown purveyor of Big Data tools to retailers, as having raised the second-highest amount - $15.2 million. The Conshohocken firm was started in 2008 by two Philadelphia serial entrepreneurs, David Brussin and David Bookspan, and has been growing rapidly.

The only other eight-figure financing was hauled in by Novira Therapeutics Inc., a Radnor biotechnology firm developing antiviral drugs to treat chronic hepatitis B and HIV infections. MoneyTree lists the financing at $10.7 million. However, Novira itself said in late March that it had raised $7.5 million to complete its initial financing at $25 million.

Any way you slice that figure, it's a healthy investment for a company in the early stages of its own development.


Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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