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Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Paul Judge, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Panoramic Ventures, discuss the company’s launching a new fund for entrepreneurs.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Move over, Silicon Valley, because Atlanta continues to emerge as one of the country's largest tech hubs. Atlanta-based Panoramic Ventures just launched one of the largest funds ever by a venture firm in the Southeast. The $300 million fund is a partnership between entrepreneur and investor Paul Judge and BIP Capital. And I'm very pleased to welcome to the show Paul Judge himself. Paul, good to see you and thanks for being here.
First, I want to talk about the geography of this fund. Why is it important that this happened in the Southeast? And what kinds of opportunities do you expect because of it?
PAUL JUDGE: No, absolutely. Thanks for having me. I think the importance of the Southeast, especially we start off first looking at Atlanta. I mean, Atlanta is such a special city because of the overlap of colleges, corporations, and culture that's here. There's over 30 of the Fortune 1000 that are headquartered here.
And then you look at colleges, there's everything from Georgia Tech to Emory. There's over a quarter million college students here. Georgia Tech ranks top six in every engineering program. So you have all of this talent, you have all of these enterprise customers. And then if you look at the cultural impact from music to film, you think about how that drives consumer behavior. You have all the right ingredients to build the next generation of tech companies just in Atlanta. And then as you expand that to Nashville, and Miami, and Birmingham, the Southeast has been on a tear lately and it's really time for a fund to help fuel this next phase of growth.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Absolutely I mean, you've certainly started a bunch of your own companies over the years. You continue to invest in startups. Do you find through your personal experience that there has been a disconnect between where venture capital is being raised and the general startup community?
PAUL JUDGE: Absolutely. As the knowledge around building efficient, high growth startups has been more easily distributed through blogs and podcasts, entrepreneur knowledge is everywhere. We've known for years that talent is everywhere, but oftentimes opportunity is not. And so Atlanta and the Southeast have been proving that over the last several years building great companies like Pindrop, and OneTrust, and Calandly.
And now, even if you look at the stats, even though over 40% of the US population is in the Southeast and Midwest, it receives less than 14% of the overall VC funding. And so there's a disconnect between the amount of high growth opportunity that is here and the amount of VC funding that's available on the ground to support it.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Talk to us a little bit about what kinds of companies Panoramic Ventures is going to be concentrating on.
PAUL JUDGE: Absolutely. I think if you look at what's happening in software as a service, especially around enterprise SaaS, finding problems that exist in large corporations that are these antiquated solutions that need to be disrupted and modernized. We continue to fund a number of companies like that.
But then also Atlanta has been a strong provider of Fintech solutions over the decades. With so many of the credit card solutions and transactions happening here, we continue to fund great Fintech companies, like Greenlight, that's debit card for kids, or Greenwood, that's banking for minorities. And so we continue to focus on some of those areas.
And then as you look at what's happening around the community and commerce nowadays, we're spending a lot of time in those areas as those two worlds come together. And then lastly, we've funded a number of companies that have been spin-outs of university research. University's spend over $80 billion a year developing great technology. And too often it never leaves the research lab and makes its way to a commercial environment. And so companies that we funded, like Oculogix and Car Buys, are things that were born in a research lab and now they're living in the real world helping us solve problems for real people.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That is excellent going from lab to actually going out into the business world. So are you looking at companies just at the seed level or at all stages of development, and perhaps more mature companies as well?
PAUL JUDGE: So we're funding across stages, which I think has been an important thing that has been missing here. And so we're able to fund and back companies at the seed round, but then also lead series As and series Bs. And so this multi-stage approach has been missing in this environment. And we look forward to helping those two-person companies, where it's two people in a laptop that are very early, right past the napkin stage, to companies that 1- 200 employees and growing, and helping them scale as well.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: How important or how much will racial and gender diversity play a part in the companies that you choose to invest in?
PAUL JUDGE: Diversity, both gender diversity and racial diversity are so key, because women receive less than 3% of VC funding today, Blacks receive less than 1% of VC funding. But all of these great minds have the ability to solve tomorrow's problems and build tomorrow's great companies. And so when you start off in an environment like Atlanta in the Southeast that's already naturally diverse then you end up with more diverse entrepreneurs walking in the door.
And I think it's also important to have a diverse team. With myself as managing partner and other diverse people on our team, that gets rid of even implicit bias that might exist in the funding process for entrepreneurs. And so there's a lot of amazing women and minority founders that we've already had the pleasure of backing. And I think over the next several years they'll be even more.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, so many things have changed during this pandemic, including how startups have to raise money. How has the pandemic changed that on the ground level? And do you think some of the changes that we've seen take place may stay in place even post pandemic?
PAUL JUDGE: Absolutely. It's forced a decade of progress in a year. How people no longer have to walk up and down, say, Sand Hill Road or in Palo Alto when now we can hop online and hop on a video conference and take a meeting. You can get so many more meetings done. So in many ways it's helped a bit level the playing field, but there's still so many more barriers that we have to knock down.
The entire VC community has been based on this concept of warm intros, which means it's about who you know. If you didn't go to the right school or you're not in the right network it's more difficult. And so one of the things that we've instrumented is this open process, where anyone can come to the website, just fill out the form, tell us about your company, we'll read it, we'll pay attention, we'll take a meeting. And so I think it's more open access like that, that will help equalize this playing field and give more people access to the opportunity that high growth tech funding and tech companies create.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That's a nice refreshing way to approach things, I have to say. Paul Judge of Panoramic Ventures, best of luck with the new fund. And we'll continue to track it.
PAUL JUDGE: Thank you so much.