Trolley Ventures raises $4 million to invest in central Virginia startups

A new investment fund has been created to provide financial backing for early stage business ventures in central Virginia.

Trolley Ventures said it has closed an initial fundraising round with $4 million raised. The partnership plans to immediately start making investments in promising, early stage companies in the region.

“There is no shortage of companies that are looking for funding,” said Brad Cummings, a local entrepreneur, angel investor and managing director of Trolley Ventures.

He described the fund as a “seed stage” investment fund that will help fill a gap in access to capital for startup companies in central Virginia.

“There is nothing else like this in the region, which is one of the reasons we are excited to do it,” Cummings said.

Trolley Ventures is an outgrowth of CVA Angels, a network of angel investors co-founded by Cummings and local entrepreneur Will Loving in 2015. Angel investors are typically high-net worth individuals willing to take a chance on investing in startup ventures that may be too early or too risky to get attention from large, institutional investors.

CVA Angels has grown to include about 280 angel investors, who have backed more than 30 businesses in region.

However, one problem that Loving and Cummings identified is that potential investors are often hesitant to write checks for startup ventures because they lack the time and ability to perform due diligence.

One purpose of Trolley Ventures is to provide that due diligence, making it easier for angel investors to commit money.

The fund has a seven-member investment committee of “seasoned business leaders and fund managers” that will make investments and advise portfolio companies. It also has an 11-member advisory committee.

“It is a really diverse group from both a gender perspective and experience perspective,” Cummings said.

The CVA Angels network was a “starting point” for raising the investment fund, Cummings said.

“It has been very much a grass-roots kind of effort in reaching investors both inside and outside of Richmond,” he said. “This is not just a Richmond effort but a central Virginia effort.”

Trolley Ventures already has been evaluating some companies for about four months.

It will make investments through equity, convertible notes and revenue loans.

The approach will be “industry agnostic,” meaning the investment committee will consider high-growth technology businesses as well as “main street”-type businesses, Cummings said. An example of the latter could be food or beverage businesses, he said.

The investment target is promising startups that have moved beyond the concept stage and already have some customers and revenue but are beyond the stage where they can pursue growth opportunities entirely by “bootstrapping” through self-funding, credit, or friends and family.

Prospects can seek investments from Trolley Ventures by filling out a questionnaire on its website.

Cummings said Trolley Ventures also is willing to share deals with other angel investor networks in Virginia such as 757 Angels in Hampton Roads.

Trolley Ventures has seven general partners and an undisclosed number of other investors who are limited partners.

Cummings is also a co-founder and board member of Startup Virginia, a nonprofit business incubator in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom area. Nearly 60 startup businesses are members of the business incubator.

This article provided by NewsEdge.