Livi

PharmRight Corp.’s Livi aims to be a smarter pill box. The Daniel Island-based company is looking to raise $1 million as it begins selling the product. Provided

The Charleston startup PharmRight has its first paying customers, but the maker of internet-connected pillboxes is looking investments as it ramps up its sales effort.

The company said in a federal securities disclosure this month that it had garnered investments totaling $414,500 since December, with hopes to raise $1 million in all.

The funds came in the form of convertible notes, a type of debt that investors can trade for stock later. Daniel Island-based PharmRight raised a similar round last spring, and it says it's cracked $5 million in investments since it was founded in 2013.

Since then, it's gotten federal regulators' go-ahead to start selling its Livi device, a medicine dispenser that looks like a Keurig coffee machine. It's meant to manage complicated sets of prescriptions, storing months' worth of pills and sending alerts if a patient misses a dose.

Randy Parker, chief financial officer and vice president, said the five-person firm targeting pharmacies, retirement communities and healthcare systems. The company's business model is fairly unique for a physical device. It's selling subscriptions, not machines, charging between $75 and $100 a month.

So far, fewer than 100 of the devices are being used, but PharmRight aims to have closer to 1,000 in use by the end of the year. The sales process has moved relatively slowly, Parker said, as risk-averse medical providers test the device.

Funding firm

South Carolina's biggest angel investment group says it had its biggest year yet in 2016, pouring $4 million into southeastern startups.

VentureSouth - formerly known as the S.C. Angel Network - says it invested in 15 companies last year, growing its portfolio to 55 firms. With the $4 million in 2016, it's now above $20 million in total investments.

The Greenville-based group, which renamed itself last year as it targets investments outside South Carolina, was founded in 2008. It represents a consortium of local groups across South Carolina and North Carolina, but its investments now stretch into Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

"2016 was a pivotal year for VentureSouth as we continued to expand our investor base across the Southeast and improve our operational efficiency," managing director Matt Dunbar said in a statement.

Ship shape

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There are plenty of reasons consumers won't buy online.

They might want to see what they're buying, or try it on. They might worry about not being able to return a bad fit. Or maybe they'd just rather shop locally instead.

But shoppers' biggest holdup is the price of shipping, according to a new survey commissioned by Charleston-based Blue Acorn, which builds e-commerce websites. Almost half of respondents said the cost of postage was enough to keep them from buying online.

That's not to say that people don't buy online. In the survey conducted last November, 86 percent said they'd buy at least one gift online, and a hefty majority said they were looking for a deal above all else.

Free shipping is becoming increasingly common throughout the e-commerce industry, driven by subscription services like Amazon Prime, and Blue Acorn says it's leading to a trend that could prove costly for retailers: Consumers are placing smaller orders more frequently, rather than buying all at once.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703 or on Twitter @thadmoore.