Charleston venture fund switches gears, broadens investment horizons

The Kauffmann Foundation says its 1MC program is based on the idea “that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee.”

A Charleston angel venture fund is now looking for opportunities beyond the high-tech space.

Silicon Harbor Ventures, which is around two years old, said last week it is shifting gears and expanding its investment horizon.

“While there continues to be growth in Charleston in startup technology companies, SHV believes that by broadening its mandate, they are likely to see more compelling investment opportunities and better serve the wide variety of entrepreneurs in the region,” the group said Thursday in a statement.

Michael Knox, managing partner, added: “I think what we found with the tech scene … what Charleston really needs is a significant amount of money in the seed space.”

Silicon Harbor Ventures has made two local investments under the new strategy in the past month. It said it’s providing capital to an unidentified pizza franchisee that plans to add more locations. The second deal is a debt and equity financing round for SIB Lighting, a new affiliate of Charleston’s SIB Development and Consulting Inc., which helps commercial clients trim their utility bills and other fixed expenses.

The Harbor Entrepreneur Center will be holding weekly sessions where early-stage entrepreneurs can share their business ideas and get useful feedback.

It’s part of a Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation program called 1 Million Cups, which has expanded to more than 70 cities.

The initiative is “designed to offer local entrepreneurs valuable exposure and feedback on their startup businesses in a supportive environment,” according to a statement. Kansas City-based Kauffmann said its “1MC” program is “based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee.”

Taylor Brown, senior program coordinator for the foundation, said the participating companies are chosen based on a couple of requirements. Age is one factor — a qualifying business can be a three-year-old company with no customers or a less-than five-year-old company with some customers, she said. The startups also must to want to grow, she said.

Brown described the sessions as “a town hall for anyone that’s interested in entrepreneurship.”

The first in Charleston is set for July 16 at 9 a.m. at 633 King St. Go to www.harborec.com/1-million-cups www.1millioncups.com for more details.

Reach Allison Prang at 937-5705 or on Twitter @AllisonPrang.