VentureSouth (copy) (copy)

Investors meet at VentureSouth. Members of the Greenville-based group increased their investments in Southeastern startups in 2019 by 82 percent from the previous year. Provided/VentureSouth

One of the few venture funds making investments in South Carolina reported another record year in 2019, scaling up its capital outlays by 82 percent from 2018.

VentureSouth, which is based in Greenville and has local chapters, focuses on promising companies in the Southeast. 

The 11-year-old firm last week reported "substantial growth in our investment activity" over the last three years, "from $4.5 million in 2017, to $7 million in 2018, and now to a record $12.7 million in 2019." All told, its members have made roughly 700 individual investments. 

"This is a testament to both the attractive early stage companies operating in the Southeast and the infrastructure we have built that allows investors to fund them with conviction," said Paul Clark, managing director of VentureSouth.

Among the new companies added to the VentureSouth portfolio in 2019, startups Punchlist, Offsite, Treis Blockchain and Zylo Therapeutics are based in South Carolina.

The firm also added new outposts in the Hilton Head Island area and Wilmington, N.C., last year. 

A lack of available startup capital has been a long-term challenge for Charleston's technology industry. The situation is improving somewhat in South Carolina, according to BIP Capital's latest State of Startups in the Southeast report. Since 2014, venture and angel funds have invested $560 million into new firms in the Palmetto State, according to the report.

Above a buck 

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Shares in a locally based pharmaceutical firm fell below $1 for 30 consecutive business days, prompting a notice from Nasdaq that it will be delisted if it can't boost the price over the next six months. 

Aeterna Zentaris was incorporated in 1990, and its offices are in Summerville though it also has corporate ties to Canada. It develops treatments in the oncology and endocrinology fields, primarily through licensing agreements. In early 2017, one of the company's drugs failed to pass a key test, throwing the firm's future into doubt. 

Aeterna Zentaris announced the Nasdaq delisting notification Wednesday. That same day, the stock, which trades under the ticker symbol AEZS, closed at $1.11.

Nasdaq rules require that shares of its listed companies trade at or higher than $1. Aeterna Zentaris can get back in the exchange's good graces if it can meet that minimum standard for 10 consecutive business days by July 1.  

The company said it "intends to cure the deficiency within the prescribed grace period."

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.