Goal: Improve access to capital for new and expanding high-tech enterprises.
The success of companies depends on adequate access to different types of capital during various stages of growth. Entrepreneurs rely on debt and equity financing to start and grow their businesses. These resources are used by entrepreneurial ventures to support fundamental business functions such as marketing, manufacturing, and sales as well as innovation-boosting research and development and commercialization activities. Access to capital here encompasses risk capital used to fund innovation in early-stage companies, including private investment funds, public sector investment programs, and state R&D tax credits.
Virginia’s private angel investment and venture capital investment decreased in 2015. Public sector investment, which included CIT’s Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) Funds, the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF), and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (Tobacco Commission), also increased in aggregate, although appropriations for the former two programs decreased. Private sector leverage is also an important consideration. When funds leveraged from other sources are included, the total investment impact of GAP reached $93.0 million in FY2015. R&D tax credits, which include the R&D expenses tax credit and the qualified equity and subordinated debt investments tax credit, demonstrated an uptick from taxable year (TY) 2013 to TY2014.
Why is access to capital important?
Access to a variety of sources of capital is important for business startup, expansion and investments in research and development, and commercialization of research. Many promising entrepreneurial ventures fail because of the difficulty of securing funding to cover negative cash flow during an early stage. Private investment provides the largest source of funding for innovative companies. The public sector plays a facilitating role by offering tax credits and providing funding to innovative companies to support applied research and commercialization activities in high-risk areas and leverage additional private investment.
How has Virginia performed over the last five years?
Angel investment typically provides seed capital for the earliest stage of business startup activity. Angel investment in increased from an estimated $14-20 million in 2011 to a peak of $18-35 million in 2014. In 2015, angel investment dropped to $10-20 million. The number of deals financed follows a similar path. There were an estimated 50 to 100 angel investments in 2011, increasing to 100-200 in 2013 and 2014. The number of deals decreased to 70-140 in 2015. Nationally, angel investment has been relatively flat over the last three years. Although angel investment increased slightly from $24.1 billion in 2014 to $24.6 billion in 2015, the number of angel investment deals decreased from 73,400 to 71,110. Virginia attracts a relatively small amount of national angel investment, with approximately 0.06% of national angel investment and 0.15% of angel investment deals in 2015.
Venture capital investment is an important source of capital for more established early- and later-stage startups that need funding to accelerate growth. Venture capital has exhibited a pattern of intermittent growth and decline over the last five years. Virginia venture capital investment decreased from $513.9 in 2011 to $272.4 million in 2012. It increased to a high of $637.6 million in 2013 but decreased once again to $476 million in 2014 and eased further to $422.6 million in 2015. Seed- and early-stage investment has been a big contributor to this volatility, with oscillation between a low of $39 million in 2011 and high of $205 million in 2013. The number of venture capital deals has also fluctuated, but within a much narrower band, with a low of 67 venture deals in 2013 and high of 80 in 2012. Seed- and early-stage venture deals increased over the 2011-2015 period from 35 to 42, while expansion- and later-stage deals decreased slightly from 43 to 32.
Virginia ranked 21st among U.S. states in venture capital spending as a percentage of state GDP (0.09%) in 2015, but this rate was lower than the national average of 0.33%. Virginia's rate was lower than four benchmark states: California (1.37%), Massachusetts (1.20%), Maryland (0.23%), and North Carolina (0.14) but higher than Texas (0.07%). California was the national leader.
As a result of the growth of the Internet and social networking in recent years, several new financial technology tools have arisen that offer additional funding options for entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding provides startup funds through monetary contributions provided by numerous investors over the Internet in return for initial batches of the startup product or firm equity. Peer-to-peer electronic platform business lenders take advantage of big data processing capabilities to rapidly assess firm credit risks and serve as a broker for small loans. These new financial technologies will likely provide new avenues for entrepreneurial funding in the future as government restrictions are eased.
Public Sector Investment
The goal of public sector investment is to stimulate private investment. Diversifying the sources and expanding the pool of private seed and venture capital for entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth generates more innovative startups and creates jobs.
The Commonwealth of Virginia promotes innovation and entrepreneurship through various incentive programs. The CIT GAP Funds, the CRCF, and the Tobacco Commission’s R&D Grants are among the most important programs.
CIT GAP Funds provide seed- and early-stage near-equity and equity investments in Virginia-based technology, life science, and clean technology firms that exhibit a high potential for achieving rapid growth, generating significant economic returns, and leveraging private investment. Over the past five years the program has seen a significant increase in new deals, investment amounts, and leveraged dollars. In FY2011, $490,000 was invested in six GAP projects, which attracted additional private funding of $11.71 million. In FY2015, CIT invested in $3.6 million in 46 projects, which leveraged $93 million in additional funding.
The CRCF promotes science- and technology-based research, development, commercialization, and company formation and growth. The Fund, which was initiated in 2011, makes awards to projects that align with sectors in the Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap and works in tandem with other federal and state programs to leverage matching funds. A significant portion of the funded activity occurs in partnership with Virginia universities. Between FY2012 and FY2016, 232 awards have been announced. In FY2012, $5.8 million was awarded for 47 projects, in FY2013, $3 million was awarded for 42 projects, in FY2014, $4.2 million was awarded for 52 projects, in FY2015, 38 projects received $2.8 million in funding, and in FY2016, 48 projects received $3.4 million in funding. In FY2016, a $3.8 million appropriation was provided for CRCF. This amount came about because the $2.8 million initial appropriation was augmented by a special appropriation of $1 million added in the 2015 General Assembly session.
The Virginia Tobacco Commission established the $100 million R&D fund in 2009 to provide grant funding to public and non-profit organizations and educational institutions in support of conducting research and development and commercializing technology. The funded projects are selected to maximize the economic development impact on the 41-locality tobacco-dependent regions in Southern and Southwest Virginia. FY2011 saw the largest project outlays with $24.6 million for 14 projects. Awarded projects funding dropped in 2012 and 2013 to seven projects for $14 million and five projects for $4.7 million respectively. Project awards and funding increased to nine projects and $13.2 million in FY2014 and to ten projects and $17.0 million in FY2015.
R&D Tax Credits
The Commonwealth of Virginia offers three R&D tax credit/exemption programs to eligible firms and private investors. The Research and Development Expenses Tax Credit, established in 2011, provides a refundable individual and corporate income tax credit for qualified R&D expenses. The amount available for this program was recently boosted from $5 million to $6 million in TY2014. The Qualified Equity and Subordinated Debt Investments Tax Credit offers angel investors a 50% tax credit for pre-qualified small business ventures involved in technology fields. The cap has been adjusted from year to year within a range of $3-5 million. The state also offers individual and corporate income tax subtractions for long-term capital gains attributable to qualified investments in early stage technology, biotechnology, and energy startups.
The Virginia Research and Development Expenses Tax Credit has seen a steady increase in approved applications and tax credit amounts. In TY2011, 64 applications were approved for a total amount of $2.1 million. This increased to 135 approved applications and $4.5 million in TY2012 , 193 approved applications that reached the cap of $5.0 million available in TY2013, and 230 approved applications that climbed to the new cap of $6.0 million in TY 2014.
Qualified Equity and Subordinated Debt Investment Tax Credit use has fluctuated from year to year, in part because of changing program caps. In TY2010, 110 applications were approved for $3.7 million in credits. In TY2011, 200 applications were approved for an amount that totaled that year’s cap of $3 million. In TY2012, 65 applications were approved for a total of $2.5 million. In TY2013, 140 applications were approved for $4.5 million, the program cap for that year. TY2014 saw 127 applications that reached the program cap of $5.0 million for the year.
In TY2011, 13 corporate investors claimed $10.0 million in deductions based on the capital gains tax exemption for technology businesses, with a general fund impact of $8,732. In TY2012, 30 corporate investors claimed $172.3 million in deductions for a general fund impact of $27,379. Individuals could also claim this deduction but those data are not yet available. In addition, because the deduction is for any long-term capital gains resulting from a qualified investment and may be claimed in the future, the total general fund impact is unknown and may be higher than the reported tax year General Fund impacts.
What are the implications?
Capital investment is a key input in building innovative companies. Early-stage companies use seed investment to transform applied research into commercial products and services, while later-stage companies use expansion capital to boost growth. Private investment is a critical catalyst for innovative companies and entrepreneurs and accounts for most of the funds invested in new ventures. Public sector investment is smaller but is made in innovative companies that stimulate additional private investment and add value to the state economy. In recent years, the Commonwealth has created additional R&D investment tax credits and deductions to expand capital access. In the future, business startups may be able to more fully utilize additional private investment channels though new financial technology tools such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer business lending.
Data Sources and Definitions:
Each IEMS indicator reports data available as of June 27, 2016 and provides a description of trends for five years of historical data when available.
Angel Investment: Seed and Start-up Equity Capital Market in the Commonwealth of Virginia (2011-2015): Jeffery Sohl, University of New Hampshire.
Angel investment deals and values are estimated based on survey data. Available every year in May.
Venture Capital data is from PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree™ Report: Thomson Reuters:
Available every year in January.
Nominal Gross Domestic Product by State data is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis: http://www.bea.gov/regional/index.htm. Available in June.
GAP Funds. Data are from the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT)
CRCF Funds: Data are from the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and the CRCF 2014 Annual Report: http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD2762014/$file/RD276.pdf.
Tobacco Commission R&D Grant Awards: Data from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Counties and cities within the Tobacco Commission funding region are shown at: http://www.tic.virginia.gov/tobmapupdated.shtml. Program guidelines target entities that “engage in applied research that is post proof-of-concept; invent and/or improve products, processes, or services that or whose value is substantially increased in the region; pursue commercialization within 36 months; and conduct research and development in: energy, biomedical and health care, information technology, chemical and materials, environment.”
R&D Tax Credits: Data from the Virginia Department of Taxation. The state fiscal year (FY) begins July 1 and ends on June 30. The taxable year (TY) is the 12-month period used by individuals or businesses for income tax reporting purposes. The tax year is the calendar year for most individuals and businesses.