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Directions 2022: Lincoln startups continue to draw attention – and big bucks

From the Directions 2022: Changing times in Lincoln series
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Monolith rendering

A rendering shows the proposed expansion of Monolith's facilities near Hallam.

It could be a while before Lincoln startup companies see another year like 2021.

Firms based in Lincoln raised nearly $300 million in venture capital in 2021. Not only was that the most for one year among Lincoln firms, it blew away the previous high for the state.

Leading the way was Monolith, which secured $120 million in venture capital from a consortium of big-time firms, including SK Inc., NextEra Energy and Warburg Pincus.

The high-tech manufacturer is in the midst of a $1 billion expansion project to increase the size of its carbon black manufacturing plant near Hallam and add a plant that will produce anhydrous ammonia using the hydrogen generated by the carbon black process.

While Monolith wasn't founded in Lincoln — it moved its headquarters here a few years ago from California — the city's homegrown startups shared in the big year.

Lincoln firm that helps truckers hauls in $78 million investment
Lincoln medical device company gets $46 million investment

The list was topped by BasicBlock, a financial technology company that makes it easier for truckers to get paid, which hauled in $78 million in November from a number of investors, including Nelnet.

Among homegrown startups, that was the largest amount of money raised by any company not named Hudl.

November was a big month for Lincoln startups, as Virtual Incision, which makes a surgical robot that can perform minimally invasive abdominal surgeries such as colon resections, received a $46 million investment during the month.

That amount brought Virtual Incision's total venture investment to nearly $100 million since 2015, a cumulative amount that's also second only to Hudl among Lincoln-based firms.

Lincoln man's investing app for teens garners $500,000 investment
Lincoln construction startup hits jackpot with $30 million venture capital infusion

The other major venture capital raise last year was the $30 million reeled in by CompanyCam in October. The startup created a photo app that helps contractors document and track their projects.

Among other investments that were publicly disclosed were a couple of $500,000 investments, one in March targeting Pawlytics, a company that produces software that helps manage small-animal shelter and pet rescue organizations, and another in November for Bumper, a company with an app focused on helping teenagers invest.

Not all of the news involving startups over the past year involved companies getting money. In a significant move, Lincoln-based Invest Nebraska announced it was partnering with Burlington Capital of Omaha to start a venture capital fund aimed at investing in agricultural startups based in Nebraska and other Midwestern states.

The fund's goal was to raise $11 million by the end of the year.

In other notable Lincoln startup news:

* After spending more than a decade in the former Salvation Army building at Eighth and P streets, Don't Panic Labs, which provides software and engineering development services to other companies, moved to a larger space in the Larson Building at 13th and Q.

* In early 2022, a new crop of companies was named to the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development's LaunchLNK program, which provides $25,000 grants as well as free professional services and connections to mentors.

The five companies named to the program were FanWord, Senior Care Finder, Sentinel Fertigation, Tiiga and Little Movements Apparel. All five companies are based in the Lincoln area.

— Matt Olberding

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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