A new Dallas unicorn is getting a jump start to the 2023 project financing cycle

Money flowing into Dallas-area startups is off to a fast start in 2023, a trend that mirrors the year before venture support waned amid year-end economic uncertainty.

Since January 1, at least five North Texas companies have landed huge investments, including a $300 million round that crowned the region’s newest “unicorn” — the designation given to billion-dollar startups.

Investment deals to date include:

  • $300 million to Dallas-based ShiftKey, a technology company that connects licensed professionals with healthcare companies seeking to fill open shifts. Investors include Lorient Capital, Ares Management, Pantheon, Clearlake Capital and Health Velocity Capital.
  • $40 million to Dallas-based Inbenta, a conversational AI platform that automates customer service interactions. Tritium Partners led the investment round.
  • $35 million to Addison-based Medix Infusion, a company that provides personalized care to improve access to infusion therapy for chronically ill patients in rural, suburban, and underserved areas. Investors include Echo Health Ventures, Pittco Direct Investments II, and Noro-Moseley Partners.
  • $21.2 million to Dallas-based Worlds Enterprises, a technology platform that provides AI-based automation to the ground floor operations of major industrial companies.
  • Up to $15 million to Dallas-based ReCode Therapeutics to develop a genetic platform that can deliver drugs to select organs in the human body. Inhaled mRNA therapy could eventually be used to treat cystic fibrosis. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the investor.

Additionally, lottery betting app and Jackpot.com expanded to Texas this month with $42 million backing from some of the biggest sports franchises in the state — the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

Decline 2022

Investment support for innovators in North Texas has been on the rise during the pandemic recovery, with investment surpassing $1 billion in consecutive quarters at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, according to data from research firm CB Insights.

Total investment flowing into Dallas-Fort Worth startups exceeded $3 billion in both years, with $3.65 billion in 2021 representing a nearly threefold increase from the $1.36 billion in pre-pandemic 2019.

Recession fears caused investors to tighten their portfolios to close out 2022, and funding in the region fell to a three-year low — or $190 million in the last three months.

Globally, project financing fell 35% year-on-year to $415 billion last year. In the US, the year-end total of $198.4 billion was down 37%.

Funding rounds of $100 million or more fell 50% — marking a 10-quarter low.

Meet the new “double rhino”.

Leading the way this year is ShiftKey’s mega funding round that puts a $2 billion valuation on the company founded by Tom Ellis in 2016.

ShiftKey has created a proprietary scheduling platform for the healthcare industry to connect licensed professionals with facilities looking to fill shifts. The company said its platform is used by more than 10,000 healthcare facilities nationwide.

ShiftKey co-founder and CEO Tom Ellis. (shift key)

“ShiftKey is transforming the future of work by enabling licensed professionals to have the freedom and flexibility to choose when, where and how they want to work,” David Berman, Managing Partner of Lorient Capital, said in a statement.

Its mobile app allows nurses, radiology technologists, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare workers to search for nearby shifts and bids to work close shifts for absent employees.

Ellis and company have earned several honors in the past year, including a #1 ranking in the Dallas 100 at Southern Methodist University. This program recognizes the fastest growing companies in the region with revenues between $500,000 and $100 million.

ShiftKey’s revenue grew 2,000% over a three-year period, according to SMU, which does not disclose revenue numbers for the companies it rates.

“During the height of the coronavirus outbreak, health care facilities struggled to have staff available 24/7,” said Simon Mack, executive director of the Carruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at SMU Cox School of Business. “The platform that ShiftKey introduced was literally a lifesaver.”

It joins other notable North Texas companies Caris Life Sciences, o9 Solutions, LTK, Island and Mavenir. Tracking website Crunchbase lists 1,432 companies as unicorns.

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