MEMPHIS, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ridgeline, a Memphis, Tennessee-based early-stage venture capital firm led by founding partners Ryan Clinton, Ben Walker, and Andrew McMahon, closed its inaugural $52m Fund. The firm’s thesis is to invest in technologies and businesses that have the potential to transform large enterprises across both software and hardware.
People often underestimate the power of places outside Silicon Valley in venture capital. The advantage of Ridgeline is their relationships with their strategic corporate limited partners (LPs) —including Fortune 500 companies FedEx, AutoZone, and Dollar General, all headquartered in Tennessee—representing foundational industries that impact the lives of many Americans every day. These strategic corporate LPs, through investing with Ridgeline, intend to drive innovation in their organizations by conducting meaningful pilots and proofs of concept with the firm’s portfolio.
“Ridgeline’s thesis is shaped by the digital transformation they have witnessed over successful careers in the military and in the corporate world,” said Frederick W. Smith, Founder and Executive Chairman of FedEx Corporation, and Bill Rhodes, Chairman, President, and CEO of AutoZone, in a jointly written letter. “They understand a business’s need to analyze data at scale, incorporate machine learning into data flows, and integrate autonomy and robotics into operations. This value chain provides a great early-stage investment opportunity as it creates the ability to solve complex and costly business problems, in an accelerated way, creating value for both customers and shareholders alike.”
“At Dollar General, we are supportive of new and innovative ways to meet the needs of our customers and better serve our local communities,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO. “We look forward to combining the experience and technologies Ridgeline will bring with our unique store footprint and reach across the country in an effort to further enhance our operations, supply chain and both the employee and customer experience.”
Additional LPs include Staley Cates’ community foundation donor-advised fund; Kevin Ryan, CEO AlleyCorp and co-founder of MongoDB; and Ray Rothrock, CEO of FiftySix Investments and former General Partner at Venrock. Advisors include Kevin Compton, Co-Founder and Partner at Radar Partners; and Michèle Flournoy, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors.
Ridgeline’s portfolio highlights so far include:
- Wallaroo—providing a simple, secure, and scalable deployment capability for last-mile machine learning. Ridgeline invested in Wallaroo in January 2020, helping the company grow its revenue across multiple government and commercial customers. The company raised a $25m Series A from M12 in January 2022.
- PlanetWatchers—bringing the analysis of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to the commercial world with use cases in agriculture, climate, and insurance. Ridgeline invested in PlanetWatchers in June 2021, helping the company gain traction with government customers starting with the USDA. In August 2022, the company raised a $11m Series A led by Seraphim Space and Creative Ventures.
Ridgeline was established to identify, partner with, and serve founders as they prepare to go to market. The firm leverages its expertise and deep network to surround founders with the resources and relationships they need to navigate the fraught terrain between product potential and product market fit. Early-stage technology companies that receive investment from Ridgeline notably gain meaningful access to FedEx, AutoZone, and Dollar General.
All of Ridgeline’s founding partners come from a background of service and realized it was faster to solve problems in national security from the private sector. Ryan Clinton and Ben Walker are graduates of West Point and served together in combat operations overseas. Andrew McMahon is a former Obama Administration appointee. Prior to Ridgeline, Clinton was a lead for growth and business development at Anduril and head of strategy and business development for the Brand Development group at Comcast NBCUniversal. Walker helped to build Deloitte’s Silicon Valley practice and was a co-founding Partner at Harpoon Ventures. After his government service, McMahon was Chief Revenue Officer of The Dcode Group, a business development consulting firm serving growth stage start-ups.
Ridgeline plans to invest in early-stage enterprise software and hardware companies at the seed and Series A stages. The firm has made 17 investments in Fund I to date and expects to invest in up to 30 companies throughout the life of the fund.