Date: January 3, 2023

Adventure Capital: Ridgeline invests in technology startups with potential to transform business.

New York-based Altana AI uses artificial intelligence to create a map of events in the supply chain, so companies and federal agencies can track where goods are in real time. It’s an innovation that helps meet the requirements of President Joe Biden’s executive order calling for the review and assessment of critical U.S. supply chains.

Altana AI is just one of the innovative, new tech startups supported by Ridgeline, a Crosstown Concourse-based venture capital firm. Ridgeline invests in B2B (business-to-business) companies that are working on ground-breaking technology.

“Instead of ‘venture capital,’ think of ‘adventure capital.’ We’re starting at the beginning of the adventure with the entrepreneur, trying to help them create value. We invest in early stage technology that we think will have a positive impact on society,” said Ridgeline principal Brandon Harris.

Ridgeline was founded in 2020 by Andrew McMahon, Ben Walker, and Ryan Clinton in Los Angeles. Walker and Clinton met at West Point military academy, and the two served in the Iraq War together. McMahon worked for the White House doing tech modernization during President Barack Obama’s administration.  

 “There’s a common theme of service to your country between the three of them, along with deep ties to the federal government,” said Harris. 

Because of the founders’ combined backgrounds, Ridgeline often helps the startups they invest in broker deals and build relationships with the federal government. But a government deal isn’t a requirement, and the VC firm can also connect companies to the corporate partners that are invested in the fund.

 “If you can help a company get its first large enterprise contract or contract with the federal government, that is going to increase their valuation and their ability to scale,” Harris said.

Ridgeline looks for companies that are poised to have a transformative impact on how corporations and the federal government works, and they place priority on startups from Tennessee and across the Southeast.

“We feel like there is a unique value-add that we give to the entrepreneurs and to some of our greatest companies and the federal government. And in doing that, we’re kind of serving our country. We’re making our economy stronger,” Harris said.

For its initial fund, Ridgeline raised $52 million from a combination of high net-worth individuals, corporate investors, and foundations. The amount that Ridgeline invests in each startup in its portfolio varies depending on whether the company is in its seed stage or further along, but the average investment is $1.25 million. Harris is quick to point out that Ridgeline does more than simply provide the funds to help a startup get off the ground.

“We’re the money, but we try to be much more than that. We’re starting an adventure with the entrepreneur, and while money is great, you really need to have a stronger and more compelling value-add if you’re going to help the company be successful,” Harris said. 

Once an investment is made, Ridgeline has an ownership stake in the company, and Harris says they try to be conscious that they’re setting the company up for success, hence those deals with corporations or the federal government.

Though Ridgeline was founded in L.A., the company moved to Memphis after forming relationships with large companies like FedEx, Dollar General and AutoZone. Harris said Crosstown Concourse seemed like the perfect fit because of what the building’s renovation represents for Memphis.

“I’m a native Memphian, and I went to Central High and Snowden Middle School, and my grandma lives on Jackson Avenue. So I used to drive past the Sears Tower a lot, and it was this huge abandoned building, this source of blight,” Harris said. “And now it’s vibrant. It’s a launchpad for the city and a way for people to have community come together. That’s the type of change and transformation that Ridgeline is trying to help be a part of in Memphis.”

1350 CONCOURSE AVE • MEMPHIS, TN • 38104 • 901.203.8300