Contact: Schorr Johnson (919) 807-3132


August 20, 2013

Treasurer Cowell visits Raleigh-based StepLeader, an NC Innovation Fund portfolio company

Raleigh, NC – Today, North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell visited Stepleader in Raleigh.  StepLeader, an innovative mobile app developer and advertisement platform, recently received an investment from one of North Carolina Innovation Fund’s (NCIF) private equity managers, River Cities Capital Funds (River Cities). Treasurer Cowell established the Innovation Fund to support and invest in businesses like StepLeader that have significant operations in North Carolina and earn an attractive rate of return for the state’s pension fund. River Cities’ investment has allowed StepLeader to more quickly scale up, adding technical and marketing professionals to its team, as well as expanding its software offering into new industry sectors.

“North Carolina is a good investment. We can protect and grow our pension fund while helping homegrown companies create jobs,” said Treasurer Cowell. “Investing in high-growth companies like StepLeader is exactly what we envisioned when we established the Innovation Fund.”

During Treasurer Cowell’s visit today, she met with StepLeader’s Executive Team and many employees of the approximately 34-person company. After taking a tour of the office space, Cowell discussed the Innovation Fund and received a walk-through of the company’s product development process.

“StepLeader is excited to welcome Treasurer Cowell into our office,” StepLeader CEO Brian Handly said. “As a result of our fundraising, we’ve been able to bring on new team members, strengthen our mobile product offerings and expand our mobile advertising sales capabilities. We pride ourselves on being innovators in the mobile industry, and one of the largest app developers in the Southeast.”


About the North Carolina Innovation Fund

NCIF was established in 2010, with funding from the state’s $80 billion pension fund, to invest in both private equity funds and companies with a nexus to North Carolina.  The Customized Fund Investment Group of Credit Suisse was chosen to manage the $232 million Fund, of which $170 million has been committed to seven private equity managers and 11 companies through co-investments alongside private equity managers. Despite the still early age of the Fund, the NCIF portfolio is exhibiting strong performance, with two successful exits to date and multiple valuation increases since investment.  NCIF fund manager relationships span a broad range of strategies and include: Carousel Capital, Falfurrias Capital Partners, Frontier Capital, Hatteras Venture Partners, Kian Capital, Novaquest Capital Management, and River Cities Capital Funds.  To date NCIF co-investments have helped to attract out-of-state private equity firms to invest in our state and supported over 6,200 North Carolina jobs, spanning the state from Statesville to Wilmington. NCIF’s investments represent a diverse array of sectors, including health care, industrials, financial services, manufacturing, automotive, software, communications and logistics. NCIF continues to seek investment opportunities with a nexus to North Carolina.

About StepLeader

Located in downtown Raleigh, StepLeader formed in 2004 when it developed the nation’s first news app for local media. Today, the company offers solutions and thought-leading expertise to help trusted content producers deliver their stories across mobile apps, mobile websites and smart TV apps. StepLeader provides advertisers with transparent access to a nationwide audience, delivering more than 400 million ads monthly. StepLeader has a proven track record of delivering quality return-on-investment for its partners including Scripps Television Station Group, Fox Television Stations, Morgan Murphy Media, News-Press & Gazette Company (NPG) and Capitol Broadcasting Company.

About River Cities Capital Funds

River Cities Capital Funds provides growth equity financing and business acumen to high-potential health care and information technology companies. River Cities specializes in helping entrepreneurs with market-proven solutions, services and devices to effectively and efficiently build infrastructure for rapid and profitable revenue growth. With nearly $500 million of capital raised and more than 100 investments made, River Cities has established itself as a preferred partner among the entrepreneurial and private equity communities. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Raleigh, North Carolina, the firm is currently seeking new investments for its fifth fund.

About the Customized Fund Investment Group

The Customized Fund Investment Group (CFIG) is one of the largest and deepest investment teams dedicated to private equity investing. As of December 31, 2012, CFIG manages over $31 billion (1) in commitments to private equity funds of funds and co-investments, both in the U.S. and internationally. CFIG’s 140 professionals are based at the group’s offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Austin, Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles, Portland and Raleigh.

CFIG specializes in developing customized private equity investment programs that address the specific needs of investors. CFIG develops fund investment programs for active institutional investors who have specific portfolio needs, and for emerging institutional investors who have a need for assistance with asset allocation, portfolio development and administration, due diligence, and other advisory services, or any combination thereof. Once established, CFIG takes a service-oriented, long-term partnership approach to its customized accounts. CFIG’s clients include sophisticated institutions and high-net-worth investors.

1. Includes approximately $6.7 billion of commitments relating to funds that CFIG currently manages, but which were not raised by and which were not invested by CFIG.