Big things come from small communities. Partner @ Greater Colorado Venture Fund + Kokopelli Capital
GCVF operates like a startup. 2020 marked our first major ‘product release’ – the Greater Colorado Pitch Series.
As is our goalsetting dogma, we had one ‘primary goal’ —source at least one incredible founder team to invest in. Having met a few of our pitch series founders in-person this past week (including David and Linh from Hackernoon!), and we’re confident we blew this goal out of the water.
That said, we embrace the role this pitch series can play in the larger Colorado startup ecosystem. We set internal goals in order to know we’re spending our time wisely as VCs, but a lot of the value created by GCPS resides outside of our investment.
Sourcing rural Colorado companies for investment is a byproduct of the real GCPS endeavor — creating a new pillar in the rural Colorado startup ecoystem.
So how did we do?
Here is our analysis of the 2020 Greater Colorado Pitch Series and our learnings for the future:
97 was beyond our loftiest expectations. We were very pleased by this, and do wonder if our pre-Covid 19 plans roadshow format for the Pitch Series could have matched this.
The location spread is a snapshot of how our startup ecosystem is evolving. The communities called out on the right are all either larger communities in rural Colorado, such as Grand Junction and Pueblo, or have benefited from years of community leadership to build their entrepreneurial capacities, such as Telluride, Carbondale, and Durango. Taking a decade-plus view, the sheer population of the larger communities will start to produce more startups, but right now, community leadership is the grand equalizer.
Our GCPS deal-flow was male-skewed but in line with the macro data. The real work is to help support women take the initial steps to start businesses, and then ensure our decision-making is not biased as funders. Bluntly, our finalists were by and large male. As a partnership, we’re digging through our internal GCPS scorecards to understand where we may be baking in any bias.
Almost a third of our applicants were pre-revenue and over half were below the $50k mark for 2019 revenue. Our finalists had notably more 2019 revenue as a group than the application pool as a whole. This was not unexpected and simply points to a lot of companies that are too early for our investing sweetspot. We’re excited to follow their journeys as they grow and partner where we can!
More than half of our applicants had taken some form of outside capital before applying to the Pitch Series. This is usually ‘friends and family’ startup capital, typically invested before GCVF’s ‘seed stage’ checks.
This does make us worry about founders without access to ‘friends and family’ capital? Are we, as a capital ecosystem, helping them get off the ground?
Teams with cofounders were scored higher amongst all three of us during our initial screening. Not every founder needs to have a cofounder, but a strong team is always better than a strong individual.
It is no surprise that 70% of our companies came from tech and outdoor industry companies. This squares with trends amongst our non-GCPS deal-flow and confirms that these are the two major drivers of many of rural Colorado’s high growth companies today.
We’re extremely proud of the financial impact GCPS had. Even if this event had 10 viewers (it is actually 1,800+ as of this writing) and no greater storytelling value, we would have considered this a win for our startup ecosystem. GCVF exists to prove a worthy financial opportunity in rural startups, and these numbers and partners are an early indicator that we’re onto something.
Out of 97 applying startups, seven pitched for investment during the July 31st broadcast. All seven pitches were superb quality, nevermind the fact that they had just a few weeks to prepare. This goes to show the level of founders that we had found (and just how good our pitch coach was). GCVF has invested in three finalist companies so far, with likely more investment coming for other finalists and applicants to come.
We’re humbled by the support from our partners in helping market the event, floored by the ecosystem for the stellar applicant turnout, and remain excited to partner with the companies we met through GCPS.
And of course, this would not have been possible without our sponsors. Thanks for believing in us and the rural Colorado startup ecosystem.
You can bet GCPS will be back for 2021. We hope it continues to provide an easy, virtual way to access GCVF and look forward to building upon our 2020 success to expand the impact it can make for our rural Colorado startup ecosystem.
And let’s not forget….Hackernoon!
As we first noted here, Hackernoon embodies what this virtual pitch event was meant for. Linh and David had the fortitude to pack up from Silicon Valley to grow their business from Rural Colorado, and some of their employees have even joined them since. GCVF is proud to have made a commitment to them, the future of the internet, and the future of rural Colorado.