What better way to celebrate a 10 year anniversary than raise a $74M fund?
Contrary to popular belief, gambling is awesome. Yeah, yeah, I know, when taken by the wrong hands it can lead to financial destitution and broken lives, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care, I want to talk about the fun part: how gambling is the perfect adrenaline rush, fueled by money.
In 2008, Gavin Christensen and Kickstart Seed Fund took a gamble. Boiled down to its essence, this gamble centered on a simple belief: Utah could become a startup haven where a seed fund could thrive. Things weren’t ideal in the beginning —Christensen recalls taking over two years to raise $8 million for their first fund, right on the heels of an economic recession — but since opening their doors ten years ago, many things have changed.
For starters, Utah is a nationally-recognized tech and startup hub, confirming Kickstart’s belief that a Utah-based seed fund could thrive. Now, Gavin is too humble of a man to celebrate his successful gamble as I would, by completely disrobing and running in breathless circles around Kickstart’s HQ in Cottonwood Heights, stopping only to urinate on the graves of my enemies.
Instead, like the gentleman he is, Gavin remained fully clothed and emitted no bodily fluid during the course of our interview to discuss today’s big news: Kickstart Seed Fund has closed Fund 4 at $74 million. If that’s not a testament to a 10-year gamble well played, I don’t know what is.
“The reality of a seed fund is these are really long term investments,” said Christensen. “You have to be as passionate about the place as you are about the business. It’s very much about building not just a fund, team, and strategy, but a community around it. We wanted to do that in a place we are passionate about the culture and people, to see that place take the next step.”
Just like the title of an award-winning podcast, Kickstart looked at Utah and declared, “This is the place.” They have helped spur economic growth in the state, writing a multitude of first checks for companies in need of seed capital. And over the course of a decade, they’ve witnessed change.
“The quality and quantity of companies is dramatically different now,” said Christensen. “A lot of what we did in our first fund was help people learn how to be entrepreneurs, by working with them and learning together along the way. Now, we still invest in all kinds of first-time entrepreneurs, but we also invest in a lot of people who’ve already had success in a previous venture, who are back for the second or third time…Coming out of the recession, Utah’s entrepreneurial ecosystem shifted to the next gear. A lot of that was the next generation of entrepreneurs coming out of BYU and other schools. When I was at BYU, the top students were focused on getting into consulting, banking, top business schools. I think that has shifted where a lot of the most talented folks are focused on entrepreneurship. We’ve also had a bunch of prominent successes which I think has helped shine a spotlight.”
The $74 million fourth fund nearly doubles Kickstart’s last fund, a $39 million haul announced at the beginning of 2015. As part of the announcement, Kickstart is also promoting Alex Soffe to administrative partner and Curt Roberts to partner. Christensen says that business will continue as usual, with Kickstart looking to find the best entrepreneurs and companies to invest in along the Mountain West. Carry on, folks.
*We wrote about the founding of Kickstart Seed Fund when they announced their third fund in 2015. *You can read that story here.