Utah's rising tide: a VC's perspective.

Author:Christensen, Gavin
Position:SILICON SLOPES
 
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Along with many of you, I had the experience of attending the Silicon Slopes Summit at the Salt Palace in January. The throngs of people (a few different sources said 5,000+ attendees) from inside and outside of the state, participating in what we are building here in Utah, are a testament to the momentum and excitement about the Utah startup scene. For me, this was a moment to reflect on what got us here--the persistent hard work and passion of a lot of people who deeply care about building something bigger than themselves.

It feels great to see Utah succeed in spite of the doubters and cynics and to do so on its own terms with scrappiness and a collaborative spirit.

As a VC focused on Utah for over a decade, I have had the pleasure of being part of this journey. Kickstart was among the first seed funds launched in the United States and we had to learn our trade right alongside the founders of startups that we backed. The learning curve was steep and painful at times. A good illustration was one of our first investments in a Utah SaaS company--we'll call them Kronware.

I was feeling good--I'd raised a fund in the financial crisis (one of the worst times to try to raise a VC fund when many saw the skies falling during the Great Recession) and believed Utah would emerge as a leading technology hub. We'd made a few investments and just finished syndicating our investment in Kronware. (Quick aside: nowadays, syndication, or filling out the rest of a round, is much easier than it used to be. Companies still need to knock on a few doors but most of the time it's the company and lead investors deciding on the right partners to include in the round together, something that would have seemed like the height of luxury in 2008. Back then, it took crazy hustle. I must've been on the phone for a week straight, going through my Rolodex [ask your parents what that is, Millennial], and rounding up $25,000 at a time until we hit the magic number: $750,000.)

Feeling like we might actually pull this VC thing off, I headed to our first board meeting with some excitement. As an investor, you learn to adjust expectations--hint: few financials ever turn out to look like hockey sticks, and you never quite know what you have invested in until the first board meeting--but nothing could have prepared me for this. I walked in the door, sat down, and within five minutes I was trying to wake up from a nightmare that was only too real. Since our investment only a...

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