Stuart Larkins & Ezra Galston of Chicago Ventures join Nick to cover Underserved Startup Ecosystems, Part 1. We will address questions including:
- What do you think are the key ingredients for a startup ecosystem?
- In what ways do you feel that some ecosystems are underserved?
- Can you talk about some specific ecosystems that you’ve identified as underserved and talk about your efforts there?
- Do you agree with Fred Wilson’s assertion that in secondary markets there’s a cat and mouse game of no local investors wanting to invest until a coastal institution steps up? How do you mitigate that concern?
- What do you feel are the main differences in working in these ecosystems vs those that are much more established, like the Valley or NYC?
- How do you get involved and build awareness in an ecosystem outside of where you are based?
- Do you think geo-focused funds can generate outsized returns, if so, why?
- Is the investment thesis different for an underserved ecosystem than it would be for a more established ecosystem? And, if so, how?
- Do you think that every ecosystem needs to have a distinct identity w/ distinct strengths? If so, why, and what are some of those ecosystem identities in the places that you work?
- Chicago Ventures
- Breaking VC
- CV on Twitter
- Stuart on Twitter
- Ezra on Twitter
- Part 2 of the interview on Underserved Ecosystems
Nick: Today #Ezra Galston and #Stuart Larkins join us from Chicago. We’re in the #Chicago Ventures office today. And the two of them were kind enough to join me for a discussion on Underserved Startup Ecosystems. #Stuart is co-founder and partner of #Chicago Ventures. He oversees all aspects of #CV, including fund management, deal sourcing and investments. And #Ezra Galston is the Senior Associate at #CV. He focuses on all aspects of the firm’s consumer facing investments, and has helped lead investments into #Blitsy, #BloomNation, #Grace, #Havenly, #Kapow, #LuxuryGarageSale, #Pluto.tv, #Shiftgig, #Spothero, and #Zipments. And #Ezra also writes great content at # breakingvc.com. #Stuart and #Ezra, welcome to the program.
Stuart: Good to be here, thank you for having us.
Nick: Yeah, can, #Stuart, can you start us off with sort of your story and how you got into venture capital?
Stuart: Sure. At first I had never, never thought I’d be doing this in my life. But about early 2000s I got involved in a startup in Chicago called #Performics. We were an early pioneer in performance marketing. About late 2001, we really got, got lucky and stumbled onto something really not well known then, called search engine marketing. And I was fortunate to get to know my now partner #Kevin Willer, who started the #Google office here in Chicago. And we were one of the early partners of #Google’s Adwords platform. Grew that business quite, quite dramatically over the 2001 to 2002 and 2003, rapidly became the largest SEM in the country, made a little notoriety there. And we were acquired by #DoubleClick in 2004. After that I stayed on to, you know, run the search business for #DoubleClick under #Performics. It’s now still alive today, but through, you know, private equity acquisitions and a bunch of growth, we ended up selling ironically #DoubleClick to #Google in 2008. So it was a very good transaction for everybody, gave me the ability to stop working there shortly and reflect on what I wanted to do. And I really wanted to give back to the community of the startup ecosystem that kind of gave me everything to date. So I started doing some angel investing, got involved with #AngelList early. And, you know, had a bunch of friends like, you know, my partner #Kevin and former colleagues from #Performics and #DoubleClick that would come in and do rounds. We’d raise anywhere from 500 to a million dollars to these angel syndicates. And that kind of got me to really liking the early stage investing. It’s really what I know and I, and it’s really what I feel comfortable doing. Eventually, it led me to starting #Chicago Ventures in 2012.
Nick: And #Ezra, how did you get involved in #CV and sort of the venture capital space?
Ezra: The story is materially different. I was coding from a very young age and kind of always involved with the internet and just kind of did a lot of marketing. So through some of my efforts, I mean, I was kind of doing marketing for some of the large movie studios, #IFC and #MGM, even when I was just a teenager. And when I got to college at NYU when I was 18, I, I came, I came with a full time job at a boutique marketing agency in New York. So kind of served as a product manager for record labels like Sony as well as some of our clients like Nickelodeon, who were, I mean this was ’02, were trying to understand the web, were trying to understand social communities on the web. This is was pre-Facebook. So, you know, kind of, you know, how to get fans together, how to enable them to communicate, how to leverage street teams, stuff like that. So we would kind of, as a marketing firm, build out products for that. After college I kind of burnt out and ended up playing poker for a living for a few years. And it was very fortuitous because in addition to, you know, thankfully doing nicely, I met a friend named #Taylor Caby who was starting a company here in Chicago called #CardRunners. So I moved here in ’07. It had just gotten off the ground and, you know, we grew it pretty quickly to a few million dollars in revenue. We used some of that money to buy another company called #Hold’em Manager, that also grew pretty quickly. And from that, you know, my business partners started another business which they raised VC money for, called #DraftDay. And instead I, you know, starting a, starting a company is hard. I had, you know, been with it for a few years and decided to get an MBA instead. And as part of going to business school, I took an internship with a little VC fund called #Chicago Ventures, that was, you know, very much a startup itself. At the time it’s office was, I don’t know, maybe a hundred and, it had no office,
Ezra: and was working out of someone else’s office. And when we got an office, it was about 150 square feet. Then, you know, kind of worked my way up from intern to it’s been a few years and, you know, more of the material part of fund.
Stuart: Yeah. #Ezra has been with me the longest of anybody so far.
Nick: Well, don’t hold it against me if I don’t invite you to my weekly poker game. We don’t need you taking my money
Ezra: I will hold it against you. It’s been a long time. I don’t think I’m a winner, a winning player much anymore. So.
Nick: So I touched on this in the intro, but can you talk about your focus areas at #CV?
Ezra: Yeah, I mean, it’s, so I think that in any small fund, any small early stage generalist fund, you need to be comfortable in, in all areas. But when I just got here and it was, you know, #Stuart and myself, I think we kind of, we all had to do a little bit of everything. #Stuart will touch on this I’m sure. He’s, I’d say he’s the master of, of kind of being competent in all areas. But as we’ve grown and we’re up to 5 on the investment team now, we’ve kind of fragmented off into areas of passion and focus. So for me, I focus more on consumer facing businesses. More broadly kind of any business that depends heavily on marketing or that sustains itself by a network effect. So I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time kind of digging deep into the data behind that. And, as an investor, feel very comfortable kind of understanding what to look for, what’s signaling a break out or even kind of the type of markets that we should be looking at, certain levels of, of opaque information that can be kind of just intermediate and stuff like that.
Nick: Great. And #Stuart, do you want to tell us a little bit more about the firm at a high level?
Stuart: Sure. So I started the firm in 2012. Our first fund size was 40 million. Didn’t set out to raise 40 million at first raised, set out to raise 20 million, and then it was just myself, and #Ezra as an intern. Then quickly as fund raising progressed, I realized I was going to be able to raise more than that and needed to bring in another partner. That’s when I brought in #Kevin as my partner. And we ended up closing the fund at 40 million. But, you know, a first time fund, it’s a startup, so I do pretty much, at the beginning I did everything, including the tax work and, you know, quick books on a monthly basis, everybody’s credit card statements come to me, and I’d sort them all out.
Ezra: And get yelled at regularly.
Ezra: and take a lot of #Uber rides, you know
Stuart: Right, right.
Nick: I feel your pain
Stuart: As, as we had grown the, the first fund and now we’re onto our second fund, that we’ll be closing here shortly, we’ve, you know, obviously got more, more fees to help and we’ve hired more folks. So we’ve got a good team in place now. But it still is a startup, you know. You’ve got to focus on hiring a good team, building a good culture and making sure that you’re, you’re not leaving any stones unturned with things that can better you as a person, your company as a business, and your portfolio company, which is the most important thing for us. So we need to really provide a lot of resources to help them.
Nick: It’s the ultimate irony. I don’t think the founders always realize that the VCs are working just as hard to differentiate and raise capital as, as sometimes they are. Okay. But today’s topic, we are talking about the underserved startup ecosystems. And first off, for either of you, what do you think are the key ingredients for a startup ecosystem?
Stuart: I mean, the key ingredients, first off, capital, right. You need money. Mentorship is very important. Community is really important. So if you look at Chicago, which we primarily focus on, we’ve had a lot of successful wins in recent years. And those founders and CEOs of those companies have given a lot back to the community. There’s also, you know, more funds. We were one of the original funds back in 2012. There were a couple more funds. But still not anything near the, the Valley or the bigger markets. So we don’t really have competition. It’s more coopetition with other funds. And then, you know, the community is really galvanized around the, the startup ecosystem. You know, we’re sitting in #1871 as we speak, where our office is. And this has done a, #1871 has done a tremendous amount for the community in general. It really is a, a unique atmosphere and ecosystem that you don’t see in many, many other cities.
Ezra: I don’t have a ton to add to that. I think that, listen I’m a regular guy. I had two, you know, good, small business startups. The, the thing I’ve seen most value additive at #Chicago Ventures, and I guess Chicago in general, has been kind of the mentorship angle. I wanted to dive into that, you know, a little bit is that we’ve surrounded the fund with some of the leading kind of entrepreneurs and executives in the midwest. And, and it’s not a sales pitch so much as it is that the companies where I think as investors we feel the most comfortable, are where some of those names and experienced operators have attached themselves to the business, either as a formal advisor or as a board member or sometimes even as a consultant. And I just think that, you know, when you look to the, to the Valley, there’s like this compounding flywheel of expertise that just gets stronger and stronger the more successes they have. And if you’re not applying those same principles to any ecosystem, you’re not going to grow. And so, what we’ve seen here is that the businesses that seem to be moving along the, the fastest or the most, you know, securely are the ones that have kind of experienced mentorship around the table. It really does make a difference. And that just takes time. It takes time to have successes and it take time for people to get confident with their own operational abilities. And we hope that we’re building kind of the, the next wave of that, that will enable kind of Chicago and the broader midwest to grow tremendously from here.
Stuart: Yeah. it is, it is an important aspect of, you know, the underserved market, so to speak. And when we set out to raise the fund, we really focused on bringing more individuals and entrepreneurs in as investors, which you typically don’t see in funds, they’re mostly like institutional capital. For us, we, you know, we hoped that bringing in these entrepreneurs and, and, you know, folks who had prior successes would lead to them getting more involved. And luckily it has. So, you know, in our first fund I think we at one point had 15 board seats. And I was only sitting on 5. The others, we had entrepreneurs like #Brian Spaly or #Sam Yagan, that had gotten involved with us, take board seats. And, you know, those are two very dynamic and capable individuals to help companies and have unique domain expertise that, you know, we, we didn’t have.
Nick: Very cool. So you have an active set of LPs, retail investors, that get involved with some of the port-cos that you invest in?
Stuart: We do. We do.
Nick: Okay. Circling back to the ecosystem discussion, in what ways do you feel that some ecosystems are underserved?
Ezra: I mean, for the, for the reasons we just listed, I think many ecosystems are underserved. In fact, I think one of our, one of our value adds when we go into, you know, a new geography, whether it’s, I don’t know, Minneapolis or Dallas or whatever it might be, that doesn’t really have a, it has an emerging tech center but not a deeply experienced tech center, is that we can kind of export some of the knowledge that we’re building here in Chicago to their kind of, to their community as well. I think that we’ve done that successfully with a few investments. I don’t know, what do you think?
Stuart Yeah, we have. Yeah. But, I think the biggest underserved aspect of these ecosystems are follow on capital, to be honest.
Ezra: Follow on capital, yeah
Stuart: So there’s plenty of seed money out there. You know, I would encourage you to go get smart seed money, the right seed money. But that follow on capital, Series A funding is still really hard today. There aren’t many firms that focus on, you know, these, these other markets. And you have to do a lot of selling, a lot of pounding the pavement out on the coast to get the coastal funds to come in and write cheques. We were fortunate recently to have a couple of coastal funds come in and lead Series A rounds with us. But it’s not easy, you know. You’ve got, I feel like you have to have extra special metrics to, to get those coastal funds to come in and put money in. Because, you know, a lot of them don’t, don’t want to spend time outside of the, the Valley or, or New York City.
Ezra: I would actually add a nuance to that, which is that in my mind I would say the challenge is even harder is that it’s more than follow on capital, right? Because that is difficult. But there is money locally. There, there are growth rounds that happen. I think that having deeply experienced growth capital, the, the coastal funds that we have seen come in that have taken hundreds of companies public and can again build that knowledge base locally, build that flywheel locally. So you look at a guy like #Matt Maloney, right, who had #Bill Gurley on as board. And he takes this company public. So he basically imported a ton of knowledge from #Bill Gurley who’s taken multiple companies public. He even took his own company public. And what he can then provide or give back to a local ecosystem is tremendous. But it takes time.
Nick: Yeah, I just saw rankings of VC firms that were ranking each other. So it was a poll on firms ranking each other. And I think #BenchMark was 2.
Ezra: Who was 1?
Nick: #Sequoia, #Sequoia was 1. Big surprise.
Nick: Alright, so #Ezra, you mentioned Minneapolis. Can you talk about some of the other specific ecosystems that you’ve identified as underserved? And maybe talk about some of your efforts there?
Ezra: Sure. I’ll start with Austin, Texas. So, I have a little bit of affinity for Texas because I went to school in Dallas at SMU. But I had a, a friend #Brett Hurt, I don’t know if you know #Brett. He was the founder of #Coremetrics back in the early 2000s, and #Performics and #Coremetrics did some business together. He went on to sell that business and then founded #Bazaarvoice, which he took public. So #Brett is a serial entrepreneur really involved in the ecosystem in Austin. And there’s a real lack of capital down there. And he called me and said look, I’ve got some companies, used to doing a lot of angel investing, I want you to look at one or two of them. And I ended up flying down, sitting with them, making our first investment probably a year and a half ago in Austin. Today we’ve got 5. We’ve, we’re probably one of the more active investors in Austin, Texas. Even though our, our name is #Chicago Ventures. But we think communities like that, that you can go into, make investments, first of all you have to make investments to get involved, otherwise people won’t take you seriously. And then you have connectivity with really well known successful entrepreneurs in those ecosystems. That’s, that’s how we kind of look at it. So if we can couple those two things together, it makes it a lot easier.
Nick: And correct me if I’m wrong, but #Austin Ventures is, they’ve wound down and they’ve
Ezra: Yeah, they don’t, they’re not making any new active investments.
Nick: So I’m sure your capital is, is very appreciated
Ezra: It is
Nick: in Austin at this point
Ezra: It is, yeah. And so we’re trying to kind of repeat that process, not just in Austin but in other areas. So, you know, two months ago I went out to kind of the mountain in the west. We made an investment in Denver in a company called #Havenly. And, you know, so I touched down in Denver and Boulder and then over to Salt Lake City. But just kind of word got out that I was coming to Denver. We had made one investment in the area and there were a whole bunch of entrepreneurs emailing #Havenly saying hey, you know, #Ezra’s coming to town, can, you know, can I get in front of him and, and just kind of walking around town everyone wanted to chat. I mean, the, it’s, the, you know, as long as you’re active and, and people know that you’re authentic and, and real and actually willing to put money to work, it, you know, enables you to really build good connections and a good reputation in town. But I think the keys are being active and understanding the local angel network. So, you know, so as an example, when we invested in #Havenly, I, after the investment was all closed and everything, I, I kind of went to the CEO and I said, who’s the kind of one of the, who’s the best angel in kind of the Denver, Boulder area that’s just kind of under the radar? Someone who’s, you know, either an experienced operator or whatever, but, you know, just has kind of everything kind of comes to them? And she kind of gave me some, some leads. But I think that it’s important to kind of build those, those kind of landmarks which comes from getting to know the, the local angel community as well as actually being active
Ezra: in a geo.
Nick: Are you working with any of the guys at #Foundry Group?
Ezra: We co-invested with them in #Havenly
Nick: Oh good
Ezra: And #Stuart’s actually sat on a couple of boards with them. He sat on one board with #Seth. So,
Nick: Oh good
Ezra: you know, and sat for a couple years.
Nick: Well, guys, you know, #Fred Wilson made this assertion, that in secondary markets there is a cat and mouse game of no local investors wanting to invest until a coastal institution steps up. How do you mitigate that, well, first, do you agree with his assertion? And then, how do you mitigate that?
Stuart: I don’t agree on the seed level. I mean, deals will get done on the seed level. Series A I do somewhat agree, because you see, it’s funny, you see one of our companies that we see, they get a term sheet from a coastal firm and then everybody in the community wants to come in, right? Usually it’s too late then because the firms are larger that come in to raise the Series A and they want to take the majority of the Series A. So, #Ezra, what do you think?
Ezra: I think we are trying to be the exception to the rule. It’s hard to have conviction in this business. We’ve been doing it for almost 5 years now. And it takes time to build the confidence and conviction if you want to step off a ledge when no one else will. It’s something that I think we’ve all kind of talked about internally. And we’re working to grow on. But 5 years in we’re starting to do it more and more. And I think in, in the new fund we’ve, out of our what 15 investments, led 10 of them
Ezra: And that requires, you know, a lot more work. And it requires a lot more confidence and conviction. But again, you know, I think it’s something that comes with time. i think we’re at the point here in #Chicago where, you know, we’ve seen enough and we’re comfortable enough that we’re starting to do that more. And hopefully others will as well as they kind of gain more experience in their ecosystems.
Nick: Could you guys speak to maybe some of the main differences of working in these underserved ecosystems versus those that are much more established like the Valley or New York City? I don’t know if either of you have been practitioners in those areas, but I was wondering if you could give us some insight on, on what you think the differences are?
Stuart: There’s a lot more collaboration in these ecosystems. I mentioned it before that there’s not much competition from a venture capital standpoint. So there’s a lot of coopetition. And then the community is really involved as well. One of the things we’re very fortunate in Chicago is to have a very great group of Fortune 500 companies around. And a lot of those companies get involved in early stages. We host, you know, these demo days in our office probably once a month, with all sorts of big companies in town. And they’d, they’d love to have the startups coming in and give them business. So you don’t see that as much
Ezra: We take the cubs games and let them network with us.
Stuart: Yeah. Yeah, we do
Ezra: And it works
Stuart: Yep. So, and I, I also think the companies in the midwest and these outlier ecosystems in general are a little bit more grounded, right? So it’s, they’re not trying to raise crazy valuations and spend, spend, spend. It’s, it’s a little bit more of companies that are trying to solve problems for consumers or solve problems for businesses, not invent things that people are going to try to adopt or invent new processes. Which is good and bad, right? Because you probably won’t, you won’t see the next #Google come out of Chicago. But you’re going to see a lot of really good businesses that are solving problems. So I think it’s, it’s just a more grounded aspect.
Ezra: In fact, if you look at kind of the Chicago success stories, I mean, we’ve, we’ve talked about this at length. I mean, I, it’s not surprising that none of the social apps came out of Chicago. I think every kind of ecosystem hit one except Chicago. New York hit #FourSquare. The Valley had, you know, #Twitter and #Facebook. LA had #SnapChat. Chicago didn’t, but what we do have are great transactional businesses, whether that’s #GrubHub, #Raise.com, #Avante is a transactional solution to a problem. #Groupon is a transactional solution to a problem, right? So you had very powerful transactional businesses that were revenue producing from day 1. And, and that’s okay, those are, those are all big hopefully successful businesses.
Stuart: And, and SaaS businesses too
Stuart: #Fieldglass , #CleverSafe, #BigMachines, all, you know, five hundred plus to a billion plus exits.
Nick: So I’m curious about this point of building awareness. So let’s say I’m trying to build some, some deal flow and some activity in Austin or in Denver. What, aside from just making investments and deploying capital, are ways that I could build awareness in those ecosystems and, and get involved in the ecosystems out there?
Stuart: The biggest awareness you can build is your reputation. And your reputation comes by not just providing capital. It comes by providing help to the founders, to the CEOs, to the teams. So we pride ourselves in being very hands on in what we do. If you ask any of our founders, most of them will tell you we’re probably the most active investor they have, even if it, you know, we come in with a Valley firm. We’re closer to them, right? We’re, we sit with them almost on a weekly basis. We get our hands dirty. And, you know, doing that, the CEOs and teams in those companies go out and talk about you. So in Austin, you know, we probably get one deal a week that comes from portfolio companies that are down there. Either the CEOs or parts of the teams say hey you should talk to #Chicago Ventures. So I feel like doing that really helps. And we’re doing it really because as entrepreneurs ourselves, if I were picking an investor I’d want an investor that’s going to help me in specific ways, not just with capital. So, you know, we get, we get really involved with our portfolio companies.
Ezra: As an extension to that, I would also add that one of the elements of feedback I got from when I was on the road and, and we’re on the road a lot, you know, talking to the angels or, or kind of existing seed funds and different Geos, was to not be transient. Meaning that, you know, if, you know, we do invest on the coast where there is a clear opportunity for us to add value based on our network, right. So if it’s a company is trying to sell into the Fortune 500 or into retail, which there aren’t many in the midwest, right? That’s, that’s one understanding. And, and on the coast I think we’re comfortable being transient because that’s not our focus. But, you know, in an area like Austin, if, you know, if we only showed up there once every six months, they’re looking for kind of investors that they can relate to and build relationships with. And so if you kind of pop in once a year and say hey, you know, we, we’re interested in Austin, but you’re not committed to it, it’s hard to build a sustainable long term reputation. So I think every single person on the team has been down to Austin in the last six months. And we do have five investments there but it’s a committed focus from the team. And I think in all the geographies where we’re trying to build reputation, so it’s to be there every 6 weeks, not every 12 months.
Nick: Do you think a geo-focused fund can generate outsized returns? If so, why?
Ezra: I’ll let #Stuart take this. He’s been, he’s been having this conversation a lot.
Stuart: Yeah obviously, we think they can. Because I’m closing on the second fund
Ezra: Oops I’ve got my net worth tied up to this
Stuart: I think you can. So we’re not just geo-focused but it’s also the size of the fund. So if you stay focused on, you know, what we do, we lead seed stage investments, right? And the majority of the companies we’re getting involved in are very early. We’re the first institutional money in. So the valuations are quite low. And, you know, we don’t need billion dollar returns to return our fund for itself. If we do get those, the fund would do extremely, extremely well. So we feel like that’s, that’s one aspect. Not being a huge fund and focusing on solid companies, we can do well for our investors.
Ezra: I think one other way to look at it, I don’t know, I’d, I’d be curious if you think I’m wrong about it. But one other way that I like to look at it is that, you know, if you look at the last maybe 8 years of Chicago, there’s probably been somewhere between 7 and 10 unicorns, some realized, some on paper. And, you know, there’s only a handful of seed funds. When we got started and we were kind of the only, one of the first really formal seed funds. And so that’s a lot of the value created on a, you know, kind of per capita basis of investor. So I think it actually gives us a better likelihood of picking some of those kind of break out winners. Whereas there maybe more volume in, in other geographies but there is, you know, you’re just, you’re one of hundreds, right? If, if you’re out there as an investor. So, and we’re focused on more than Chicago right? We’re active in many geographies. So that’s the way that, one way that I like to think about it, in terms of kind of increasing our potential returns.
Nick: Does the investment thesis have to be different for an underserved ecosystem than it would be for a, you know, well served, flywheel, fully developed ecosystem like one of the coastal?
Stuart: I, would, I would think it would just because of the competition of other funds, right? You have to be a lot more laser focused probably, you know, specifically doing SaaS or, or e-commerce or something like that. You see that in a lot of the more successful Valley funds.
Nick: What about the identity of an ecosystem? Do you feel like some of these ecosystems may be in Minneapolis or in Denver? Do you fell like they need to have a distinct identity of their own with distinct strengths? And, if so, what are those ecosystem identities in the places that you work?
Stuart: The bigger ones I, I don’t necessarily see, see anything unique, you know. The smaller markets, you know, obviously Detroit, you see a lot of companies focused on automotive coming out of there. But I’m, it’s hard to, it’s hard to say. I haven’t really seen too much.
Ezra: Yeah, I mean, in the smaller ecosystems I think a lot of it is dependent on just what the prior successes have been. Like if you take Indianapolis as an example. I mean, so #ExactTarget is the story in Indianapolis. And then you’ve got a whole #ExactTarget mafia that understands SaaS, certainly understands email. And they just start businesses. I mean there’s, there’s kind of, there’s a lot of very interesting businesses coming out of Indi, you know. If you go to Atlanta, you know, they’re kind of one of the emerging security, you know, cyber security kind of capitals of, of the country. So, you know, I think a lot of is dependent on prior successes. But again, you know, everything is really early. It’s, I just, I like restating that for myself for one because I’m, maybe I’m trying to give myself solace that it’s going to take, you know, a long time in this business. But a lot of these ecosystems are really, are really, really young, you know,
Ezra: less than a decade old without any type of real formality. I mean, here in Chicago, #1871 is only 4 years old, and that was kind of the tipping point of having a true tech watering hole in Chicago. There were, there were prior ones and different incarnations, but that was the, the real kind of formal coming together I think of the local community.
Nick: Yeah, this is an interesting point because I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus but some investors in town that are very vocal have talked about Chicago as a B2B enterprise startup town. And I just have to disagree with them because I think some of our biggest successes have actually been consumer facing. And I know you’re kind of a consumer oriented investor, so I would love to hear your take on that.
Stuart: It’s a
Ezra: Yeah, I mean, it,
Stuart: It’s a lay up for us.
Ezra: So I’ve actually done the data on it. And I just haven’t published it. But if you look at kind of the, the breakdown of total invested capital and to call it the 15th best funded companies in Chicago at least, it is far more balanced between B2C versus B2B than any outsider might consider. Again, that’s because if you’re outliers but that’s the way that it works, right, outlier businesses tend to get more capital. So that’s fair. But again, it’s as I stated before, if you look at the breakout runaway consumer successes in Chicago, they have a transactional focus, right? People in Chicago, it’s an affluent, fairly affluent community. Lots of young professionals, lot of very kind of concentric circles of geographies. You’ve got, you know, meaning lots of different neighborhoods, you know. They each have kind of their own personality. So, you know, there’s lot of ways to market locally that makes Chicago really interesting, both, I wouldn’t say easy but a very interesting and unique market to start marketing into and start building a brand. You also see a lot of people from the schools in Chicago dispersed across the country. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. But in terms of building awareness and building virality, that can be very powerful as well. So it’s not a surprise to me. I think that, you know, and I give #Stuart a lot of credit for kind of embracing some of my passions here, but I think as a VC firm we’ve probably, our first fund was pretty balanced, almost 50-50 between consumer facing businesses and, and B2B businesses. And I certainly think we’ve, you know, so to speak, stepped off the ledge in terms of having conviction around consumer businesses, probably more or nearly as much as anyone else in town. But yeah, the, the data would definitely seem to suggest that the older adage, adage sorry, of, you know, Chicago’s, you know, boring, sleepy B2B town is, is, it’s one part of the story but it’s not the only story.
Nick: Got to slacking on Breaking VC, #Ezra. Get, get that post up.
Ezra: Yeah, I’m, I’m trying to refine the data. I was using kind of some public sources. I want to make sure it’s a 100% accurate before I go to market with it,
Nick: I’m just, just messing
Ezra: as any good journalist would do, my friend.
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