January 3, 2014
Back in September, we heard that Romotive alum Jen McCabe was leading up an arm of the Downtown Project’s $50 million VegasTechFund called Nimbus. She planned to invest in hardware companies in industries like robotics, connected devices, smart home, and Internet of things. Now, four months later, McCabe is ready to open up more about what she’s been working on – namely, over a dozen hardware investments.
Nimbus’s portfolio now includes companies like LittleBits, Scanadu, Karma, Whill, Skycatch, Meta-View, Soundfocus, Other Machine Company, VIRES Engineering, Paracosm, and Swapbox. The investments have been around $100,000 each, although the number varies, with the total amount invested “under a couple million,” says McCabe. There isn’t a cap on how much of the VegasTechFund’s $50 million that Nimbus can invest (yet).
Within the sphere of hardware, McCabe is looking for early-stage teams of three to five people working on consumer or enterprise companies. Founders would ideally have a strong software background and include a mechanical engineer, software engineer, and a visionary and sales-oriented CEO.
Most of Nimbus’s portfolio companies are located in San Francisco, New York, and Boston, with only one in Nevada (Pinoccio, from Reno). That’s different from the VegasTechFund, which has funded many local companies and convinced many others to make Vegas their home. But McCabe doesn’t think her approach conflicts with the VegasTechFund’s focus on community.
“Our goal, as with the rest of VegasTechFund, is to find and fund good founders no matter where they’re located,” she says. “When we make investments right now, we’re using the same exact criteria that we use for software: do they identify with return on community, are they excited by what we’re building downtown, do they want to be a part of that?”
For example, many of the Nimbus founders visited Vegas schools to talk about their products and tell stories about entrepreneurship. They also ventured to Vegas in October for the three-day Nimbus Summit, which included coworking and mentorship, and they’ll be gathering for an event during CES.
For the time being, McCabe is helping the Nimbus startups contribute to their local communities and build a virtual community of hardware founders who can share tips and best practices. It can be expensive for hardware startups to move during their production cycle, says McCabe, and she hopes Vegas will grow more attractive to hardware entrepreneurs in the future.
“Our hope is to be able to build out resources for the hardware community that make it productive for them to either visit or be located in Las Vegas, and we’re looking at those sort of initiatives now,” she says.
In September, McCabe reported on the Downtown Podcast that she would be building a microfactory to help VegasTechFund companies with small-scale production. But for the moment, she has no updates on that front. “We’ve looked at a lot of solutions to put things into place for 3D printing and warehousing logistics and a bunch of the other needs that hardware companies have downtown, but nothing’s been decided yet,” she says. Perhaps it’s because so few of the Nimbus companies are located in Vegas?
In any case, trust that Nimbus will continue experimenting with new ways to help hardware startups all the way from design to customer support. And we’ll be keeping tabs on them and bringing you the latest news.
Tech Cocktail received investment from the Downtown Project.
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