January 29, 2013
When I wrote an article about the VegasTechFund called “VegasTechFund to Startups: ‘We’re Weird,’” I wasn’t sure what they would think. Sure, their website does say, “We’re weird,” but not everyone likes to highlight their weirdness. Turns out they didn’t mind. “We are!” they tweeted.
The VegasTechFund is a $50 million tech startup fund. Along with Tony Hsieh’s team at the Downtown Project, they’re helping to kickstart a city that’s seen better days. And that’s the root cause of the weirdness: they have a community-building goal, not just a revenue-generating goal. Startups that get funding must not only have great potential, but be willing to contribute to the growing downtown community.
So, their website explains, the funding process is a “slightly different process than many other investment funds.” It starts with community evaluation:
“Our community is built by the people in it. We build community through relationships. Want to know how to get funded? Come see for yourself. The more people you connect with the more likely you are to get community support. We work from community references. You can choose to do this on your own or reach out to us first. It’s your choice, but there’s no doubt that more things can happen once you’re here and active.”
These procedures might be abnormal, but they don’t seem to be holding anyone back. The VegasTechFund has invested $7 million in 20 companies in less than a year. One of the newer companies is General Assembly: the fund joined established investors like Alexis Ohanion and Bezos Expeditions in a $10 million round for the tech and design campuses, which will be expanding to Las Vegas in 2013. The past week saw two announcements: Zirtual and OrderMapper both claimed a slice of the VegasTechFund. And more announcements are coming soon.
Asking people to become part of the downtown Las Vegas community may seem like a tall order, but startups are still beating down the doors to talk to partner Andy White and his team.
White joined Tech Cocktail in Las Vegas in early December for the first ever Tech Cocktail Week event. Tech Cocktail Week is a monthly series of events that takes place in downtown Las Vegas and is produced in partnership with Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project. White spent his five minutes explaining the vision for the broader Vegas tech community. Whereas you might visit other cities to network – forming transactional relationships that might not last very long – the Downtown Project invites people in hoping to foster real, meaningful connections. Hear more below in White’s talk.
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