Kickstart Seed Fund: From Recession to Co-operation

Kickstart Seed Fund was founded in 2008. Yes, 2008 — and despite the recession, the company closed its first fund of $8m.

Kickstart Seed Fund

The seed-stage venture capital firm is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and, as the name implies, its mission is to get the best companies in Utah and the Mountain West up and running. It provides smart capital and expert guidance within a connected community.

Since raising that first fund in 2008, Kickstart has invested in 60 companies. With the support of local universities, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and venture capital funds, Kickstart Seed Fund first focused on investing in promising and scrappy entrepreneurs.

Years of diligence paid off, and today, Kickstart has raised more than $345m in follow-on capital. It boasts a portfolio of 100+ active companies, has $148m in capital under management. Kickstart has also placed some 400 employees at 90 Utah businesses.

Because Kickstart Seed Fund was the first seed fund in Utah, the company knows what it’s like to be a pioneer, starting something before others understand the vision. That has made the firm willing to lead investments in promising teams. The team has the expertise and experience to grow start-ups and recruit top talent. “We work alongside their community of visionaries that are committed to moving the whole ecosystem together,” says founder and managing partner Gavin Christensen. “It’s the network effect at its full potential.”

Raising venture capital is more than swapping shares for money; it’s inviting the right investors to complement your team. The goal? To support the best entrepreneurs in the wild west and provide expert connections for hyper-growth companies. The partnership between Kickstart and early-stage companies in Utah has contributed to unprecedented economic growth for the state.

Kickstart Seed Fund’s success in identifying the best and brightest entrepreneurs is evident in its portfolio. Since 2008, the company has invested in some of Utah’s most recognisable brands, including Podium, Stance, Lucid, and Cotopaxi. As an entrepreneur’s partner from start-up to launch, many of the founders from earlier funds have returned to become investors in subsequent funds.

Kickstart Seed Fund’s Portfolio

Today, Kickstart’s portfolio is made up of 150+ active portfolio companies, with $311m in assets under management, and $2.7bn total capital raised.

Traditionally, venture capital firms add value primarily through capital and one-on-one interactions such as board meetings. Kickstart Seed Fund goes beyond this.

Through a community platform called Kickstart Collective, Kickstart Seed Fund shares knowledge across its networks to portfolio companies with events, resources, and connections. In partnership with entrepreneurs, Kickstart’s podcast, Perfect Pitch, offers a glimpse into the minds of investors and entrepreneurs, throughout a start-up journey.

It offers a concise, quick and tactical guide to help listeners through their daily challenges. Through the community platform, Kickstart believes that companies learn best from one other, and strives to form deep connections across the Kickstart family.

Kickstart’s secret sauce is its team, and the shared core values they are committed to meet each day.

1. All in. “We believe in aligned, focused, persistent effort over time,” says Christensen. “Success in seed ventures doesn’t happen overnight. When we invest in a company we are also investing in the founders and partnering-up for the journey. Usually, there will be bumps and setbacks along the way. We are patient and supportive as companies navigate their way to success.”

2. Collaboration. “We win as a team,” stresses Christensen. “We hire and invest in the best, and need each other to be our best. It doesn’t matter if the spotlight is on us or not, we each have an important role. We work together through the good times and hard times.”

3. Integrity. “We choose to behave ethically and with professionalism. We play a long-term game because we know it’s the right thing to do and good for business.”

4. Humility. “It’s not all about us. Regardless of our success, we serve entrepreneurs and invest other people’s money.”

5. Curiosity. Kickstart has a voracious appetite for learning — “about technology, the world, and ourselves”. As technology, industries, political environments and the world change, “we keep learning so we can be our best and back the best”.

6. Responsibility. “We are helping to build an ecosystem as well as a fund,” says Christensen. “If not us, then who?”

7. Courage. “We value results over comfort. In seeking for the outlier, we recognise that failure is part of the price.”

8. Fun. “We enjoy the journey and the struggle of building something special with humour and gratitude.”

In addition to its main fund, Kickstart has the student-run Campus Founders Fund. It consists of eight venture partners and two scouts investing in 11 universities in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The student venture partners meet with student-run companies seeking funding.

“The Campus Founders Team spends time conducting due diligence on these companies,” says Christensen, “and invest in the best.” Many Campus Founders Fund-backed companies go on to be successful companies backed by Kickstart Seed Fund, Simple Citizen, Pura, Blerp, Hallo, Recyclops, and Campfire among them.

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