Led by regional startup champion Jeff Slobotski, Omaha-based Router Ventures is hoping to grow its early-stage investment portfolio with more Kansas City firms.
With seven startups in its roster, the $1.1 million seed fund plans to accelerate its dealmaking in 2017 and Slobotski said Kansas City is key to the strategy.
“I strongly believe that Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and these other hubs are really the future,” said Slobotski, who serves as Router’s managing partner. “We all have our own unique ecosystems and amazing things are happening. … We’d love to get in more deals in this area.”
Now about one year into the investment world, Slobotski said that he co-invests with other funding rounds, writing checks from $25,000 to $75,000. With an exclusive focus on tech, Router isn’t bound by geography, but primarily targets Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, Slobotski said. Router has already invested in one Kansas City tech company, Rex Animal Health.
The fund is primarily comprised of coastal investors, though Slobotski said he hopes more Midwesterners hop on board as it achieves success.
Though no longer involved in its management, Slobotski founded Silicon Prairie News, a Midwest regional publication that covers tech and entrepreneurship. The Omaha native said that during his nearly seven years of startup storytelling, he encountered a common gripe among entrepreneurs that he hopes Router Ventures can help alleviate.
“I kept hearing ‘There’s not enough seed stage capital — there are all these larger funds but no one is paying attention to that seed stage level,’” Slobotski said. “There are a lot of individual angel investors and high-networth investors that are sitting on the sideline that are ripe to get engaged.”
With a passion for connecting and building communities, Slobotski said he’s enjoyed seeing the region’s tech cred grow. While he’s seen many success stories — including EyeVerify’s lucrative exit and Lincoln-based Hudl’s $72 million funding raise — investors and entrepreneurs can still progress, particularly when it comes to interacting with one another.
“You can always improve on connectivity,” Slobotski said. “There’s still a massive disconnect. The generational transfer of wealth over the next 5, 10, 15 years, will help to some extent. … There’s a generation of investors that are leery of technology but that’s quickly changing.”