Kansas City-based seed fund Firebrand Ventures has crushed its original goal to create a $7 million seed fund for startups in the Midwest.
Led by investor and former Techstars managing director John Fein, the fund raised $17.7 million for tech ventures in the Midwest, exceeding its initial goal by about 250 percent, said Fein.
“I’m very grateful to all of the limited partners who invested in Firebrand,” Fein said.” The fact our initial target was $7 million and we ended up at $17.7 million puts us in an even stronger position going forward. Compared to our initial plan, we can invest in more exceptional founders and reserve more capital for follow-on investments.”
The Firebrand Ventures fund will invest its $17.7 million in about 10 to 12 Midwest startups per year with an average check size of $200,000, Fein said. The fund’s portfolio currently includes 12 companies, including Super Dispatch, FitBark and Sickweather, which call the Kansas City metro home.
Fein lauded the Firebrand team for the fund’s success to date. Techstars CEO David Cohen, Kansas City venture capitalist Keith Harrington, Brian McClendon, former Uber vice president of maps, and Next Coast Ventures co-founder Tom Ball each help Firebrand via its advisory board.
“We surrounded Firebrand with a world-class network and team,” Fein said. “It not only helps us find amazing startups, our portfolio companies can access a huge array of investors, mentors, and potential partners and customers. A big part of my job is making key introductions, often times to other investors to join or lead rounds. Further, our team of advisors and I have been founders ourselves and I believe most entrepreneurs want a more human approach from their investors. Founders want to feel secure sharing not only the good news but also the bad – with investors who know when to listen, when to ask questions and when to offer help. They want a trusted partner and that’s what we continually strive to earn, not with talk but with our actions.”
Firebrand’s mission will remain the same after the new injection of funding, Fein said. Firebrand will continue to invest in the most exceptional founders in the Midwest whose companies are at the seed stage.
“With a larger fund than expected, it just means we can invest in even more companies and have more capital reserves for follow-on,” Fein said. “Founders are our customers, and we’ll continue to work hard to delight them by surrounding them with a powerful network and highly engaged team.”
The fund is “sector agnostic,” but prefers capital efficient startups such as software-as-a-service companies, Fein said. At the top of Firebrand’s investment criteria list is a top-notch team, he added.
“More than anything, we invest in exceptional founders: obsessed with solving a big problem in a better way, with top-notch technical and domain expertise,” Fein said. “And by exceptional, I don’t just mean business skills but also character. We love building relationships with entrepreneurs who are not only intelligent but also have that rare combination of integrity, grit, focus, and audacity. We have a strict ‘no jerk’ policy and only partner with founders we truly connect with.”
In addition to an exceptional team, the startup should be located in the greater Midwest, which for Firebrand is roughly bordered by Austin to Minneapolis, and Boulder to Columbus, OH. Focusing on that geographic region is core to Firebrand’s mission, Fein said.
“It’s been well documented that 75 to 80 percent of venture capital goes to California, Massachusetts and New York. While I was managing director at Techstars I noticed first-hand that many fundable startups weren’t able to raise seed capital in Kansas City or the Midwest in general. Firebrand’s mission from day one was to invest in compelling startups outside San Francisco, Boston and New York.”