A Venice Beach, California-based startup studio wants to fund, found, and grow more startups — including those in the Kansas City area.
“When we got started, our main goal was to reduce the 90 percent failure rate of startups,” explained Austin Stofer, founder and CEO of Sieo — the California startup studio that currently boasts a 12-company portfolio.
In its mission to help companies get off the ground, Sieo’s team rolls up its sleeves and goes to work within each company, filling crucial, early-stage startup needs, Stofer explained.
“We’ve got a complete startup team that’s worked now in over 120 startups,” he said, noting the team has deployed everywhere from California to New York to Asia.
“Let’s say you’ve got two software engineers who have a great idea and a great engineering background, but they have no design capabilities, no marketing capabilities, they’ve never raised money — they could plug into our team,” he explained.
When companies started offering Stofer and his team equity as a thank you for helping them find their footing, he knew Sieo could offer companies beyond the West Coast unique value and opportunities to plug into Silicon Valley-bred talent.
“We know the talent is out there, believe in Midwest startups and we would love to help,” Stofer said, noting an especially unique opportunity to lend a hand to Kansas City-based companies impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“One of our companies, PvP, we actually just completed their seed round and we helped them raise over half-a-million dollars throughout this pandemic,” he said of the deal which recently closed — despite global disruption to normal operating procedures for companies.
Another company in Sieo’s portfolio, health and wellness startup Betterbrand, greatly benefited from the company’s advice to launch a new product amid the pandemic, Stofer said.
“We went to them about three months ago … as this was all really taking off. We got them funding, made introductions to the manufacturers, did all the branding, all the marketing, the launch,” Stofer said of the project, which resulted in the creation of BetterLungs — an all-natural supplement designed to support immune function, anti-inflammation, and athletic performance.
The company has ultimately enjoyed a revenue increase of 450 percent, he said.
“While all these other companies are struggling to sell a new product, we were actually able to kind of stand this company up … and it actually allowed them to thrive and now they’re in a better place than they’ve ever been before.”
Kansas City startups working in the areas of blockchain and Esports are encouraged to contact Sieo, Stofer said, noting the startup studio has established a solid track record of work with companies who play in both spaces.
“For people that are involved with crypto, [Twitter] has become a central hub for the industry — because you’re not allowed to market crypto related products on Facebook, on Google, it’s just really hard to get the name out there,” he said, adding Sieo has used the roadblocks as a way to build relationships in the crypto space and help blockchain founders overcome such setbacks in bringing their products to market.
Similar benefits have been observed in the world of Esports, which has enjoyed growing intrigue amid COVID-19, he added.
Click here to connect with Stofer and Sieo.
And while assistance might be beneficial to a growing startup community, understanding Kansas City’s ecosystem is a top priority for Stofer.
“I didn’t necessarily have the best understanding of the entire ecosystem there. I wasn’t sure [what the needs were,] some of these guys were backed by some pretty large players,” he said of research into the metro which was spurred by a relationship with TRNDSTTRS Media.
“This is a new focus of ours and it might be cool just for people around there to see that. Studios in California are starting to turn their attention to Kansas City,” Stofer continued.
“We recognize the potential coming out of there and we can see that the industry is starting to really pick up and move. So, we want to do everything we can to facilitate growth and maybe start trying to connect some dots between the ecosystem out here in California and the Midwest.”