COLUMBIA, Missouri — Venture capital fund and studio Scale VC raised a $5 million round of funding in less than six months, said Brett Calhoun, highlighting the potential for growing a nationally recognized startup city in the middle of the country.
“Successful founders are everywhere — and that includes right here in the heart of the country,” noted Calhoun, who serves as the managing director and partner at Scale VC.
The University of Missouri System and Shelter Insurance led Scale’s Fund II, along with 34 other limited partners. In addition to the investment, Scale’s partnership with the UM System includes an on-campus student accelerator sponsored and supported by Scale and EquipmentShare — a fast-growing and nationwide construction equipment rental and technology company also based in Columbia, Missouri.
The student accelerator will focus on connecting students across all departments and universities of the UM System — University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Missouri University of Science and Technology — to forge innovative companies.
“This investment and partnership builds upon our efforts to turn the UM System and our state into an innovation destination — a place where big thinkers can start and grow their transformational ideas,” said Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri. “I am proud that our universities are helping build the next generation of high-growth companies in Missouri.”
With Fund II, Scale will have the capital to support more than 30 companies through investments ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 in the next three years. That includes three startups that the fund will incubate in a venture studio from internal ideas. Corporate investors, like Shelter Insurance, will have the opportunity to be a design or co-incubation partner with these new companies.
“This partnership is an investment in more than our regional economy,” said Amanda Martin, director of innovation at Shelter Insurance. “It demonstrates our belief that our Midwest values don’t just coexist with innovation — they drive it. We are proud to work with Scale and our fellow investors to build the next generation of companies creating economic growth in the communities we love.”
From the heart of Missouri, Scale has recruited successful operator-limited partners and advisors dedicated to empowering founders who are strengthened by overcoming adversity, said Willy Schlacks, co-founder of EquipmentShare and Scale. Whether founders struggle because of constraints of their geographic location, pedigree, social class, immigrant status, gender or other barriers — Scale accelerates access to the knowledge, networks, and resources to remove roadblocks, he continued.
“My brother Jabbok and I started Scale to share what we learned from building companies and empower other founders to create legacy wealth and legacy companies,” Schlacks said. “I would even argue that since starting Scale, I’ve learned just as much as the 40-plus founders we’ve supported.”
Scale is focused on identifying those who display a disproportionate ability to persevere and then unlock invaluable operational knowledge for them to accelerate their company-building learning curve, Calhoun added.
“The Midwest or flyover states are generally overlooked when it comes to headlines, which is partly because founders in flyover locations are not used to telling their stories. In reality, the Midwest is flourishing with many humble world-class operators building massive companies who want to support other founders,” Calhoun said. “We are on a mission to empower founders to build generational wealth from the middle of the country, random suburbs, or even existing innovation hubs. We’ve seen this first-hand — founders can come from all walks of life.”