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WICHITA — As a fellow founder, Jacob O’Connor can offer empathy in his new role within the NXTUS angel investor syndicate, he shared.
After graduating from Wichita State University in May, O’Connor and co-founder Jon Peterson decided to sunset Player Card — their startup that connected college athletes to NIL opportunities — and O’Connor has now taken on the role of NXTUS capital program manager and syndicate manager for Accelerate Venture Partners.
“I’m able to relate with these founders because I understand the stages they’re going through,” explained O’Connor, who also founded the Venture Mentality brand, which taps into his lengthy experience in athletics and podcasting. “From the standpoint of resources at NXTUS, we offer cohorts and programs based on where the entrepreneurs are within those stages. And I can look through my lens to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. You may benefit from some of these courses or looking into some of these things or learning the lingo of entrepreneurship and private finance.’”
In his new role for NXTUS — which helps entrepreneurs grow companies of significance by connecting startup founders with community resources, capital, and customers — O’Connor will be sourcing startups for the angel investor group, conducting due diligence and analysis, organizing pitch meetings, and facilitating investment between founders and the investor group, he said — similar to what he did for NXTUS during a previous internship.
“We really exist to support the Wichita and Kansas ecosystem,” he said of NXTUS. “We invest across the Heartland — typically looking for technology-enabled companies that are a little bit on the earlier side. It’s a little bit general and broad, but allows us to see a wide array of different companies.”
After a recent $1.1 million second quarter, according to NXTUS, Accelerate Venture Partners has now surpassed $7 million in total capital mobilized, while also providing mentorship and connections for startups in the region.
“AVP and our other programs to strengthen our risk-capital network are a crucial facet of our work to help entrepreneurs and boost economic growth in the region,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, president and CEO of NXTUS, in a news release. “We provide education and opportunities for growth-minded entrepreneurs from around the community, and we are recruiting new investors to support great regional startups. These programs have excellent momentum, and we look forward to continuing that progress with Jacob leading the way.”
Accelerate Venture Partners capital figures, O’Connor noted, are exciting to see, especially in the Wichita area.
“There’s always been kind of the mindset and stigma that Wichita is not a good place for startups and for entrepreneurship,” he explained. “So it’s been really great to see some of those more breakthrough numbers to help us to continue to push this mission forward. I think those numbers reflect the work that NXTUS is doing here and hopefully some of the impact we’re having.”
As a networker through and through, O’Connor said, he is excited to join in NXTUS’ work. The job gives him the opportunity to meet with people who are performing at a high level, just as he did with the interviews for his podcast — “Real Conversations” — which he started in high school.
“It’s really cool going to meet with founders,” he said. “I love hearing their passion, their ambition, but also their plan for how they’re actually going to execute on this.”
“And then on the investor side, I love hearing the stories of how these angels became investors, why they’re involved in the community, and what they’re doing for the community,” O’Connor added. “I really believe that the access to capital that we provide helps fuel a lot of these dreams and allows these startups to have a chance at doing what they set out to do.”
O’Connor — a Fran Jabara Scholar at Wichita State University — immersed himself in the area’s entrepreneurial world while a student, serving as analyst with the University Venture Fund Crossroads venture capital program and interning with Spirit AeroSystems and NXTUS. He’s inspired to continue that momentum, he said.
“Wichita has been so good to me,” O’Connor said. “I feel like this is a great opportunity to continue to work in that ecosystem and to maybe give back a little bit something.”
As a St. Louis area native, he’s also excited about NXTUS’ reach throughout the Midwest and the opportunity to collaborate with startups in his hometown.
“I think bringing those together, it really is a neat opportunity and experience for me,” he added.
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This story is made possible by Entrepreneurial Growth Ventures.
Entrepreneurial Growth Ventures (EGV) is a business unit of NetWork Kansas supporting innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs in the State of Kansas. NetWork Kansas promotes an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the expertise, education and economic resources they need to succeed.