This series, 60 Second Skinny, is a brief interview with select partners, speakers, and influencers in each FUND market! In this interview you’ll get the inside scoop from John Fein on how Firebrand Ventures and other organizations are driving the entrepreneurial community forward.
You’re probably wondering, how did John begin his journey into Venture Capital? Well, before John was even engaged with the startup and venture community, John was writing screen plays! After a few years he switched his focus and joined Techstars, where he led three accelerator programs. During his time at Techstars, he had the opportunity to learn from some of the best VC’s in the industry, such as David Cohen and Brad Feld. These individuals made incredible mentors, as they gave insight on how to successfully run a venture fund and build long term relations with founders. After three years at TechStars, John made a graceful transition into launching Firebrand Ventures, a fund that’s built on a unique model and approach. Maybe we’ll see John’s name on the big screen, after he’s done conquering the VC landscape, of course.
Kansas City and Austin are two markets that are incredibly vibrant and impactful; there are more resources and support for entrepreneurship than ever before. The communities are benefitting from the sources of capital, good returns on investment and in-turn seeing more capital funneled back into their community. John and the Firebrand team are one piece that’s helping drive economic development forward.
“Now is the best time to raise capital. We’re finally starting to see some real break out companies like iVerify and C2FO who have established entrepreneurial leadership. The ecosystem has to be led by entrepreneurs and we are starting to see that within Kansas City— another illustration that our ecosystem is maturing.”– John
The Firebrand Approach
- The Team: Their core team is made up of three partners, John, Ryan Merket and Maranda Manning, who all have to have a unanimous vote when adding a company to their portfolio. They also have a great expanded team, their advisory board, which is made up of diverse and high profile leaders. This team dynamic makes their decision making very deliberate.
- Approach: Their overall approach when looking to invest in new companies is focusing on the founder relationship. They put a huge emphasis in building relationship with founders, and being a resource for that founder throughout their entire fundraising journey.
- Full Transparency: From their investment process to their terms, to accessing their vast network, Firebrand is an open book. Firebrand believes open communication is the basis for any great relationship!
Opportunity Zones in KC
It’s proven that the Kansas City market is a big opportunity zone for early stage businesses, but there’s still opportunity zones on the investment side. There’s a lot of great venture funds that are actively seeking new talent and helping these young companies grow, but there’s not that many that solely focus on the pre- seed stage.
Kansas City is on it’s journey to a mature startup ecosystem, and it’s important to have sources of capital at every stage and we just aren’t there yet. I think there needs to be more capital at the pre-seed stage (pre revenue / idea stage) where funds are comfortable with investing in that stage.
On the other side, theres no true Series A Funds and I think there’s an opportunity for these Series A and beyond funds to really have great investments. It’s needed in Kansas City and the more the ecosystem grows the more the companies need capital at both stages- Seed and Series A.
John’s Top Picks
The startup ecosystem is flourishing nationally, with talented founders solving real problems in the community. Here’s a few that are on John’s radar:
- Scale Factor: A Firebrand portfolio company and FUND Sponsor, who provides intuitive software which automates accounting, tax, and finance tasks to save business owners time and money. Within 2.5 years, they’ve secured $100M Series C round and unveiled a Visa card for SMB’s.
- Locomation: A Firebrand portfolio company who is revolutionizing the automotive industry with autonomous trucking. Their team is made up of the top experts in robot ai and autonomics in the world- safe to say their on the road to success.
- The Minte: A Chicago based company that brings hotel-style housekeeping to your apartment- leaving your place in Minte condition.