Drive’s Robert Hatta was in Minneapolis recently for Twin Cities Startup Week, and a recent conversation with ex-Google Nick Solaro and serial entrepreneur/investor Andy Jenks — both now partners — reveals more about their appetite for Minnesota startups.
“We think the Midwest is a very healthy region for entrepreneurs and investors…that there will be an increase in the success stories coming out and we want to be the funding partner of choice,” Solaro says.
“I could see us investing a good chunk of our fund in the Twin Cities alone…”
Jenks senses the market here is based as much around arbitrage in a capital constrained market, as is proximity to potential customers and affordable talent, a recipe that is unique to the Midwest climate.
They boast a $250m lure and have made 15 investments across the country so far, with a concentration on the upper Midwest. Their disclosed portfolio ranges from Columbus’ healthcare payments startup Aver ($11m raised) to West Coast learning platform Udacity ($55m raised). To date, the smallest investment made by the firm is $500k and the largest single $15m.
“Is this a massive market opportunity and do we believe that this company will define that market?” Solaro posits. “If the answer to those first two questions is yes, then we’re excited, and believe the details will work themselves out. Massive markets yeild massive opportinities.”