Last weekend Matchstick Ventures announced a $30 Million Fund II. One of the investors’ most recent successes is local startup, Soona. The Soona journey began in the Techstars Boulder accelerator. This is where owner, Liz Giorgi, met Ryan Broshar of Matchstick Ventures, while he was offering mentoring services to the program. The two found an immediate connection in each other because both are from the Twin Cities. Neighbors meeting in a distant land, and both dedicated to entrepreneurship, they became fast friends. Giorgi described her experience with Techstars as an opportunity to “expedite the process of stabilizing” her business. “It not only helped me in the building of my business, but more importantly, it accelerated my leadership.”
Soona’s service, as Giorgi describes it, is a, “Kinkos for communications content.” Clients can bring themselves and/or their products into the studios to capture quick photo or video assets to use in their online shops or on social media. Soona now operates two locations, one in Minneapolis, and one in Denver, and recently expanded into giving clients nationwide the ability to book, ship, and then pick out their favorite assets in real time, online. Giorgi is taking this last quarter of 2019 to look into the possibility of Soona expanding to three to five other cities sometime in the future.
Giorgi is incredibly humbled by Matchstick Venture’s faith in her business. “Being a woman founder can be sisyphean when it comes to obtaining funding – knowing the stats are stacked against us.” She praised Matchstick Ventures for their human-centered approach to investing, and believes that the Twin Cities are lucky to have a fund like this available to entrepreneurs. “So few investors care this much about the people they are investing in.” Giorgi described some of her meetings with other potential investors as “disgusting” and “degrading.” “There are no taboos in the funding process. Investors can ask you anything, and as a founder, there is no legal protection – All of your armor is removed, and you’re vulnerable.”
This realization sparked Giorgi to develop the “Candor Clause.” This is an open-source legal disclosure for inclusion in fundraising documents that protects founders from sexual harassment and/or discrimination from investors, forcing the conversation up front on how such things will be addressed should they arise. This includes the possibility of funders being bought out for breaking the agreement. The Candor Clause has found great reception, and Matchstick Ventures is now including it in all of their funding agreements.
Watch a short video on the Matchstick Ventures/Soona partnership.
A human-centered approach is integral to the foundation of Matchstick Ventures. As Broshar explained, “We really focus on two things. First and foremost, the human beings we invest in deeply, with understanding and empathy. Second, we stay connected globally, keeping track of the market, tracking other investors, and introducing them to our local companies.” “There are tremendous entrepreneurs in our market, but they are super underserved.” And once the initial investment is made, that is not the end of the relationship. “We check-in regularly and see where we can help. We want to keep open lines of communications with our founders.” Broshar wants to hear the good and the bad. “We know things happen, we want to hear the truth as early and often as we can. That way we can dig in and help to solve the problem.”
Matchstick Ventures wants to dig in and solve problems for more of our local founders. Their aim is to help put the Twin Cities on the map in the global investor scene. Broshar looks for not just the best companies in the area, but the best companies, period. “Startups don’t need to be on the coast, you can be world class from anywhere. We have a long history of entrepreneurship here. People forget, even Target was a startup at one point. The more funds we have in the market, the more oxygen there is for startups.” Broshar says that his hope is that over the next few years more coastal investments will move into our market, and we will have one or two big exits that will show it can be done here, and then those companies will turn around and reinvest, keeping the growth cycle going.
With Twin Cities Startup Week coming up, both Broshar and Giorgi encourage people throughout the Twin Cities to get more involved. “Go to some events, discover some new companies and new products. Show up, meet people, and get to work.” You can catch “Closing the Fundraiser Gender Gap with the Help of Male Advocates,” a panel discussion featuring the both of them, over the noon hour on Tuesday, October 15th.