Ecosystem Spotlight: Utah Punches above Its Weight

by & filed under Miscellaneous, NVCA Blog.

Ben Veghte

During his address at the NVCA Leadership Gala & Summit as the incoming Chair of the NVCA Board of Directors, Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures discussed his priorities for the year ahead.  In addition to creating a more inclusive venture capital industry, Venky said his main priority for his term as Chair is to shine a spotlight on entrepreneurial ecosystems beyond the mature, well-established giants of San Francisco, New York and Boston.

One such ecosystem that deserves more attention is the state of Utah.  Known for its national parks, the Great Salt Lake and some of the best powder skiing on the planet, the Beehive State is the perfect example of an entrepreneurial ecosystem quietly on the rise.  In fact, in 2015 Utah ranked 11th in venture dollars deployed, and its 55 deals last year marked the most since 2000.


Utah Blog 1


Since 2010, Utah has experienced some dramatic growth to its ecosystem.  The annual growth rate of Utah companies receiving venture funding between 2010 and 2015 ranks 10th, number of venture deals ranks 6th and amount invested ranks 7th.  In addition, the Provo-Orem, UT MSA has been one of the fastest growing ecosystems over the past five years, tied for 6th by annual growth in number of companies receiving venture funding.  Not too bad for a state with only 3 million residents.

Aside from Utah’s rapid ascent toward the top of the charts, what is most impressive about Utah’s ecosystem is the diversity of sectors represented.  Not surprisingly, like overall venture investment trends, software companies lead the charge, accounting for 84% of venture dollars invested in Utah last year.  However, there is much more activity beneath the surface.  From medical devices and health care services to networking equipment and IT services, Utah’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is just as expansive as the state’s natural beauty.


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None of this should really come as a surprise.  After all, Utah is nicknamed the “Beehive State” because the beehive is a symbol of hard work and industry, and bees themselves are notoriously hard workers just like Utahans.  This hard work and determination has undoubtedly contributed to Utah’s rise as a prime destination for venture capital investment and is why Utah has produced prominent venture-backed startups Qualtrics, Domo and Pluralsight, to name just a few.

In April, NVCA President and CEO Bobby Franklin and I had the opportunity to travel to Utah to witness firsthand what makes Utah such a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Invited to attend and speak at the 10th Annual Utah Economic Summit hosted by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, we spent two days fully immersed in Utah’s startup scene and came away thoroughly impressed by what we saw.


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What became clear to us is that Governor Herbert and other leaders from the state know they are on the rise and want to keep it that way.  Not ones to rest on their laurels, Utah’s leaders intend to continue their rise to the top and are working with stakeholders from the community to execute on a plan to grow Utah’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and perhaps supplant larger ecosystems from the top of the pecking order.

One such example of this community engagement is the recent groundbreaking of the Lassonde Studios by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, which Bobby and I had an opportunity to tour during our visit. Featuring 412 unique student residences and a 20,000 square foot space with tools and equipment for students to meet, build and launch startup companies, the project is a great example of the critical role universities play in supporting a local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

From touring the Lassonde Studios to meeting with Governor Herbert to interacting with Utah’s startup community, our visit to Utah was an influential event for Bobby and me.  What became clear to us is that Utah has a very special story to tell and we want to help tell it, both in Washington, DC and nationally.

At NVCA, we are often asked what it takes to build and grow a thriving ecosystem.  Everyone wants to know how they can become the next Silicon Valley.  The truth is, there is no secret recipe, but there are good models to follow.  Utah is one such model, and if I were a betting man, I’d say Utah’s rise isn’t even close to plateauing.

Honoring Brenda Gavin and Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

by & filed under NVCA Blog.

Bobby Franklin

In March, the venture community lost a friend, colleague and leader.  Brenda Gavin’s sudden death was tragic and reminds us all to not take a single day for granted.

If you didn’t know Brenda, she was a true pioneer in the venture community and respected leader across the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Dedicated to life sciences investing, Brenda’s roots in venture date back to her time in the corporate venture world as President of S.R. One, GlaxoSmithKline’s venture capital unit, and then later as General Partner of EuclidSR Partners, an independent venture capital fund focused on healthcare and information technology. (more…)

A Look Back at the Leadership Gala & Summit

by & filed under Events, NVCA Blog.

Ben Veghte

Last Thursday leaders from across venture capital and the entrepreneurial ecosystem converged on the Palace Hotel in San Francisco for the NVCA Leadership Gala & Summit.  The event was a huge success and provided for a great opportunity to download a little content, network with peers and reconnect with NVCA. (more…)

From Entrepreneur to Founder to Funder: Monique Woodard Champions a Diverse Ecosystem 

by & filed under Diversity, NVCA Blog.

Hannah Eckstein

Monique Woodard personifies a healthy diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As a Founding Partner of Black Founders, a network of African American entrepreneurs, an entrepreneur herself and a former Fellow in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, Monique’s experience spans all areas of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her continued efforts around diversity and inclusion tied into a robust work experience have marked her as a trailblazer in the technology and innovation sectors, a designation that landed her a role as 500 Startups newest Partner, and its first African American partner.  (more…)

Recap: Corporate Venture Strategy Session on Measuring and Communicating Value

by & filed under Corporate Venture, NVCA Blog.

Jessica Straus

Corporate venture investment hit a 15 year high in 2015, both in terms of deal participation and dollars deployed. CVCs deployed over $7.7B into 930 deals– participating in 1 of every 5 VC deals.  With this dynamic environment, we know it’s critical for corporates and traditional VCs to connect and communicate to foster a collaborative environment. (View our latest corporate venture data.)

As corporate venture investors increasingly lead rounds that influence the development of next-gen industries from the blockchain to cognitive computing, how can CVCs find new and better ways measure the strategic value they bring to startups? (more…)

A Busy Year for Venture Capital: NVCA’s 2016 Yearbook Review

by & filed under Exits, NVCA Blog, Research, Venture Investment.

Maryam Haque


We’re excited to release the 2016 NVCA Yearbook! While the thought of a “yearbook” may bring back painful memories of awkward high school photos, the NVCA Yearbook features statistics and insights on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and further highlights the key role of industry data in quantifying the powerful economic force that is venture capital.


Super Tuesday Ecosystems: Examining venture investment in each of the 13 Super Tuesday primary states

by & filed under NVCA Blog, Research, Venture Investment.

Maryam Haque

If it’s Tuesday, it’s primary day somewhere.  But this isn’t just any primary day, it’s Super Tuesday!  Today, voters in 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming) will cast ballots for their preferred candidate in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

As we recently detailed in our annual reporting of venture capital investment by MSA, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur living in a specific city, state or region to receive venture capital investment.  There are pockets of innovation in local entrepreneurial ecosystems in all corners of our country. (more…)

New Industry Partner Spotlight: Heads Apart

by & filed under Diversity, NVCA Blog.

Hannah Veith

Since we launched our Industry Partner program in 2015 we have built a community of industry-leading service providers that work with venture capital investors to help startups reach the next milestone. Today we are featuring our newest Industry Partner, Heads Apart Group, a boutique executive search consulting firm that optimizes NVCA’s commitment to diversity.

NVCA, the venture capital industry and leaders across the entrepreneurial ecosystem are determined to develop solutions for expanding inclusion in the innovation ecosystem as a key pathway to greater competitiveness. Gary Bembridge, CEO and Founder of Heads Apart Group, has been laser-focused on building those solutions his entire career. We spoke with Bembridge to discuss the approach Heads Apart has taken to support a more diverse tech industry. (more…)

Silicon Valley Super Bowl: A look at the Colorado and North Carolina ecosystems

by & filed under NVCA Blog, Uncategorized.

Ben Veghte

On Sunday night the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will square off in the 50th installment of America’s greatest televised sporting event.  With Super Bowl 50 being held at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA and big name corporate tech sponsors like Apple, Google, Uber and others attaching their brands to the event, it’s no surprise people are dubbing it the “Silicon Valley Super Bowl.”

While each of the competing teams’ entrepreneurial ecosystems may not be on the same playing field as Silicon Valley in terms of startup activity, they do register as proven bright spots of innovation outside of the traditional hubs of San Francisco, Boston and New York.  Colorado, for example, is home to 74 startup companies that received venture funding in 2015 totaling $783 million.  North Carolina counts 57 startups that received $676 million in venture funding in 2015. (more…)