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Vermont Seed Capital Fund

The Vermont Seed Capital Fund, LP is looking for select investment opportunities in early stage, high opportunity, technology based companies in Vermont. Objectives are to impact next generation job and wealth creation in Vermont by providing companies and entrepreneurs access to early stage risk capital. The fund is a revolving, “evergreen” equity fund with $5 million of initial capitalization from the State of Vermont and U.S. Senator Patrick J. Leahy.  The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) is a strategic partner for this fund.

This is a professionally managed venture capital fund which invests exclusively into Vermont start-ups and growing firms determined as offering high growth potential, financial return commensurate with risk, and public benefit for Vermonters. Portfolio firms also have access to substantive programs, facilities, partners, and value-adding services offered via a strategic relationship with the non-profit VCET organization.

Investment transactions range from $25,000 to $250,000. The fund can act as lead investor or as part of investment syndicate.

 
Basic Eligibility Criteria: Any Vermont based start-up, emerging growth firm, or team seeking to form a new company, relocate or expand into Vermont is eligible for consideration except if your company:

  • Has last 12 month sales greater than $3 million
  • Has headquarters or principal team location outside of, or not committing substantially to Vermont
  • Is a restaurant, retail store or real estate project

Each company or proposal submitted is considered on an individual investment basis. Venture capital is a highly competitive source of private funding. The Fund targets market based investment returns from high opportunity businesses with exciting market opportunities, innovative technologies and credible founding teams.

The Process: Start the conversation with our team early to share ideas, help refine the opportunity or for simply advice on market conditions, valuation parameters and to de-mystify the venture capital raising process.
The investment process takes considerable time and effort, so be prepared and forewarned. Funding is highly competitive and not all worthy firms will be funded.  This is not a grant program. The process includes:Initial Screening: Firms will be reviewed for eligibility, suitability, entrepreneur qualities, and initial assessment. A response declining to pursue, offering alternative funding sources, or seeking follow up information will result.Initial Due Diligence: Firms experience an in-depth review and assessment on their markets, business model, financials & capital path, existing & prospective management team, technology & products, sales & distribution, and comparative advantages, among other areas.

Advanced Due Diligence: Few firms reach this step. Transaction structure, valuation, terms, corporate and legal due diligence and remaining questions are completed. If an investment is considered desirable and fund objectives can be attained, then an Investment Recommendation is prepared for the Investment Committee and any invited domain or subject matter experts.

Investment Decisions: The independent Investment Committee has final determination on the proposed term sheet and investment recommendation. This committee is responsible for the approval of all investments.

Adding Value and Infrastructure: Portfolio firms have unique and advantageous access, if they so select, to facilities, professionals, networks, specialized research assets, and strategic partners associated with the VCET organization.  In addition to Board participation, the Fund Manager and VCET team are actively engaged with firms on building teams, accessing critical first customers, strategic partnerships, corporate strategy, networking and training opportunities, mergers and acquisitions, and executive mentoring. All of which lowers burn rates, lowers investment risk, hastens progress towards “value-changing” events, and increases probabilities for market based returns and success as Vermont based employers.

Follow-On Capital and Investment Exit: For most seed stage firms, follow-on funding is necessary to achieve their potential. We offer an exceptional network of local, regional, and national venture firms, corporate investors, angel investors, grant and debt options to fund firm growth and next stage development. Our team will be involved in sourcing follow-on capital and active regarding exit and liquidity opportunities.

 

Emerging companies may have terrific ideas, but not necessarily all of the skills, experience and resources in place to grow and prosper. In response, VCET’s programs and capital funds offer select early stage firms substantive business mentoring along with traditional business incubator services and infrastructure.

Since 2005, the VCET team has worked with entrepreneurs helping to crystallize concepts, assemble teams, craft business models, secure resources and locate early customers. Some firms will develop rapidly in a matter of months for a software launch while others might take years to complete medical trials. Either way, VCET programs, facilities and capital programs serve a select few firms by supporting the design, positioning and acceleration of a new product idea, a better service offering or a truly breakthrough platform technology.

Simply put and relentlessly pursued, our mission is to help you create next generation jobs for this generation of Vermonters.

Our long term strategic partners include US Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the University of Vermont, the Vermont Technology Council, the State of Vermont, Middlebury College, Norwich University, Champlain College, the Vermont State College System and many other economic development organizations.

VCET is a 501 (c) 3 public benefit corporation serving all of Vermont.

Follow us on Twitter @VCET

Please find attached the Fiscal Year 2013 public report of the Vermont Seed Capital Fund, LP.  A subsidiary of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) is the Fund Manager. Investing activities began in May 2010 shortly after the first capital contribution arrived, and as of November 2013, 13 companies from around Vermont have been initially supported by $2.2M of the Fund’s early stage risk capital.  To date, 7 portfolio companies have received follow on investment and 3 companies have failed.

During the initial 10-year fund time horizon, a total of 17 companies are anticipated to receive initial funding support during the fund’s first revolve.  The Fund completed its 4th consecutive annual financial and process Audit without issue as conducted by an independent CPA firm.

As of June 30th data capture, the first 12 companies supported with the Funds $1.9M investment have attracted $21M in total capital, earned $16M in cumulative revenues so far, and paid $10M in cumulative payroll.

VCET invested $1M in capital alongside a total of $4.1M of one time capital from the State of Vermont via the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA)  to form this permanent, revolving $5.1M high risk pool of capital.
Thank you for your continued support of entrepreneurs in Vermont.  We are available to discuss further or to answer questions.

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Burlington, Vt. – The Stockholm-based University Business Incubator Index (UBI) has ranked the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) as the 11th best university and college-orientated business incubator in the world, and ranked VCET as 5th in the U.S.

The University Business Incubator (UBI) Index contacted 500 incubators and surveyed 150 incubators in depth. Out of those 500 international incubators, VCET tied for 11th globally and 5th in the U.S.

According to the UBI Index report, top incubators in the list see the following results versus their average counterparts:

Generate a 2.4 times higher number of jobs per client per year.
Incubator graduates earn 3.3 times higher revenue per year.
More than twice the number of clients that remain in the region post-graduation.

On average, top ranked incubators also have a higher number of active coaches and mentors, 70 percent more hours of coaching and twice the number of clients that receive venture capital or angel funding.

“Whether the focus is on local or global markets, VCET has shown time and again that they have the resources and know-how to help Vermont’s entrepreneurs succeed,” said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has secured more than $5 million in federal funds to establish and grow VCET. “Today’s recognition affirms what I have long believed: VCET’s role as a cutting-edge business incubator is both an asset for growing Vermont’s economy and a model for global business development.”

Over the last six years, VCET has advised over 700 entrepreneurs, launched a $5 million seed capital fund, and curated a world-class network of over 100 mentors and investors for the emerging businesses it serves. It has also seen its portfolio companies attract over $55 million in capital, and exceed $39 million in payroll and earn over $53 million in revenues.

Founded in 2005, VCET is a technology firm incubation and mentoring organization with a mission to accelerate next generation job growth in Vermont. VCET provides startups with flexible office spaces, capital, networking and direct expert assistance.

During 2013, VCET opened up space in its Middlebury location as a coworking resource for Middlebury College students and area entrepreneurs. The space is now fully occupied by seven start-ups and there is a waiting list.

“VCET’s presence in Middlebury is an incredible resource for the college community as well as the larger community of Addison County,” said Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz. “VCET offers invaluable mentoring and support for student and area entrepreneurs. We see students who participate in the VCET program not just ready to face the world, but often already owning and running a business before they graduate.”

The key to VCET’s success has been its business mentor program where startups are connected with seasoned and successful entrepreneurs.

“Our ranking on the UBI Index is a testament to how we are supporting entrepreneurs in Vermont,” said VCET Board Chair Frank Cioffi. “The VCET team has done a phenomenal job leveraging 10 Vermont college and university partners and supporting a contemporary and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The center also manages the Vermont Seed Capital Fund, which invests into a select number of high opportunity businesses including some of VCET’s incubation program participants such as BuysideFX in Burlington and Rapid Focus Security in Berlin.

VCET’s blend of expert mentoring, facilities in Burlington and Middlebury in addition to a syndicate of accredited capital providers is helping emerging businesses and founders to create and grow companies here in Vermont

One of Vermont’s major success stories for 2013, Berlin, Vt.-based Pwnie Express, just closed on $5.1 million in Series A funding – partially from the Vermont Seed Capital Fund.

“When I started Pwnie, I was working out of my basement,” said Pwnie Express Founder Dave Porcello. “VCET’s mentoring and incubation programs helped us prepare for growth; we are now rapidly expanding and taking the Cyber Security market by storm.”

About VCET
The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) is a non-profit serving technology entrepreneurs across Vermont with incubation programs, business mentoring, networking and early stage venture capital. Visit: www.VermontTechnologies.com

No survivorship bias here. A compilation of startup failure post-mortems by founders and investors.” A super interesting read from CB Insights on failed startups told by the founders themselves.

Catherine Collins is the VP for Entrepreneur Development at VCET.
Catherine collaborates with regional colleges and universities to increase the number and potential success of undergraduate student entrepreneurs and recent graduates .  Further, Catherine advises and consults entrepreneurs drawing on a variety of design thinking methods. Some of Catherine’s favorite topics are design thinking, mentorship, resilience, food, skiing and of course — entrepreneurship.
She graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Political Science and French.  After working on various farms in Austria, Italy, Ireland and France, Catherine made her way back to her home state of Maine to work at the Maine International Trade Center.  She returned to Vermont to work for Middlebury College’s leadership and innovation program – MiddCORE.  As Associate Director, Catherine contributed to the expansion and scaling of the MiddCORE Immersion on two campuses as well as MiddCOREplus an internship program and a workshop series.  In 2014 MiddCORE was awarded The Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Award which recognizes high impact in education innovations.
Little known fact: Catherine worked in the kitchen of the White Barn Relais & Château. 
 
Previous Workshops: 
Ashoka U Exchange – Innovative Models for Hosting a Social Entrepreneur on Campus February 2014
OpenIDEO Meetups at Middlebury College Fall 2014
MiddCOREplus Design Studio Workshops Summer 2014

In addition to the finalists, VCET’s very own Andrew Stickney (VP) was a mentor to the participating companies and an adviser to LaunchVT itself.

 

To learn more about IrisVR’s win and LaunchVT itself, please see here: http://bfpne.ws/RIDGv4 | http://bit.ly/QRctVT

How do I apply or get help from VCET?
Whether you are in search of some business advice, executive mentoring, want to work in one of our coworking spaces, or are seeking investment, we want to get to know you better. You can start by filling out our “Get to Know You” form or reaching out to us via this site’s contact form.

How can VCET help me?

We’ll help make it easier for you to start and grow your company, increasing the chance it will succeed. In fact, over 85% of firms completing an incubation program nationally survive, versus 35% who are not members.  If in doubt, talk with our members and portfolio companies as references.

What industries are appropriate for VCET?
We are open to a wide range of industries and ideas. Basically, the only industries we don’t focus on are the 3 R’s – real estate, retail, and restaurants. We remain opportunity obsessed, results driven.

I already have a company up and running. Is VCET right for me?
VCET works with inventors, start-ups, spin-offs and early stage companies with several million in sales. So, yes!

Do I have to rent an office or join as a member?
No.  We try to help entrepreneurs in their community, dorm room or one our spaces.  It’s your call.

Do you charge a fee for seeking your help and advice?

Nope.  We are a non-profit serving all of Vermont, and we really enjoy meeting and talking with entrepreneurs, students and growing technology firms about their ideas, challenges and road ahead.  Some opt in to more significant engagement from the VCET team, the coworking facilities or a direct venture fund investment.  These do often have small fees and/or some equity exchange involved.

If I am not yet seeking capital or don’t expect to for a while, is VCET right for me?
You bet. About half of VCET clients do not need outside capital and are attracted to programs and services related to business advice, team building, flexible office space or accessing VCET’s compelling network of partners and supporters.

Does being in one of your spaces disqualify me from the Seed Capital fund?
No. It might help, but it might not either. The seed capital fund is a separate program with a different investment process and criteria. Investment decisions are made by a three person investment committee with one member being the VCET President and the other two being unaffiliated new venture professionals.

Will you sign my NDA?
Nope. As a policy, we do not sign non-disclosure agreements with entrepreneurs or companies seeking our advice or capital. We make best attempts to maintain your information confidentially. Our reputation as valued, trusted advisers and investors is paramount. If there is something that you are uncomfortable sharing, then please exclude from materials and communications with us. It’s your choice.

What does it cost to be a VCET client?
Advice and coaching are free.  For coworking sites, member fees vary by site but are crazy low, flexible and designed for your success and ours. Fees range from free to $200 per month and in some instances companies provide a small (1%-2%) stock grant to VCET as a way to help the ecosystem, secure more team time and “pay it forward”.

Why are the fees so inexpensive?
Through the incredible and consistent support of US Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the University of Vermont, FairPoint Communications, Middlebury College, U.S. Small Business Administration, HUD, and the State of Vermont, VCET is able to offer heavily subsidized services, great office facilities and capabilities for Vermont’s entrepreneurs and new venture partners. Thanks to all of our volunteers, mentors and partners as well!

Can part of my team be in other states or countries?
Yes. Contemporary technology firms source people, materials and customers globally. We ask that a significant presence of people, production, R&D and offices be located in Vermont. Our partners and VCET want it all here for sure, but priority one is building successful and sustainable companies. If that means a portion of your team and business must be located in other state or another country, then we can consider your situation. Each is a separate decision depending on the unique circumstances and potential public benefit to Vermont, the ecosystem and our college and university partners.

Can non-US companies enter the US using the VCET program?
Absolutely.  This is referred to as a “soft landing” for a non-US company to seek a toehold into the US or North American markets. VCET has done this for clients in Europe and Canada already. Your participation in one of our programs will be judged on the level of commitment to hiring people, developing technologies and establishing a legitimate base of operations here. If you are just in need of a US post office box, then we are not the place for you.

Do you have references?

You betcha! Please contact any of them on the Portfolio page or we can make introductions to you in sectors or situations most relevant to your particular stage of development or industry sector.

Is VCET owned by UVM?
No. UVM is our strategic partner and we lease a facility on UVM’s campus at Farrell Hall.  VCET is an independently managed 501 c (3) non-profit governed by an outstanding and committed Board of Directors

What’s the mailing address and phone number?
Contact information can be found here.

What should I know about VCET and information within this site?
VCET is not a financial, tax, accounting or investment firm, nor is it a broker-dealer, and does not endorse or recommend the services of any firm or company. The firms or companies with whom it has investment or other relationships or are listed on this website are solely responsible for the information provided by them. VCET shall not be liable for any damages or costs of any type arising out of, or in any way connected with, the use of the VCET website or with any investment or other relationship the user of the VCET website may enter into with any firm or company mentioned or otherwise referred to on the VCET website.

 

Investment Committee Member

Meet Ken

Ken is the Managing Director of Merritt & Merritt, a boutique corporate, securities and intellectual property law firm based in Burlington, Vermont. His practice is focused on the representation of venture capital funds, private equity funds and angel investors as well as emerging growth companies in mergers, acquisitions and private placements and public offerings of debt and equity securities as well as the formation and governance activities of privately-and publicly-held companies, non-profit organizations, venture capital firms and private equity funds.

Ken is active in multiple professional organizations and various angel and investor groups, including, Investors’ Circle, North Country Angels and Granite State Angels. He is the founder and President of the Vermont Venture Network, which meets monthly to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and others involved in the entrepreneurial process. He is currently the Chair of the Vermont Investors Forum; a member of the Advisory Board of Investors’ Circle based in Durham, NC; a member of the Investment Committee of the Patient Capital Collaborative based in Boston, MA, and a member of Earthrise Capital Fund Investor Advisory Committee based in New York City. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Vermont Hi-Tech Initiative and the Vermont Patent and Trademark Depository Library and was a participant in the Leadership Champlain Program sponsored by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute.

Jordan Leach is a student at the University of Vermont and is a part-time associate at VCET this summer. She is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, as well as a minor in Applied Design. Jordan will be focusing her work on the new co-working spce in Burlington, VCET@BTV. In addition, Jordan is an intern at the Vermont Captive Insurance Assoication.