Welcome back to the Great North Ventures newsletter! The big news this month is the closing of Fund II! 

We have closed our $40M Fund IIGreat North is excited to build on its Fund I success investing in startups from Seed to Series A, with a new, larger fund.

Fund II Snapshot:

Thanks to our investors, founders, team, and to our community! Read more coverage here and here.

“Great North Ventures has a strong track record,” said Rob Weber, Founder & Managing Partner. “Our investors have given us a vote of confidence by coming out strong for Fund II, with a 70% increase in fund size, and we are grateful for their continued support as well as the support of new investors. Our strategy as a thematic, network-driven investor focusing on opportunities in underserved markets is resonating, and we see this successful Fund II raise as proof of this theme and our ability to execute.”

Interested Founders can apply for funding consideration immediately. Are you looking for early-stage funding?
Do you fit one of these themes:


Visit our site to view our criteria and to apply.

Need to learn more about early-stage scaling and venture funding? Are you working on scaling and thinking about VC funding? Listen to the latest episode of Execution is King.

It features Eric Martell, Founder of Pear Commerce, former founder of EatStreet, and former Venture Partner at gener8tor. As a successful founder, investor, and now repeat founder, Eric has valuable insight on what it takes to scale and successfully utilize funding. And guess what? He shared it with us.

Like this tidbit on what remaining focused on the problem looks like: “it took some patience and dozens, if not hundreds of customer conversations, and not being super in love with any individual solution to the big problem that we were trying to solve until we found that correct solution. And it’s almost like, you know when you know, because then the business really took off.” 

Portfolio News


Amulet Launches to Bring Powerful Detection Out of the Lab and Into the Hands of Millions [Allergy Amulet]

OneMedNet Partners with Flywheel to Provide Leading Healthcare Imaging Data and Data Management Solutions 

Good Design Awards Highlight Connected Devices [Allergy Amulet]

Omnia Fishing To Simulcast Bassmaster LIVE As Shoppable Feed For Two Elite Series Eve

129 Open Positions

See all open positions on the Great North Ventures careers page

Dispatch is hiring for 49 positions

Structural is hiring for 1 position

FactoryFix is hiring for 5 positions

PrintWithMe is hiring for 19 positions

Parallax is hiring for 4 positions

Branch is hiring for 15 positions

Inhabitr is hiring for 1 positions

NoiseAware is hiring for 5 positions

PartySlate is hiring for 5 positions

Flywheel is hiring for 3 positions

Skillit is hiring for 1 position

NextGem is hiring for 2 positions

Backhouse Brands is hiring for 1 position

Yardstik is hiring for 7 positions

Micruity is hiring for 3 positions

Omnia Fishing is hiring for 8 positions

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    Doubling Down on Success Investing in Trailblazers

Minneapolis – May 23, 2022 – Early-stage VC firm Great North Ventures announced today it has closed $40 million for its second venture fund (“Fund II”). The fund aims to continue the firm’s success investing in startups from Seed to Series A stages. New investments will address three key themes: digital transformation through AI, community-driven applications, and solving labor problems.

Founded and operated by successful founders, Great North Ventures focuses on providing capital, connections, and operational guidance to startups. Its new Fund II has added a Venture Studio, whereby new startups are co-created and supported from ideation through launch and beyond. The fund’s investing and support are network-driven, with connection density in Minnesota, through the Upper Midwest, and extending beyond. 

Founders seeking funding can apply for immediate consideration.

“We have refined our approach as a network-driven investor with Fund II. Our Innovator Network has depth and breadth across startups and Fortune 500 companies. Our team’s network is diverse and rooted in our own experience as founders. It is densest in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, and extends beyond. Our deal flow and support and consequently, our capital deployment, align with this density,  By playing to our network’s strengths in this way, we maximize investment potential, while also creating a blueprint for further Fund growth in locations that are undercapitalized.”- Ryan Weber, Founder & Managing Partner

“Great North Ventures has a strong track record. Our investors have given us a vote of confidence by coming out strong for Fund II, with a 70% increase in fund size, and we are grateful for their continued support as well as the support of new investors. Our strategy as a thematic, network-driven investor focusing on opportunities in underserved markets is resonating and we see this successful Fund II raise as proof of this theme and our ability to execute.”- Rob Weber, Founder & Managing Partner 

Fund II Strategy and Themes

Great North invests in domains with substantial unsolved problems that can be solved by entrepreneurs leveraging technology. The firm’s Innovator Network is a network of former founders, skilled operators, and successful investors that have a track record of execution. It is a key resource for helping with sourcing opportunities, diligence, strategy insights, referrals for team additions, and mentorship for the core team. 

One of the key strategies of Great North Fund II is its Venture Studio, in which it designs and builds companies with world-class founders in focused market segments with substantial opportunities. In the venture studio model, problems that startups could solve are identified, markets are evaluated, teams are built, MVPs (minimum viable products) are spun up, and experiments are run to iterate products until product/market fit is achieved. 

Startups co-created in the Great North’s Venture Studio continue to receive fundraising support and board oversight after they launch. NextGem is a tool and social network for trading card enthusiasts to better manage and discover great cards. It is the first company created in Great North’s Venture Studio. The second startup to come out of the studio is Backhouse Brands, a self-serve marketplace for creating and managing virtual restaurant brands.   

Three investment themes drive Great North Ventures Fund II:

Digital Transformation Through AI – Great North is looking for technology-driven startups that are innovating traditional industries using artificial intelligence. Its portfolio examples across Fund I and II include Allergy Amulet, Coverlease, DispatchFlywheel, Inhabitr, and Nested Knowledge.

Community-Driven Applications – Great North is looking for consumer or enterprise startups that are connecting people through software, especially in the areas of media consumption or commerce. Its portfolio examples include NextGem, Omnia Fishing, and PartySlate.

Solving Labor Problems – Great North is looking for startups with market-driven solutions for workplaces and labor. Its portfolio examples include FactoryFix, Skillit, and Yardstik

Founders who fit one or more of these themes and are raising a Series Seed through Series A round may apply for funding on this web page.

Fund I History

The firm was originally known as Great North Labs when it was founded in 2017. Its first fund of approximately $24 million was one of the largest debut venture funds raised in the Midwest and now includes a portfolio of 27 investments, six of which have exited. New investments from Fund I are now complete,  with the remaining capital reserved for follow-on investments. 

Strong growth has continued across Great North’s Fund I portfolio. Aggregate revenue run rate of these companies increased 294% from the time of initial investment through the end of 2021. Recently, several of Great North Fund I portfolio companies have announced new growth rounds including Dispatch, Branch, and FactoryFix.

Great North Ventures’ co-founders, Robert and Ryan Weber, are twin brothers with a successful track record since the early 2000s as founders and angel investors. They were joined in founding the firm by a former mentor, Pradip Madan, who is a successful technology executive and investor. Rounding out the team are Venture Partner Mike Schulte, and Director of Marketing Josef Siebert.

About Great North Ventures

Great North Ventures is an early-stage VC firm located in Minneapolis. The firm has raised two funds since its 2017 founding. As a network-driven, early-stage investor, the firm has deep roots and density in the “capital desert” outside Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston. 

Built by founders, for founders, the team is experienced in founding and scaling tech companies. Its team consists of ex-operators with significant experience across stages of growth from startup to public companies and M&A, and broad and deep technical, sales, marketing, and transactional expertise. Great North prioritizes execution over strategy and pedigree when choosing companies and founders to back. Fund II will invest in startups that fit three themes: Digital Transformation through AI, Community-Driven Applications, and Solving Labor Problems


For more information, please visit its website, or follow the firm on LinkedIn or Twitter. Listen to the Great North Ventures podcast, or sign up for its newsletter.

Intro to Great North Ventures

Great North Ventures is an early-stage VC located in Minneapolis and St. Cloud, MN. Our investment team consists of ex-operators with significant experience across stages of growth from startup to public companies and M&A, and broad and deep technical, sales, marketing, and transactional expertise. Starting in 2017, we have raised two funds. 

Fund I, from which we made new investments from 2017-21, focused on opportunities arising in the Upper Midwest given the strength of the entrepreneurs, and the relative lack of venture capital. Our focus on the Upper Midwest allowed us to leverage the substantial network our founders have in the region, as well as the operating experience of all the partners across sectors and geographies.

Fund II Thesis

Geography

For Fund II, we have narrowed our investing themes, as well as expanded our lens with respect to geographic focus. Roughly, we aim to invest 1/3rd of our Fund in Minnesota, 1/3rd in the Upper Midwest, and the remainder without a geographic constraint. This enables us to continue to address the undercapitalization as well as take advantage of our deal flow momentum in the Upper Midwest. For another 1/3rd of our capital, as we have built relationships beyond the Upper Midwest, we want to take advantage of the deal flow for the best opportunities. Our allocation of the remaining 1/3rd further enriches our deal flow, as all regions in the US and elsewhere have concentrations of expertise, and the greater geographic diversity enables us to find the best deals in our target domains.

Fund II Investment Themes

We invest along three themes, Digital Transformation Through AI, Solving Labor Problems, and Community-Driven Applications. 

Digital Transformation Through AI – The next dominant wave of technology-driven innovation will occur in legacy industries. We invest in the tools and technology that use AI to solve pervasive problems in legacy industries. 

Solving Labor Problems – The world’s talent markets are more competitive than ever, and the hardest challenges for virtually every business are related to attracting and retaining talent. Across all industries, we focus on investing in startups that tackle talent issues like recruitment, development, and retention.

Community-Driven Applications – Network-driven software is expanding into every industry, spreading beyond consumer to enterprise. These applications feature lower customer acquisition costs and higher retention rates, driven by strong viral effects that make use of growth loops. We invest in these startups that can kickstart networks. 

As an early-stage fund, we seek opportunities from inception through evidence of product market fit. 

Our investment criteria are foremost the size and potential of the opportunity. initial evidence of adoption or early product-market fit (e.g., registration growth, time spent using the service), low cost of customer acquisition, high lifetime value/customer, stickiness, sales motion simplicity, team strength, defensibility, and capital efficiency. We invest in domains where there are substantial unsolved problems that can be solved with entrepreneurship, and where we have strong expertise. Supplementing our own strengths, our network of advisors is a key resource for us in helping with diligence, key strategy insights, referrals for team additions, mentorship for the core team, etc.

Venture Studio

For opportunities at inception, we substantially rely on our venture studio. Our strategy for the venture studio is to create startups where we have unique expertise and where we do not see attractive opportunities based on external deal flow. We have incubated two opportunities to date in our venture studio.

Omnia Fishing, a new Great North investment, has raised a $4M round! Omnia is the fastest-growing online store in the fishing tackle industry. Omnia’s sales grew 400% in 2021 and are currently on a similar pace this year.

Omnia Fishing is the first e-commerce store that allows anglers to find, buy, and organize their fishing gear based on the bodies of water they fish with a “shop-by-lake”​ concept. Its user-generated content strategy, in the form of real-time fishing reports, is proving valuable to fisherman who can make tackle decisions based on real-time data and catch more fish.

“We’re seeing such tremendous growth in both sales, users, and user generated content in the form of fishing reports,” said Omnia CEO and Co-Founder Matt Johnson. “Consumers are purchasing and indicating what gear worked on the lakes they fished in order to help other anglers purchase the right tackle with confidence. These fishing report authors receive free tackle credits when they help someone shop for tackle. The rate of submission and conversion is exceeding our expectations.” 

Read the full release from Omnia for more details.

Welcome back to the Great North Ventures newsletter! (Sign up here!) We are excited for the launch of our new podcast and Fund II investing!

Our new podcast is live! Check out “Execution is King” on SpotifyGoogle PodcastsApple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Join me, Josef Siebert, and either Ryan or Rob Weber as we interview founders, investors, and ecosystem builders to uncover insights and best practices for the next generation of global startup founders. 

As mentioned in our last newsletter, Fund II is now open for business! We have officially made our first investment outside of our own venture studio projects. Early-stage founders, check out our Founders page for criteria and to get in touch.

Portfolio Updates

Skillit is new to the portfolio! Skillit is a jobs and recruitment platform that matches skills-tested carpenters with great construction firms.

Flywheel has raised a $22M Series C round from 8VC, Great North Ventures, and others. Flywheel will use raised capital to acquired St. Louis-based Radiologics.

TeamGenius raises $1.1 million to expand its athlete development platform

Airbnb partner Migo taps NoiseAware for noise-monitoring solution

PrintWithMe Announces New Platform for Expansion, WithMe, Inc.

FactoryFix Successful Series “Factory Made” Offers Viewers Peak into American Manufacturing

Hotels open the door to the next evolution in room service [2ndKitchen]
 

Open Positions

See all open positions on the Great North Ventures careers page

Great North Venturesis hiring 6 interns for Summer 2022

Dispatch is hiring for 41 positions

FactoryFixis hiring for 7 positions

TeamGeniusis hiring for 1 position

2ndKitchenis hiring for 5 positions

PrintWithMe ishiring for 13 positions

Parallaxis hiring for 9 positions

Branch is hiring for 14 positions

Inhabitr is hiring for 3 positions

Clinician Nexusis hiring for 1 position

PartySlateis hiring for 1 position

Flywheelis hiring for 2 positions

Great North Ventures Fund II is now actively investing!

Investors can learn more on our Investors page.

If you have a pre-seed or seed stage startup, check out our Founders page for our criteria:

The struggles of building, scaling, and existing tech startups are well-know to us, because we’ve done it before. If you are interested in partnering with Great North Ventures, apply for funding, or slide into Rob Weber’s DMs.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our venture studio, Great North Venture Labs. Great North Venture Labs will design and build companies with world-class founders and operators that are in focused market segments with substantial opportunities. Promising studio startups will be funded with capital from the second Great North venture fund.

Read more in the Star Tribune

The venture studio model is a relatively new model for entrepreneurship that combines company building with venture capital. By creating researched opportunities from great ideas, and pairing them with talent that can execute, Great North Venture Labs  will create early-stage startups built to succeed. These startups will be vetted for funding, with seed capital coming from Great North Ventures (formerly Great North Labs). 

Great North Ventures will focus on investing in founders who are applying breakthrough tech to inefficient processes. Our first two Great North Venture Labs companies are headquartered where we have the strongest talent pipeline, in Minnesota. In light of today’s reality of startups adopting a remote-first approach to developing their teams, Great North Ventures will encourage founders to build where they are.

We are flexible with respect to what the right business model is, and will pursue different business model types including enterprise SAAS, online marketplaces, and online community/social networks. Strong execution translates to all verticals and business models, and knows no borders. 

This is an evolution from our initial positioning. The truth is that the latest opportunities, teams, and new ventures are distributed. Remote work is becoming standard, and our geographic investment focus has become increasingly arbitrary. Good opportunities happen anywhere people can execute them. 

Why Now?

Before we launched Great North Labs in 2017, we considered launching a venture fund and a venture studio. Predating the launch of Great North Labs, Ryan Weber and I traveled the world as founders, and we were able to see great examples of the venture studio/incubator type of businesses such as Betaworks in NYC, IdealLab in LA (our partners in Fund I portfolio company Branch), and High Alpha (our partners in Fund I portfolio Structural) in Indianapolis. Locally, Rally Ventures (our Fund I partners in Parallax) and Invenshure (our Fund I partners in Flywheel) have successfully executed this studio model too. After much consideration, we opted to exclusively focus on launching our venture fund first so that we could develop a strong platform as early stage investors.

Now that we are getting started to launch Fund II, we now have a more robust internal team along with our Innovator Network. This strong foundation rooted in strong execution from founders and operators who have demonstrated excellence in execution enable us to do so where most other early stage funds lack operational depth. 

We are not just service providers, we are entrepreneurs!

One of the biggest questions we get from our fund’s Limited Partners is how can we build even large ownership in the startups we invest our capital and resources into. With the explosion of new early stage funds, including those that invest earlier such as in pre-seed, the competition for the best deals is fierce. There is no more proprietary deal flow than ground up building a startup, and the opportunity to pick teams centered around strong foundation execution enables us to de-risk the earlier stages at a level not possible by most other funds.

The first Great North Venture Labs company

The first Great North Venture Labs company is in stealth mode. The new startup is focused on solving the biggest problems faced by collectors of trading cards. Like many other alt assets such as luxury goods, paintings, vintage cars, NFTs, the trading card market has grown immensely over recent years, but the market is still dominated by legacy marketplaces and other industry participants, many of which rely on dated technology and analog business processes. It looks to enhance the trading card market by using breakthrough technologies not available to prior businesses operating in the trading card market.

This stealth startup is headquartered in Minnesota. Additional details will be shared at a later date.

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