Scale VC, a Missouri-based venture capital fund and studio investing monetary and social capital in early-stage tech founders, announced it is expanding its support with a $5 million Fund II, the largest venture capital fund raised in the city to date.
Anchored by the University of Missouri System and Shelter Insurance, which is headquartered in Columbia, Fund II also includes 34 limited partners. In addition to the investment, Scale VC’s partnership with the UM System includes an on-campus student accelerator sponsored and supported by Scale VC and EquipmentShare, a fast-growing and nationwide construction equipment rental and technology company based in Columbia. The student accelerator will focus on connecting students across all departments and universities of the UM System – University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Missouri University of Science and Technology – to forge innovative companies.
“This investment and partnership build upon our efforts to turn the UM System and our state into an innovation destination – a place where big thinkers can start and grow their transformational ideas,” said Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri. “I am proud that our universities are helping build the next generation of high-growth companies in Missouri.”
Raising a fund in less than six months shows the potential for growing a nationally recognized startup city in the middle of the country. Columbia has the ingredients to start an innovation hub with talent from the UM System, multiple unicorns – such as Zapier, EquipmentShare, and Beyond Meat – and successful operators dedicated to supporting the entrepreneurial community. According to Crunchbase, Columbia-based startups have raised more than $1.5 billion in debt and equity since 2020. With Fund II, Scale VC will have the capital to support more than 30 companies through investments ranging from $50,000-150,000 in the next three years. That includes three startups that the fund will incubate in a venture studio from internal ideas. Corporate investors like Shelter Insurance will have the opportunity to be a design or co-incubation partner with these new companies.
“This partnership is an investment in more than our regional economy. It demonstrates our belief that our Midwest values don’t just coexist with innovation – they drive it. We are proud to work with Scale and our fellow investors to build the next generation of companies creating economic growth in the communities we love,” said Amanda Martin, director of innovation at Shelter Insurance.
From the heart of Missouri, Scale VC has recruited successful operator-limited partners and advisors dedicated to empowering founders who are strengthened by overcoming adversity. Whether founders struggle because of constraints of their geographic location, pedigree, social class, immigrant status, gender, or other barriers – Scale VC accelerates access to the knowledge, networks, and resources to remove roadblocks. Advisors include founders from Zapier and Summersalt, among others.
Scale VC’s limited partner base also includes many successful Missouri-based operators like Willy Schlacks (EquipmentShare), Jabbok Schlacks (EquipmentShare), Phil Reynolds (BriteCore), Brant Bukowsky (Veterans United Home Loans), and Matt Watson (VinSolutions), who also serve as mentors, connectors, and listeners.
“The Midwest or flyover states are generally overlooked when it comes to headlines, which is partly because founders in flyover locations are not used to telling their stories. In reality, the Midwest is flourishing with many humble world-class operators building massive companies who want to support other founders,” said Brett Calhoun, managing director and partner at Scale VC. “We are on a mission to empower founders to build generational wealth from the middle of the country, random suburbs, or even existing innovation hubs. We’ve seen this first-hand – founders can come from all walks of life.”
“My brother Jabbok and I started Scale VC to share what we learned from building companies and empower other founders to create legacy wealth and legacy companies. I would even argue that since starting Scale VC, I’ve learned just as much as the 40-plus founders we’ve supported,” said Willy Schlacks, co-founder of EquipmentShare and Scale VC.
Scale VC is focused on identifying those who display a disproportionate ability to persevere and then unlock invaluable operational knowledge for them to accelerate their company-building learning curve.
“Successful founders are everywhere – and that includes right here in the heart of the country,” Calhoun said.
About Scale VC:
Founded in 2021 by Willy and Jabbok Schlacks and Jai Malik, Scale VC is an early-stage venture capital fund and studio investing monetary and social capital in early-stage tech founders who are strengthened by struggle. Scale brings a team of dedicated operators who have the insights & support from building billion-dollar companies to remove unnecessary barriers, so founders can focus on the hard stuff that matters. Headquartered in Columbia, Mo., Scale VC is investing in founders across North America and is at the center of creating a Silicon Valley effect in the Midwest and beyond.