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Dundee Venture Capital opens with $2M fund – interview with founder

Earlier today, Dundee Venture Capital officially announced its founding in Omaha with the launch of its website, dundeeventurecapital.com.

In great big, bold letters, the Dundee Venture Capital homepage reads: “Investing in dynamic & passionate entrepreneurs.” And although it’s located in Omaha’s quaint midtown district called Dundee, its “Questions” page states that they’re ready to invest in startups throughout the U.S. – “whether you’re in Boulder, New York or right here in Omaha.”

Officially founded last month by Mark Hasebroock, best known as one of the three co-founders of Omaha-based Hayneedle, Dundee VC plans to invest between $10,000 to $500,000 in e-commerce or software solution startups. Their first fund is $2 million.

“Over the last year I have heard of several ideas that were pretty unique for this area,” Hasebroock said in an email interview earlier today. “I kept wondering why these folks weren’t getting funded. They really didn’t have many alternatives for small, angel or early stage investments. So I started this.”

Hasebroock, who is the sole team member of Dundee VC at the moment – he said he’ll be expanding the team over the next several months – is already on the move. “We are close to making our first few investments,” Hasebroock said in the email interview. (Hasebroock left, photo by Adam Nielsen)

The investing landscape is familiar to Hasebroock. On the “Who We Are” page of the Dundee VC website, it states: “We have been on both sides of the startup table.” Hasebroock took part in raising money for two Omaha startups, GiftCertificates.com (served as COO) and Hayneedle (co-founded in 2002), and, among other banking experience, invested in companies while at McCarthy Group (1986-1999), an Omaha-headquartered private equity firm.

At Hayneedle, a privately held company, Hasebroock and his team secured funding from New York-based Insight Venture Partners and Silicon Valley-based Sequoia Capital.

In addition to Dundee Venture Capital, Hasebroock currently serves as vice chairman of Hayneedle’s board and is the chairman of the board of Ballantyne Strong, an Omaha-based manufacturer and distributor of commercial motion picture and professional lighting equipment.

Also to note, for the Dundee VC branding and website design, Hasebroock worked with Adam Nielsen, owner of the two-person design studio GoodTwin Design. In my conversation with Hasebroock, he was excited to have Dundee VC, whose mission is to work with entrepreneurs, work with an Omaha-based startup design studio and entrepreneur like Nielsen.

To learn more about the background and operations of Dundee VC, I conducted an email interview with Hasebroock earlier today:

Silicon Prairie News: What is the focus of Dundee VC?

Mark Hasebroock: Our focus is $10,000 to $500,000 investments in e-commerce or software solutions. I know, that’s pretty broad. But the capital needs vary as much as the ideas. Some are later stage and growing like a weed and need capital for engineers and a sales team. Others are just out of beta and need capital for testing.

Have you been an angel investor previously or have other related experience?

Not with a formal fund. I’ve invested in people, mainly, that had a passion for an idea. One example is eCreamery.com. Becky App and Abby Jordan are excellent founders. They said, “We have a premium priced, e-commerce gift idea. What if we provided a simple way for people to customize and then name their own premium ice cream or gelato and ship it to them the next day?” It was not being done. Their knowledge and passion for success make it easy to back them. Plus the ice cream tasting is an amazing dividend.

Can you comment on the entrepreneurial and startup energy you currently see in and around Omaha and what affect that had on you opening Dundee VC?

It is a strong vibe and building. Silicon Prairie News is one of the primary reasons no doubt. It takes a consistent communication effort that I think they have created (and an annual Woodstock for startups they host called Big Omaha) to build the local brand for this awakening. Silicon Prairie News has built this connection nationwide as well. I was in Boulder recently and Silicon Prairie News was well-known and regarded by five or six of the startups I visited. As a result, we seem to be attracting a new generation of talented, creative people that want to control their own destiny. I am surprised at the knowledge but also commitment and willingness to jump out of a comfy corporate gig and make something happen. Undergrads and Peter Kiewit Institute grads are all helping fuel the growth. More globally, people look at “The Social Network” or hear about eye popping growth stories like Zynga or Groupon or Foursquare. There is more of a “What if I created…” attitude in the air. It’s a bit of the Wild West right now.

In your Dundee VC bio, you make note of Mike McCarthy being your mentor and now you want to be a mentor to others? Can you expand on that statement?

Mike is blunt, honest and has unique vision. However, he never dictated. He had the conclusion to a problem – usually in five minutes – that would take me five weeks to solve…but was able to lead me to learn in my own way. And he was a tough negotiator on everything with amazing attention to detail. And oftentimes the best answer is simply a quick “no.” And yet for the growth stories there was always the never-ending generation of ideas for new revenue, people, products…how can we make it better. My goal is to pass those traits to others as they start their businesses in hopefully the same way. More important, though, is we need a network of mentors around Omaha to help in all areas of a startups lifecycle. I think I hear – more often than not – “Who can I talk to about…(accounting for startups, find a web developer that cares, a cheap place for us to rent versus our basement, a lawyer that knows startups, how much money do I really need to raise…).” I really think the mentors exists but need some reason to come together.

If I’m an entrepreneur or startup, what’s the best way to get a hold of you?

Email (mark@dundeecap.com), Facebook (Dundee Venture Capital page), or Twitter (@dundeevc).

Do you have anything else to add?

I feel younger and I am drinking more Mountain Dew for some reason.

To learn more about Dundee Venture Capital, visit dundeeventurecapital.com.

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