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Dundee Venture Capital closes $15m fund, moves to Mastercraft

Mark Hasebroock, founder of Dundee Venture Capital, will soon office in the space formerly occupied by CAMP Coworking.

Dundee Venture Capital has closed its second fund at $15 million, Mark Hasebroock, founder of the Omaha venture capital firm, confirmed Wednesday. To kick activity in gear, the year and half old firm began June by bringing on three full-time employees and moving its office from the Dundee neighborhood to The Mastercraft building in North Downtown.

“We wanted to be in a spot where there was a little bit of entrepreneurial activity, kind of a hub, a little bit of a buzz,” Hasebroock said last week. “We wanted to be affiliated with that, and that’s The Mastercraft building right now.”

After move-in is complete in early July, the firm will be next door to MindMixer, the largest investment from Dundee VC’s first fund. Between Dundee’s first investment in MindMixer in February 2011 and its second this April, it invested around half of its initial $2 million fund in the Omaha startup. Other inestments from Dundee VC’s first fund were Tripleseat (December 2010), Graphicly (January 2011), Bullet Time Ventures II (March 2011) and Wide Open Spaces (December 2011).

Hasebroock said those investments served as a proof point for the undisclosed group of investors that contributed to Dundee VC Fund II. “We wanted to see if the market supported what we had put on paper,” Hasebroock said. “Is there demand for the services that we provide?”

Dundee invests in internet services and ecommerce businesses that, Hasebroock said, are either at ground zero or have some revenue. The firm also looks to add value beyond the capital, which he expects to range from $50,000 to $2.5 million. “It does not appeal to us to want to run the company,” he said, “but we do have just a little bit of a skillset that we think we could help them keep them on path and drive it hard.”

With investments from Boulder, Colo. to Boston, Mass., Hasebroock said he’ll continue to be opportunistic – he said he looks at AngelList everyday – but that he wants to invest in the Midwest. “That’s our main focus,” he said, “but we certainly are not turning down opportunities that fit our knowledge base.” He expects Dundee VC will invest in 15 to 30 companies, and he said the firm has already talked with a couple startups in Des Moines but is just beginning to explore Kansas City.

Helping Hasebroock deploy that capital and run the firm is a team of five: associate Michael Wetta, analyst Nick Engelbart, office manager Shaunna Boley, accountant Andrea Sandel and intern Nick Mizaur.

When asked if the move to the new location also means a pending name change, Hasebroock laughed and said that even though the firm is no longer physically in Dundee, it still has “the spirit of Dundee in the founding of the company.”

Hasebroock Q&A

To get more insight into that spirit and learn about Dundee VC’s investments and Hasebroock’s thoughts on the activity in the Midwest, we spoke with him last week. The following are excerpts from our interview.

On the Bullet Time Ventures investment:

I think anybody that’s in this industry knows that it is relationships, it’s just different relationships so you can refer business to each other. I know when one of these guys calls that it’s a real deal and vice versa. They know I’m not going to waste their time. I think what David (Cohen) is doing is fantastic and I think the TechStars program, number one, and then Bullet Time Ventures, which will invest in a lot of the TechStars companies but also ones that are kind of fringe related. To us that just means we get access to a lot of those really exciting young companies.”

On not participating in the $5.4 million Series A round raised by Bloom.com, a startup co-founded by Hasebroock’s two co-founders at Hayneedle:

I think anything that Julie (Mahloch) touches is going to turn to gold, so, I mean, no matter what she does she’s going to be successful. She had self-funded the first round so she didn’t need my help whatsoever, and then I think when she got (to a point where she) needed a big chunk – which they raised 5 million bucks if I’m not mistaken – you know that’s outside of what we do. Just to maybe even participate in something like that would’ve been great, but she didn’t need my help. That’s for sure.”

On being a TechStars mentor:

“Well, TechStars, I want to touch on that a little bit because the mentoring program there – and I’m mentoring one company that’s in their group – it’s so energizing. It’s so much fun because I’m out there maybe once or twice a month, usually for a day to two days each time, but talking to my company that I’m mentoring daily, so I need to carve out an hour a day. And I remember them saying, ‘Look, when you’re in this deal to be a mentor, you’re in it, it’s not like you have coffee and you shoot the breeze and say, ‘Good luck,’ I mean you really are diving into the weeds and helping these companies over a 90-day basis get ready for demo day. Yet meeting the other companies while you’re there is, you know you’ve heard the phase, ‘You could just bottle some of this energy.’ It’s very, very dynamic. I would love to bring some of that back to Omaha in some way, shape or form. So that takes up a little bit of my time and yet I think long-term it really does pay dividends. I’m going to get to know a lot of very, very bright founders.”

On taking the role of chief commerce officer at MindMixer after making the investment in February 2011:

We made (a title) up, and then somehow it’s out there and people are like, ‘Gosh, you’re the chief commerce officer?’ I don’t think any of us know what that means. That was basically from ground zero, square one, these guys needed a plan, needed a vision, but I would probably not be able to find a better founding team than those two. Yet it just needed that adult supervision, like ‘Let’s pull it back to middle here a little bit, here’s an opportunity, let’s really drive hard on this.’ But it was day-to-day, and then as they start to hit their stride I just get out of the way. … I’m there because we’re just around the corner, but I think what we now have is specific milestones and we really know if we’re hitting them or not, and we know the variances to those and what happens and what to do, because it’s just a very dynamic team of individuals.”

On what Dundee VC is looking for:

“Do you have your team? Are you guys unified in your vision of what the company can be? Have you tested it? … Does it have customers? Is it working? What problem are you solving? If we have to solve it for you then we’re not interested, but if you have a clear reason of ‘here’s the problem, here’s my solution, here’s why my team is going win and knock it out of the park, here’s how big this opportunity is,’ then it’s easy for us to get our arms around it.”


Credits: Photo by Danny Schreiber

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