Most startup funding news seems to come out of Silicon Valley, but Flyover Capital knows the value of the Silicon Prairie’s talent pool and local entrepreneurs and is paying close attention to the next crop of tech success stories growing in the Midwest.
Based in the Kansas City area, Flyover Capital looks to fund innovative but underserved businesses in cities like Lincoln, Madison, Kansas City, Nashville and Austin, to name a few. Founded in 2015, Flyover Capital is entering its fourth year of investing.
“We started Flyover based on our backgrounds and beliefs that we could build significant technology companies in the middle of the country, said Langford. “There was really limited capital being invested here to make that happen.”
Langford said 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the U.S. has been placed in either Silicon Valley or the Northwest Corridor (from Washington D.C. up to New York and Boston). The remaining 25 percent is sprinkled across the remaining states, which accounts for a huge geographic region.
“Our mission and purpose are to serve those underserved markets,” said Langford. “By serving founders, we’re able to help them create the next generation of technology success stories in areas outside of those traditional tech hubs.”
By providing founders a funding option in their own backyard, Flyover Capital is providing additional value to Midwestern startups that goes beyond money.
“Having led our own tech companies, we empathize and understand the entrepreneurial journey that the founders are experiencing,” said Langford. “Having people close by to help who have built significant technology companies outside of the traditional tech hubs is a benefit [to them].”
Flyover Capital’s founders have tech backgrounds and have made the transition from founders to investors. Langford spent several years at Sprint running business units involved in things like putting the first cameras in phones and clearing the rights (pre-iTunes) for downloading music to cell phones. After that, he led a company called Zave Networks that was acquired by Google in 2011.
“After having gone through that journey, I was looking to figure out how to bolster the technology ecosystem in our region and identified that one of the key gaps was early-stage venture capital,” said Langford. “We felt like there was an opportunity for us to step in and help fill that void, especially for technology companies.”
Langford said that what Flyover Capital looks for in companies when making investments is pretty simple, and in essence, it comes down to three factors.
“We want to find the best and brightest founders who are solving market problems, and secondly, we want to be able to provide them the capital they need to take their business to the next level to solve that particular problem,” said Langford. “The third thing is how do we lend a helping hand or an empathetic ear along the way to help them overcome the challenges that they’re facing and shorten their timeline to success.”
Flyover Capital has helped lead Midwest success stories like Bulu Box, opendorse, Eyeverify and Agrible, to name a few. The investors know each city has a unique ecosystem and they spend time getting to know the natural resources of each particular area, such as intellectual property and knowledge base.
“That combination is really important to us,” said Langford. “It’s also really important for each individual city to understand what those natural resources are so they wrap their full support around those companies and founders.”
Langford said that a city’s strengths stand out naturally based on the companies that are located there. Kansas City might particularly standout in cybersecurity expertise, Des Moines might be an expert in insurance tech, and Champaign might be best known for agtech.
“I think there’s an incredible depth of domain expertise across multiple industry verticals in this area of the country, and I think there are many who underestimate the depth of that knowledge,” said Langford. “We feel like there’s so much opportunity, and that this is an underserved region for technology, so we want to be broad in our mission.”
Langford said there’s an incredible support infrastructure that’s been built over the last five years but there’s so much more on the horizon for Midwest tech ecosystems.
“I do think we’ve come a long way as a region, but the more exciting part for us is we believe there’s an incredible upside still ahead,” said Langford. “We believe that the more we can create these success stories, then the more positive results will come.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News