Note: Scale is now Redbud VC
It was an incredible year for Scale, filled with community events, new projects and initiatives, team expansion, a re-brand, and, of course, more investments. 2022 was just the beginning, and we remain as excited as ever to invest in resilient founders building at the earliest stages. Press on what’s next for Scale will be launched in the coming months, but for now, we will share everything we can with who we are and what we’ve been up to.
Who We Are
Scale is an accelerator fund and venture studio investing monetary and social capital in early-stage tech founders who are strengthened by struggle. Scale brings founders access to the insights & support of a team of dedicated operators to remove unnecessary barriers, so founders can focus on the hard stuff that matters.
We believe the greatest driver of venture returns is the selection of founders strengthened by struggle. Founders operating under constraints are forced to be more creative, sustainable, efficient, and strategic in solving problems. Founders who normalize constraints use them as a power to become outliers. The Midwest is a case study for founders operating under constraints, and the founders of local companies like Zapier and EquipmentShare are perfect examples.
Scale’s goal is not to remove constraints but to equip founders with the knowledge and insights they might not learn for years into building their company. Scale came from the brains of Willy & Jabbok Schlacks, Co-Founders & Partners, who built EquipmentShare (a multi-billion dollar construction rental company with VC support from YC….). Their journey from no formal education to starting EquipmentShare in 2015 to billions in revenue in 2022 was a humbling and educational experience that gave them a deep appreciation for those who blaze their paths through the struggle of the company-building journey.
The Sclacks created generational wealth, allowing them to reinvest in other entrepreneurs. Investing their time to help others build companies that create generational wealth holds an even greater value. There is a high level of altruism for those who created generation wealth through the struggle of building a company. In the future, generally speaking, those founders will reinvest their hard-earned capital into innovation and other good causes that enhance society.
“At Scale, we quickly accelerate the path of knowledge of going from an idea to thousands of employees. I say accelerate because there is no avoidance of the path of learning the way our brains work. You can’t absorb it in a moment, but it is a quick acceleration where we show you the journey. There is no short way around learning or building because you have to experience the pain of struggle. We can help move decades of a path of learning towards months and heavily de-risk the failure of the company and set entrepreneurs up to succeed.“ — Willy Schlacks, Managing Partner at Scale
In addition, Jai Malik, Co-Founder & Advisor of Scale, was inclined to start Scale after his exposure to many untapped talent in the Midwest. Jai’s background is building and investing in companies on the coasts, which historically are flowing with capital, network effects, and knowledge sharing. The opportunity in the Midwest to bring a coastal mindset to investing and incubating that will take advantage of the massive opportunities for innovation in the Midwest. Finding an equilibrium between a coastal and Midwest mindset to venture building can produce outsized alpha. Scale has the key elements to do this with successful investors and operators around the table.
We operate in two models: the Accelerator Fund and Venture Studio. In our studio model, Scale has internal business ideas to start. The goal is to source a technical co-founder and, in some cases, a co-founder with operating or domain experience to prove the idea and build the MVP. Scale and EquipmentShare offer resources to the studio company. In addition, Scale will find other sector-focused funds or strategic corporations to co-incubate the business, maximizing the capital, network, and resources.
“Raising is such a distraction in an early-stage company. If you can’t raise quickly, then don’t raise at all. Raising money is somewhat binary these days. Scale brings the mindset that the first north star in your company building journey is to delight customers.” — Wade Foster, Co-Founder & CEO of Zapier
In our accelerator model, we invest via post-money SAFEs into Idea to Pre-Seed Stage technology startups. This is done through cohorts of 7–8 companies working with us for 12 weeks. After the 12 weeks conclude, Scale continues to be a partner and provide service for the company’s lifetime.
“The money Scale put in has been the most value-added despite much larger checks” Alex Bromage, CEO & Founder of Passtur
In addition to investing in companies, Scale also starts ventures through its venture studio. For example, our LPs, Advisors, and team are all builders who have ideas for tech companies. We take these ideas and conduct in-depth research to validate the problem.
Let’s dive into what we’ve been building over the last twelve months! 🚀
2022 Year in Review
Applicant Growth: 100% to 300 in Cohort III
Launched newsletter: 7.5k subscribers
Midwest Madness: 2022 Top Midwest Tech City
Portfolio Fundings: ~$10M
Founders Met: thousands
Invested: 15 companies
“While investors are holding on to their dry powder, we are deploying. It’s never been a better time to invest in early-stage founders. The 2023 economic constraints will force resilient founders to unlock levels of creativity to produce outsized alpha. At Scale, we not only equip founders with capital but the support and insights to be successful regardless of the environment or the founder’s pedigree.“ — Brett Calhoun, Managing Director & Partner at Scale
New Efforts and Initiatives
We’ve spent a lot of time building something that brings in new partners to support dozens of founders over the next three years. Stay tuned for the PR 🤫
Scale started FlyoverTech, a community of founders, investors, and ecosystem builders from across our flyover communities. Scale connects the nodes or ecosystems to operate as a unified and more collaborative ecosystem. Currently, there are over 350 founders and investors in the community
We started the Scale newsletter, which has over 7.5k subscribers.
Rebranded our logo and made a new website — these are always a work in progress, though 🧑🎨
Hosted two demo weeks where over 300 investors opted to review our company’s pitches
Became a channel partner for InvestMidwest, a leading event for connecting founders to investors
Built a founder portal for our founders that includes an Insights Playbook with hundreds of resources (e.g., investor contact book, financial models, discounts, Scale session recordings, etc.
Created numerous (free!) resources for all founders, found here
Our team wrote 32 articles on our investments, markets, insights, and more here
Launched a talent network that has 100+ engineers and operators from across the US here
Launched a cap table and dilution calculator for founders on Product Hunt here, which reached the #5 product of the day
Began working on a stealth project focused on building a platform to facilitate fruitful connections between founders and investors (more on this soon)
Scale organized and hosted Columbia Startup Weekend with 100+ participants, followed by investing in the winner Appreciate. A few months later, Appreciate raised $810k led by Dundee
Scale led the effort in Columbia, MO winning M25’s famous Midwest Madness competition. Midwest Madness is a bracket competition that matches up the top 64 tech ecosystems in the Midwest for Twitter to vote on who was the best that year. See more in the Associated Press article here
Scale attended MidXMidwest in Kansas City, where we met two dozen founders and had the opportunity to meet many of our investor friends in person for the first time
Brett and Caleb presented at Venture Cafe in St. Louis on what venture capital is and how we can boost it in Missouri
Scale, PitaTech, CapGains, and Kaveat attended The LegalTech Fund Summit in Miami, FL, where Kaveat won the startup showcase pitch competition
Hosted our annual Holiday and summer party with participation from almost all Scale portfolio companies
Scale and PitaTech attended M25’s Chicago IRL Founder & Investor event, where we met numerous prospective founders
Scale attended Midwest Tech, where we met over 30 early-stage founders building across the US
Attended the Freshworks VC Connect NA Edition, where we met over 50 founders.
Scale attended Startland News Live in Kansas City
Scale’s investor Joe Kaiser, MD at Mercato Partners, held a leadership Summit in Palm Springs, which was attended by Scale, Appreciate, TheGoodz, PitaTech, and CapGains
Scale attend multiple student pitch events at WASHU and the University of Missouri
Brett Calhoun guest spoke to numerous University of Missouri business classes
Our team was featured on the below podcasts/news
Scale co-founder and advisor, Jai Malik, was featured in Forbes 30 under 30
Willy & Jabbok launched EquipmentShare’s T3 Technologies platform that connects construction workflows and data across equipment, teams, and projects
Hired Mizzou M.D. student Katie Campbell as Head of Content
Hired Mizzou Finance student Will VanAlstine as Intern, and now, Analyst
Hired Mizzou Business student Yahav Sal as Intern
Hired Mizzou Journalism student Emilie Connors as Content Intern
Brett Calhoun was promoted from Director of Operations to Managing Director and Partner
Brett Calhoun took over 1.5k meetings in 2022
Brett Calhoun joined Republic’s Venture Partner Program Cohort 9
Invested in seven Cohort II companies in April and ran the accelerator program through June
Invested in eight Cohort III companies in October and ran the accelerator program through December
Sequoia Capital invests in Hallway via their Arc Program
Hallway raised from Sequoia Capital Arc
Anchorage Capital and Columbia-based Innovated Holdings invested in HoundDog
Scale is always in startup mode with discovery, build, execution, iterate, repeat, and we will continue this over the next years with our nimble team. Soon we will announce some more resources we are adding to our artillery to support double the founders over the next three years. We are here to invest in, and support passion, talent, and resilience applied to building massive companies. Our deep appreciation for the struggle founders go through keeps us up at night.