The startup scenes of the Midwest and Southeast share many similarities — a strong university system and talent base, close-knit communities, and a robust base of angel investors that often serve as mentors for the next wave of founders.
Unfortunately, the headline-grabber about these regions is often another factor — their lack of early-stage and growth capital. While investors like Steve Case’s Revolution and others are increasingly spreading the wealth between the coasts, the vast majority of venture capital funding still goes to the three states of California, New York, and Massachusetts.
That early-stage capital gap was the impetus for the founding of LOUD Capital, a venture and alternative investment firm that began in Columbus, Ohio. Now, after more than three years investing across the Midwest, the LOUD team is bringing their model to the South, establishing a new office in Atlanta.
“When we started just as a single fund, we were seeing so many underfunded entrepreneurs around us, which is very common in the Midwest, the South, in many areas of the country outside just a few cities,” says Navin Goyal, co-founder and Managing Partner at LOUD.
“But as we started deploying capital, we realized there are so many other resources that early-stage entrepreneurs need, especially in the early stages of curating your company and trying to head to a larger vision.”
Goyal says the team is able to help entrepreneurs with business development, sales, marketing strategy and more because of their background as founders themselves. Also a medical doctor, Goyal founded mobile anesthesia company SmileMD, still in business today.
“Everyone on the team is an entrepreneur, and that makes a fundamental difference in our DNA,” he tells Hypepotamus.
LOUD typically invests $100,000- $200,000 in each early-stage portfolio company, often coming in as the first institutional check. They are industry-agnostic, though Goyal says they do have a proclivity for companies that intend to do good in their communities.
In addition to helping entrepreneurs directly, the LOUD team is proud of the relationships they have cultivated in the global business community. They recently opened offices in Chicago and New York, and hired a partner in Shenzhen, China, where they have a host of strong business partnerships.
“When we find great companies, we will take them over to China. We call it a ‘soft landing’ — we’ll have office space, potential capital partners, we have people who can do sales, etc.,” Goyal says.
Similarly to the rest of the firm, LOUD’s office in Atlanta will be staffed by those familiar with the startup scene it’s working in. Fund Manager Milan Vyas moved to Atlanta from Columbus to obtain his MBA at Emory; he’s also a Senior Manager of Product at Atlanta fintech startup Greenlight.
Vyas explains that LOUD will actually have two funds primarily focused on Atlanta and the Southeast. The first will be a general-purpose early-stage venture fund, from which he hopes to make around two dozen investments.
LOUD is also in talks with Morehouse College about raising and deploying a Morehouse Alumni Fund, similar to their Scarlet Venture Fund for Ohio State alumni.
The Morehouse relationship is being driven by Eric Troy, a Morehouse graduate and Associate/Global Strategist at LOUD. Troy’s background is in branding, marketing, and education, particularly in the sports arena. He also developed the social entrepreneurship program at Ohio State.
LOUD publicly kicked off this partnership with Morehouse, as well as their commitment to Atlanta in general, at an event during Super Bowl week. “Hearing Our Voices” featured a panel of former athletes, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists speaking to university and high school students on the intersection of sports, investing, and entrepreneurship.
Troy shares that the sports and entertainment market are ripe for disruption from entities like venture capital firms, as current and former athletes and artists are searching for ways to diversify their portfolio, educate themselves, and solidify their legacy.
“Atlanta sets our criteria for sports, entertainment, and education in terms of that being the trifecta approach that we use to look at a particular market,” Troy says. “We’ll also look at how we tap into educating the next generation of VCs on college campuses. We think that it’s very important to have that level of exposure on college campuses like Morehouse and Spelman.”
Vyas is working on building bridges with other nearby schools, as well as business organizations like the Atlanta chapter of Conscious Capitalism and local accelerators and incubators.
“LOUD is working to redefine the term venture and what that can provide as far as value to the ecosystem,” says Brian Penick, LOUD’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re trying to take the stance that we want to help our local, regional, national and international ecosystem, and provide value not only to our startups but also to other investors and the community.”
Goyal echoes that sentiment: “We really want to get our feet wet and talk to as many people as we can in the community.”
Photos provided by Loud Capital