An edited version of this piece was published in the Burlington Free Press on 12/12/13: Vermont Venture Capital Firm Invests Close to Home.
Why invest in Vermont? Our firm, FreshTracks Capital, has been investing in the Vermont economy and high-growth local businesses here in our state since 2000. We believe that Vermont offers a high-quality of life, a high degree of intellectual capital, and a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, making it a great place to deploy our capital. FreshTracks’ first venture capital Fund raised $11MM from individuals and institutions to focus on a Vermont-centric investment strategy. While Silicon Valley and many other areas of the country were swept up in a wave of Initial Public Offerings and the NASDAQ hitting an all time high during 2000, Vermont largely kept a level head. Even when the tech bubble burst, wreaking havoc among those previously high-flying geographies, Vermont’s economy held relatively steady, mitigating the serious contractions that plagued other areas of our country.
Here in Vermont, we are not as prone to the dramatic peaks and troughs that are often associated with these dramatic economic trends as compared to some other areas of the country. Over the past 13 years, we have seen multiple business cycle fluctuations, but the long term trend line indicates that the fabric of Vermont’s innovation economy has decidedly strengthened, making our state a more robust, innovative and exciting place to invest our capital than we’ve ever seen. To be sure, there are challenges, most notably attracting the qualified workforce that these innovative companies need to grow, and ensuring that there is a density among the ecosystem to interact, attract and trade talent. But meanwhile, the region continues to garner accolades from Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, The Atlantic, The Kauffman Foundation and numerous others touting Burlington as an up-and-coming tech hub, and Vermont as a great place for startups.
Through our investment experience, we’ve seen the entrepreneurial ecosystem mature dramatically, creating networks and support systems that help launch, scale and expand innovative businesses more effectively than ever before. That activity has produced a wide variety of early stage Vermont-based companies, resulting in improved quantity and quality of business plans coming across our desks. We have recently funded Vermont companies and seen business plans from growth companies in a variety of industries including social media, mobile software, energy technology, food & beverage, consumer products, aviation, nano-technology, healthcare and financial technology.
We remain bullish on Vermont, and earlier in 2013 launched FreshTracks III, a new venture capital fund to continue executing on the strategy that we developed during FreshTracks I, and honed during FreshTracks II. Our first FreshTracks III investment is in a business called GroupZOOM, a technology company in the group travel space, which was founded by Matthew George while a student at Middlebury College, and is now headquartered on Church Street in Burlington.
Now is a great time to invest in the Green Mountain state with the Burlington area continuing to mature as our state’s financial engine, while pockets of activity continue developing in places like Stowe, Brattleboro, Rutland & the Upper Valley where business clusters continue to mature. As Vermont’s only independent venture capital firm, we are excited to continue committing our time, resources & money to companies in Vermont, and are optimistic about the prospects of helping to build the next IDX, Burton or Green Mountain Coffee Roasters through our efforts with FreshTracks III.
Managing Director, FreshTracks Capital I, II & III