Confirmed: Andy White leaving Vegas Tech Fund, marking shift in fund's investment strategy
Further to Pando's report that Andy White has left his role running Tony Hsieh's Vegas Tech Fund, we've received confirmation of the move from partner Zach Ware. He also confirms a change in strategy for Vegas Tech Fund...
"As companies (and funds) grow they often make strategic choices that take them in a different direction," Ware wrote by email. "We have decided to focus our efforts on re-investing in select portfolio companies so we can provide the growth capital needed for them to take their companies to the next level. Our early-stage seed funding will be slowing down. It's a big change for us. I don't think Andy's departure changes things."
Asked for specifics, Ware responded: "We have a broad portfolio but are focused mainly on a few companies we see an opportunity to help scale where we believe that the growth capital will enable them to do big things. It's not that we aren't supportive of the overall portfolio but rather we've realized that the companies that aren't a part of our double down strategy have other sources of capital."
Ware confirmed that the type of companies likely to remain a focus for Vegas Tech Fund are those which share a "DNA" with Zappos, where Tony Hsieh remains CEO:
"It's not an official, locked down list and is partially based on the nature of the business rather than our belief that one company is better than another. A partial list is OrderWithMe, Rolltech, Moveline, SHIFT (I didn't put it on the list...), Zirtual, Flint & Tinder, etc.. They are companies that share a DNA with Zappos where significant capital may be needed to scale the business versus a business that doesn't need massive growth capital."
And who will be running Vegas Tech Fund now that White has left?
"[A]ll of the partners share responsibilities. Between the partners and our team at Work In Progress, the daily operations of VegasTechFund are fine. It's never actually been the case that one person runs VegasTechFund," says Ware.
The move is potentially good news for those "DNA" sharing companies which VTF has decided to "double down on." One of my biggest criticisms during my time as a VTF portfolio CEO is the lack of support I received from the fund when times were difficult. Specifically, VTF was the only investor that did not respond to my investor update emails when we were critically short of cash and looking for advice on how to survive.
Hsieh's plans to build Vegas into a startup ecosystem have always been ambitious, the quality of those funded has been uneven, and many of the promising companies have struggled to recruit enough talent and secure follow on funds. This appears to be a move to focus on what is working and where the remaining partners can meaningfully add value. We can't fault that.
Of course it's bad news for the entrepreneurs who continue to flood to Hsieh's Vegas project in the hope of receiving easy funding for projects which have been snubbed in the Valley or elsewhere. Like so many locomotives before it, it seems likely that particular gravy train no longer stops in Vegas.