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Aumni Co-founder, Kelsey Chase, Joins the NVCA to Discuss Venture Capital Growth in Utah

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Last year was a remarkable year for venture capital and if the trend holds for the rest of the year, we could see an even stronger year in 2021. Salt Lake City, Utah is one emerging tech hub that is currently experiencing an explosion of VC activity as well as the location of our Aumni headquarters and a place that many of us at Aumni call home. 

Recently, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) featured Salt Lake City in their Spotlight On webinar series, which highlights U.S. geographies that are standouts in the VC community, with panelists ranging from venture capital experts to government officials. Aumni’s president and co-founder, Kelsey Chase, was invited to speak at this event. 

According to data from Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor (presented at the webinar by NVCA), 2020 was a record year for the U.S. venture capital industry with over $164 billion invested. 2021 is on track to nearly double the record amount of investment seen last year, with $150 billion in investment raised in the first half of the year alone. 

Fundraising is on a similar trajectory. This year began with a record dollar volume of $152 billion in dry powder, with $81 billion raised across 529 transactions last year. Through the first quarter of 2021, $74 billion has been raised across 338 deals. If the trend continues, fundraising levels could be nearly double that of 2020. 

Utah mirrors the national trend of exponential growth. According to data shared by the NVCA, the state of Utah ranks 14th in deal activity. Last year was a record year for Utah with $1.77 billion invested across 150 deals statewide. Overall, Utah has seen substantial growth in the last decade and is poised to see continued growth in the years to come. Capital invested in the state grew at an annual rate of 19% between 2011 and 2020, ranking Utah’s deal flow as the 16th fastest-growing of the U.S. states. 

Utah Senator Mike Lee spoke at the NVCA Spotlight On webinar event, highlighting opportunities for small businesses in the U.S., and Utah in particular, as a place where businesses thrive. Senator Lee’s remarks were validated by NVCA’s data which showed that, in recent years, there has been a steady increase in venture funding for new Utah businesses. Salt Lake City, and Utah as a whole, are flourishing across various industries, creating a diverse and vibrant economy. The demand for talent and other resources such as housing has kept pace.

Fortunately, there are many incentives for companies to choose Utah as the premier location to headquarter their businesses, enticing entrepreneurs from across the U.S. to reconsider historical tech hubs such as California’s Bay Area. For employers, the low cost of construction and access to well-educated University graduates with reasonable salaries make Utah a compelling choice. Employees enjoy living and working in Utah; the lower cost of living and the abundant, year-round outdoor recreational activities make Utah easy to love. 

Aumni is an example of just such a story -- a growing company that chose Utah as its national headquarter. Aumni’s Kelsey Chase shared additional observations from his personal experience as an entrepreneur drawn to Salt Lake City: 

“For entrepreneurs in particular, I highly recommend getting connected in the local community as quickly as possible. We found that the ecosystem of operators, angel investors, and professional investors was welcoming to entrepreneurship and eager to see companies succeed. The culture in Utah has been very collaborative for our founders who came to the area from the West Coast. The support of the angel investors in our series A round helped accelerate our footprint and circulate our name out in the business community to be welcomed by the people and companies in the area.” 

The past year has been one of change and transformation for companies and their work culture. Kelsey noted that we have benefited globally from the new lens through which we look at work-life balance: the ability to work from anywhere. During the pandemic, recruiters discovered that it was easier to convince professionals living in a 300 square foot apartment in New York to consider buying a single-family home and moving to Utah to experience life in the mountains. Companies find themselves selling more than just career opportunities when recruiting in today's tech world. Employees are interested in optimizing the way they spend time outside of the office; those conversations matter more to today’s candidates. 

Furthermore, companies are interested in recruiting a diverse workforce in order to take advantage of backgrounds, skills, and perspectives that encourage new approaches to problem solving and innovation. Aumni has prioritized diversity a key component of its talent strategy since day one. 

The data presented by the NVCA signals a record year ahead, not just in Utah but for venture capital as a whole in the U.S. One ancillary benefit of that growth will be the opportunity for companies to create new approaches to work/life balance for employees while strengthening company culture. This new balance provides openings for companies to consider headquartering in emerging geographies like Utah, where dealflow is steadily growing, with no signs of slowing.    

We invite you to visit Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor to review the full report.

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