New Denver VC firm seeks underrepresented founders for 'the next big thing'

Denver Business Journal

Jun 13, 2023

Analisa Romano

The namesake of Denver's newest venture capital firm stems from the kind of nascent talk that begins over a bar napkin.

Founders Mike Gellman and Chris Glodé knew they wanted to help underrepresented entrepreneurs "find their thing." They discussed a micro venture capital fund that would offer seed investments to those groups. Over lunch, Glodé and Gellman agreed that they were looking forthe "next big thing."

"I think we should do this thing," they told each other.

The Denver-based businessmen announced the official launch of aptly named ThingVC, a firm that is now taking online applications from business founders who have been historically excluded from access to capital. The most promising applicants will be offered a $10,000 checkfor 5% equity in their company at a $200,000 valuation.

Those who are founded will also have access to mentorship and support from Gellman's and Glodé's business networks.

Gellman is the founder of Spire Digital, a Denver-based digital transformation company acquired in 2019 by London-based Kin + Carta for $35 million. Glodé was an investor in the digital asset management company Brandfolder, which was acquired by Smartsheet in 2020 for $155 million.

Now, Gellman said the pair is ready to give back.

The firm is launching with an open invitation to any startups, Colorado-based or not, to apply. The term "underrepresented" is similarly open for interpretation.

That is in the hopes of attracting a diverse group of founders from different industries and backgrounds, Gellman said. He said he would like to see applications from veterans, immigrants, people with disabilities, and formerly incarcerated people, who were Gellman's first employees when he founded Spire Digital.

"For us, our 'thing' is really helping people who aren’t normally getting help in the most efficient way possible,” Gellman said.

The model of ThingVC intends to reduce red tape and improve the efficiency of a traditional firm. All deal terms are standardized to eliminate additional legal and administrative fees, while the pair said that the equity investment fully unites the fund and the founder as a "symbiotic unit."

Glodé and Gellman are using their own money, so they are the only stakeholders at the firm. That will allow them to move quickly in decision-making processes, including whether they want to invest more than $10,000 in a company, or how many companies that they invest in.

While $10,000 should help business founders get off the ground with supplies, a place to work and other logistics, Gellman said a good deal of the firm's value will come from the validation of founders' business ideas and access to two experienced founders.

"Confidence — feeling that you can actually start a business — is something really major,” Gellman said.

For now, Gellman said the pair don't have a set goal or limit for the number of companies that receive capital. The firm isn't intended to produce a profit, although Gellman said they do expect it to become self-sustaining.

"Having very few stakeholders gives us the opportunity to be patient, although we’re also giddy, so we want to move fast,” he said of finding applicants.

The small and swift nature of ThingVC will also allow Gellman and Glodé to find entrepreneurs who are the right fit.

"We wanted to find scrappy, scrappy people like us who need a shot,” Gellman said. "We wanted to prove that anybody, given a shot, could build a great company and be successful."