Found In The Rockies

Jerad Stack (Breakthrough 307 & FlowState Solutions) \\ A founder & an investor in the land of Steamboat the bronco

May 04, 2022 Les Craig Season 2 Episode 18
Found In The Rockies
Jerad Stack (Breakthrough 307 & FlowState Solutions) \\ A founder & an investor in the land of Steamboat the bronco
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, I talk with Jared Stack, the founder of Breakthrough 307, and the founder and CEO of Casper-based FlowState Solutions. We talk about Jerad’s deep family history in Wyoming, his early years as an entrepreneur, and moving to Silicon Valley when his company was acquired. We talk about what brought him back to WY, how he created Breakthrough 307 and what his unique perspective is being both a founder and an angel investor. 

Here’s a closer look at the episode:

  • Jerad’s family history in Wyoming.
  • First tech startup - Firehold Technologies
  • Wyoming kids in San Francisco
  • Early days of sourcing capital in Wyoming
  • The growth of tech and venture in Wyoming
  • The summer of Jerad
  • Steamboat the bronco
  • Breakthrough 307 and angel investing in Wyoming
  • What do Wyoming founders need
  • The struggle of follow-on funding
  • Founding FlowState
  • FlowState plans for 2022
  • Why Wyoming is great for entrepreneurs
  • Jared’s advice for Wyoming founders


Jerad Linkedin:

Breakthrough 307:

Flowstate Solutions:

Flowstate Solutions LinkedIn:

Jerad 00:00

You know, you drive to the grocery store right now and only about half of those license plates have Steamboat on it right. And you try to buy a house and you know they're gone right. And that's happening you know Casper, right. So you get to like the Sheridans and kind of the little more trendy places to live, I think it's even even worse. So there's a bunch of talent that are moving here, just kind of organically. And then I think on the flip side, there is the, you know, especially in the tech world, you know, it's gone. It's gone remote, right. And that that seems to be the new normal probably will be for a while.

Les 00:33

This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, the founders, funders, and contributors and the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And today we're headed back to Wyoming, the land of Steamboat, the bucking bronco. We have a unique opportunity today to talk with someone who has his foot on both sides of the aisle. He's both an entrepreneur, and a two time founder, who has also founded Wyoming's first angel investment fund for early stage companies. Today we're welcoming Jared Stack, the founder of Breakthrough 307, and the founder and CEO of Casper based FlowState Solutions. Hi, Jared, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jerad 01:20

Les, happy to be here excited to have this conversation with you.

Les 01:23

Yeah, and I think we've got a lot of fun, relevant topics to the Rockies to discuss with you. I mean, you're an investor, you're an entrepreneur, you're in Wyoming. So excited to dive in. And why don't start off, why don't you just tell us a little bit about your background where you grew up and kind of your story.

Jerad 01:41

Sure, yeah, I was I was actually born and raised in Wyoming. I'm like a fourth fifth generation Wyomingite. So there's not a lot of us around, especially in the tech world. So kind of a unicorn in that respect.

Les 01:53

What did they do for four generations ago? What kind of tech we're working on in Wyoming?

Jerad 01:59

Yeah, I think they're hoping to get their plans working. Trying to stay warm in the winter. And then I'm also a multigenerational University, Wyoming graduate. So that's kind of a family tradition. Oh, very cool. So I went to the University of Wyoming and started my career in tech, actually in Austin, right. In the first .com boom, right. So I lived through the .com boom .com bust, you know, in the in the early 2000s. I spent some time there. Then tried to get tried to get back move back to the Rockies into Colorado actually had a little bit of a foray into working for as a contractor for the military there for a while, which is an interesting conversation for a different podcast.

Les 02:43

Oh, you're you're now you're just making me so interested. And I want to go there. What part of Colorado where were you? In Colorado Springs?

Jerad 02:48

Lived in Boulder, actually. Yeah. Yeah, so I did the kind of the college, the College Town hop from from Laramie, in Wyoming to Austin to Boulder, and then came back to Laramie started my first tech startup, a company called Firehole Technologies, with some colleagues of mine from graduate school, actually, at the University of Wyoming started that built that up, ran that for a while, then we sold that company to Autodesk. Back in 2013, which, wow, it's a long time ago. But it seems like yesterday. Yeah. So that was kind of

Les 03:24

What was the what was kind of the inspiration or the, you know, kind of as the source for Firehole, in terms of

Jerad 03:31

Firehole is actually a spin out of the university. So technology, around designing and simulating composite materials, so like carbon, fiber, glass, fiber, Kevlar, stuff like that. So for decades, there's been a big composite research group at the engineering college, there in Laramie at the University of Wyoming and we took some of that little that some of that tech’s better, not commercialized, it built some software products around that. So that's kind of why we were in Laramie, because we had that deep partnership with the universe with the university. So it was cool. It was a neat, it was a really, really fun time, you know, mid, mid 2000, mid 2000s into the teens, there fun time to be in Laramie, you know, we were, you know, there's a handful of tech companies there, but we were able to get a lot of talent out of Laramie, which was really fun. And then then we got acquired, so there was about, you know, 20 of us, Wyoming, kids are like, now we're working for a San Francisco company. Right. So

Les 04:26

For Autodesk. Yeah. What was it? Tell us about that? What was that like? And what was it like kind of on the ground with? I mean, I'm sure that was probably one of the one of the first kind of major tech acquisitions in that region, I would guess, right?

Jerad 04:38

Maybe there'd been a couple. But yeah, I mean, I think it was definitely one of the one of the higher profile ones, which was neat, right? And then yeah, there was definitely not as much of a culture clash as you'd think of but you know, a bunch of Wyoming kids getting bought by a Silicon Valley company, right. So we were doing a lot of planes in San Francisco and Portland and things like that. But but it was great, you know, At the time, we had a bunch of young, you know, a bunch of young engineers that had some upward mobility and a little startup like Firehole. Right? But not, you know, I wasn't going anywhere, and Emmet, my co-founder, partner, he wasn't going anywhere, right? So we were, you know, but then we get acquired by this huge, you know, fortune 240, or whatever company. Yeah, tons of opportunity, right. So like, you know, some of our sales team got to go where they grew on the sales org and some of our product team or they gotta go go on product, or and I think, you know, I think most of us would look back at that it was a great learning experience, you know, so I spent three years post acquisition with Autodesk running product teams, there traveling a bunch, I think there was one year I was on the road, 200 days. So that's, but I mean, but you know, I got to see the world, I got to really learn what a you know, a big tech company looks like spent a bunch of time in Silicon Valley. So yeah, I mean, it was it was experience, I would definitely wouldn't.

Les 05:49

How did it? How did the, how did the, how did the experience start for you as a founder in Wyoming? I mean, you mentioned, you know, commercializing this technology that came out of the university, but like, what did you? What did you do to source capital? What did you do to, you know, to get this, get the company get the product to market? Yeah,

Jerad 06:06

it was really guerilla back then. Right, you know, as you can imagine, I'm sure this will be a conversation we have here in a little while, but, you know, Capitol was not near as easy to come by, even if you're in San Francisco, right. You know, 10-15 years ago. And, you know, you're from, you know, the middle of this flyover state, a state that has, you know, one area code, right, people don't people don't, that's not exactly the kind of place that they were dumping venture capital. So we did a bunch of like, you know, kind of the, and this is something people do today. But we did a bunch of federal, like the SBIR program, that small business innovative research program, I think, you know, we're pretty proud of that, because a lot of those companies, I think it's changed a little bit recently, but a lot of those companies, they just, that's kind of all they did, they just kind of became SBIR companies, right?

Les 06:48

They become eternal. Eternal SBIR companies.

Jerad 06:52

SBIR mills. Right. Yeah, exactly. But I think, you know, some of the government agencies have done a good job of, of kind of converting that and getting some commercialization money. And that's what we got towards the toward before we got acquired, we got kind of those, like, they call them SBIR, phase threes, or whatever. So we got some commercialization money to go out there. And then we funded a lot of a lot of our development through stuff like that. And then we, you know, before we got acquired a few years before we got acquired, we landed Boeing, as a customer. So that, you know, from a revenue perspective, but there was a lot of credibility there. And that was when things kind of started to snowball, but we essentially bootstrapped it with you know, maybe, you know, I can like a couple of angel investors early. But yeah, it was, and we got lucky. I mean, I'll be the first person to admit that right. So we kind of we landed some customers, we landed some talent, you know, some stuff that stuff kind of fell into place for us, but

Les 07:45

Amazing. I mean, it Yeah, it's amazing. Back, you think about, you know, we think about that, like you said it earlier, it's not. It's not that long ago, but that's an eternity ago when it comes to just the state of venture in the country, especially in the Rockies. I mean, even bolder, was kind of nascent at that time.

Jerad 08:02

Yeah, we did. Just, you know, a year or so before, we did get a little bit of venture funds from a company called Access Venture Partners. Oh, yeah. Sure. Down in Boulder.

Les 08:11

We've had them on the show. 

Jerad 08:13

Have you? Who did you have? 

Les 08:15

We had Brian, Brian Wallace? Yeah. was on the show. Yeah. So

Jerad 08:18

So Brian was our investor. He was on our board when we got acquired. So yeah. And you know, Brian, he's a Wyoming kid, too. He's from Cheyenne. 

Les 08:25

And Frank Mendicino as well. 

Jerad 08:28

Yeah, also. So I think, you know, which I think if you ask Brian and Frank right now, they'd be like, Yeah, we listed those Firehole. Guys, mainly because they were that, you know, we kind of had a little Wyoming heartstrings, right. We like the deal, that kind of stuff. But so yeah, I mean, I think we were probably like the one of the first five or six companies where I'm going to take venture money, right, even though it's a tiny little thing. And they had some Wyoming ties, which totally was totally, that's how we we got the door opened. And there's, you know, at the time, you could probably count, you count on one hand and venture funds in the hole in the timezone. Right.

Les 09:02

Exactly. Now, there's hundreds. Well, you know, it's fascinating, I'd be curious to get your perspective, we talked about this on the show before, but this corridor, you know, when people think tech in the Rockies, typically, you know, the head goes to Boulder and Denver, and Salt Lake, as well. But I I've been fascinated about this corridor from Colorado that really connects all the way up to to Laramie and to to Cheyenne, right. I mean, it's not that far away from this established ecosystem. 

Jerad 09:34

No, it's, you know, it's getting even tighter. I think part of that, you know, this total is way, way over my skis here, but I have a friend who's a real estate agent in Denver, and he'll tell people right now like if you're looking for a house start driving north so you can afford one and you might get to Cheyenne. 

Les 09:49

Yeah, you just blow right past Fort Collins. 

Jerad 09:53

I mean, it's almost becoming like the northern most part of the of the metro area right now. Cheyenne, Laramie, you know Laramie’sgot the college town going for it too, which always has some tech to it, you know, has a little bit of a different vibe with more younger people and that kind of stuff. Right. And it kind of keeps going. Right, you know, so, you know, I live in Casper now, which is right in the middle of the of the square. And there's, you know, do we have like tech meetups and stuff now here, right? Which isn't something, you know, to take us to tech meetup, you should be like me and two people. In the back booth at the bar, right. Yeah, it started starting to get a little bit, but yeah, that, you know, that, that kind of ecosystem, whatever you want to call it, of the Denver Metro area is definitely growing, you know, and, and, and for a lot of reasons, people, you know, are trying to get a little farther north, I think I think you you're seeing it in Colorado Springs and stuff to the people. It's growing. It's growing south,

Les 10:48

Going both both directions. Yeah. Cool. I definitely want to get back to talk about Casper later on. Yeah. Yeah, but first, so take us from you told us it was really gorilla. I love love that to an exit to, you know, working working for the big company. And then what? 

Jerad 11:09

Yeah, so Firehole was for three years. And you know, I think of the staff that, you know, the one of the reasons that Autodesk was a great exit for it is they took all of our staff, right, like, they took care of them. And they all probably got a raise, or whatever rags are working for a big company now and, and give them a bunch of opportunity. And, you know, I think the majority of them are probably left by now. Why No, yeah, some of them have left and started their own companies, which is kind of cool. Then, so I left there, kind of tried to, I took what I call the summer of Jared. 

Les 11:40

I want to know what you did in the summer Jared, what does Jared like to get into.

Jerad 11:45

So I've got a family cabin on a lake here in Wyoming. So I did a lot of wake surfing, wake surfing was kind of what I got, I got really into it a lot. I did a lot of fishing, went into the fall, where he kind of do some hunting and stuff like that kind of loved everything that I didn't get to do because I was traveling for Autodesk for for three or four years. Then Then after that, I hooked up with a guy named Charles Walsh, who also lives here in Casper with me. And he, he kind of he's a little older than me, he had a couple tech startups back in Ohio, and then tried to kind of pseudo retire back back to Wyoming. And it didn't stick for him either. And he was involved in two angel funds. And he was one of the founders of the Ohio Tech Angel fund, which is kind of one of the bigger the first big angel funds in the country. So we went had a coffee and he's like Jared, I think we should this thing in Wyoming. So so that kind of became my next thing was we started this thing called Breakthrough 307.

Les 12:47

Speaking of the area code of Wyoming, there's there it is, right.

Jerad 12:50

There's one area code so we've kind of embraced that you'll you'll see that all over the over the place that that is kind of what the entire state of and we have the little bucking horse logo that everyone that you can't miss. It's everything from our, you know, our one universities, football helmets to our license plates. Then we also

Les 13:07

By the way, what's the origin of that? Do you know or yeah, I've always been curious. 

Jerad 13:13

Yeah. So there and I'm sure there's some guy down in the History Museum in Cheyenne that'll listen to this and be I'll get an email tomorrow you're completely, you're completely wrong, Jerad. But, but I think that the Cliff Notes version is there was like a bucking horse like a rodeo bucking horse. His name was Steamboat and he was like impossible to ride and someone took like a photo of it or a drawing of or some like that and that kind of looks like that little bucking horse rider logo. 

Les 13:44

Wow. So that's based on a real I mean, it looks almost like it's so ridiculously contorted it looks like a cartoon. Yeah. Like the the the epitome of riding a bucking bronco is like that Wyoming logo?

Jerad 13:55

Yeah. Here Wyoming. Let's call it steamboat. Because that's kind of named after the horse. Yeah. And now like I think it's like a registered trademark of the state. So yeah,

Les 14:06

I was it's, it was funny. I got a my kids and I skied at Grand Targhee for spring break this year, and I got to Targhee hat and it's on that even though they just put this on everything.

Jerad 14:17

It’s on everything and Targhee’s in Idaho.

Les 14:21

Like just barely crossed the border into Wyoming. Put the logo on it. That's great. Yeah. So you got the bucking bronco.

Jerad 14:25

So we were trying to name our name or fund something Wyoming ish, right? I see. So we named it Breakthrough 307. And we were, I think, maybe even kind of still to this day or the first organized annual fund in Wyoming. And our and our goal was going back to my kind of Firehole days was really hard. It's really hard to get money. Right. But what there is, interestingly in Wyoming is there's a lot of money right? Now it's and there's actually a lot of entrepreneurs. Now they're entrepreneurial and oil and gas and ranching stuff. like that, right? But they're risk takers. By by nature, right? I mean, I've never, you know, my new company FlowState, we'll probably get into that. But you know, selling oil and gas guys, man, these guys are risk takers. I thought the guys in Silicon Valley were absolutely not. 

Les 15:12

I would say it's part of the ethos right in Wyoming. I mean, you see, it's, I would say, let maybe you see it in Montana as well. But it's like, you're a risk taker, even just to live in places like this. Right? Because the weather you're at the mercy of the weather, the mountains.

Jerad 15:26

It's getting better. But yeah, my parents grew up here. It was worse. Yeah, yeah. That's my next brand is global warming, bad for Earth. Good for Wyoming.

Les 15:37

Awesome. So so this this ethos is risk taker, this is kind of just natural for there to be an angel fund.

Jerad 15:44

So So Charles, and I went out, we thought it would take us, like a few, three or four months to get enough investors to be able to put together a smaller fund, it took us like, three weeks. And so we put that together, that would have been like in 2017 or so. And then started doing small little investments. And it's the way we formed the fund is really neat. And, and I gotta kind of give Charles props for this, because I think it's how he did it in Ohio, too. But so it's completely a member managed. So we have pitches, everybody shows up, we all vote, we all do diligence. We've got you know, now we have like one little kind of, you know, young kid out of MBA a couple years at MBA school that kind of just manages everything for us and runs the paperwork and all that kind of stuff. But But

Les 16:28

Great opportunity for him, I'm sure great, right? To learn…

Jerad 16:32

But it's, you know, it's not like we've got a GP LP kind of structure, right? Which is great. But it takes a certain kind of person to want to want to be doing that want to do diligence teams and want to do all that a lot of work. Yep. And the other thing that we really like about it is it's a fund and not a group. Like there's a bunch of angel groups out there. Right 

Les 16:50

Kind of country clubs without golf courses.

Jerad 16:54

Yeah, and people like to kind of be in the room, but it might not, you know, doesn't really lead to a lot of investments. What's nice about us is all of the investors, like we've already kind of already mentally written our check, we just got to pick who we're going to who are going to invest in, right. So there's a little more accountability there. And, you know, there's, there's a lot, you know, kind of forces us to have, we're gonna find deals, because because we're wanting to do it. Yeah. So we started that back in 20, in 20, late 2016, 2017. And, you know, that's only, you know, five years ago or so. But the deal flow then was nothing like it is now. Right, so we had to kind of struggle to find, you know, to find some deals. We went out of the state a little bit, you know, so yeah, like I first deal was actually in Colorado. We've, we've started in much more in recent years, we've partnered with the guys up in Rapid City, the Black Hills Angels. And Rapids. So most of our investors here in regular seven are in Casper, we do have some kind of around the state, but that's where most of us are. And Casper and Rapid City are kind of both size, similar size communities we kind of get. So being able to share deal flow was great, because at the early days, we were worried that our investors would get bored, right? Yeah, right. Well, we show or show bunch of crappy deals like Yes. All right, we don't want a T-shirt shop in Pinedale, right, so. So we were trying to get good deals to get our investors educated and get there. So that's why we had to say a little bit. And I think, you know, part of it's just our timing, but but maybe we had a little bit to do that, too. So, you know, we we deployed, you know, about a dozen deals in our first fund, we launched our second fund last year, or late 20, early 21. That's our second fund, and we're starting to get Wyoming deal flows. Which is cool. So where we really see are we and we kind of maybe sort of a little bit in the early days to find this but, even today and we'll talk about you know, kind of the changing funding environment that we're all seeing, but you know, people want to lead investor right and if you're if you're a company, you know, in the middle of in the middle of Wyoming, you know we are really kind of well equipped to be the lead investor for for for a little for a little Wyoming company that's trying to you know, come out of Casper or Laramie or whatever that that's trying to go raise money.

Les 19:12

There’s a relationship that you can you have there's trust there right your boots on the ground your you can show up to the board meetings in person I totally get it yeah,

Jerad 19:20

All of that. And you know that there's kind of a handshake deal among the angel funds around you that you know, Hey, guys, you guys need to Wyoming deals will lead to South Dakota deals that will lead them on tenor deals and will probably come syndicated with you when we need some more money for to fill around. But that's kind of how they that's kind of the handshake deal among the angel funds, right? And those are all you know, these are almost entirely our deals who were the first first institutional money for the people listening you can't see my air quotes, but you know, as institutional as most others, but you know, maybe there's a friends and family around or something like that. beforehand, but you know. And I've, I've kind of given up naming rounds anymore, because I think the names are all dumb, because they don't mean anything anymore. But you know, we would call them like, pre-seed or seed or something like that. But first money. Right? And our deals, you know, under a million bucks, right? You know, your average deal size is probably half a million, something like that, where maybe you were in for half or so. And then we, we syndicate that out, there's a handful of our investors that like to do what we call side cars in the world, right? So like, maybe the fund will come in for some and then if it's a, if it's a tech deal that I'm interested in, and I'll come into as a sidecar if it's a medical device deal, and the doctors come in as a sidecar if it's when they like more, so we're able to fill a chunk of around, and then go out to some of our friends. And try to try to finish those up.

Les 20:52

So it's such a it's such a critical and important stage to get get these companies capital, sufficiently capitalized. What are you finding, Jared, in terms of, aside from the money, what are what are the entrepreneurs needing at this stage, specifically, the ones in Wyoming that you're working with? What do they need besides the check?

Jared 21:13

Sure, there's a handful of things and some things we can help him with in a fund. And sometimes we don't, you know, and there's, you know, as we talked, I talked about the ecosystem, it's, it's getting better, right. So like, you know, the University of Wyoming has an organization, they call it Impact 307, which is kind of like their incubator. So there's relationships there. There's a Generator has their program, they call it gBETA generator, generators, a nationwide accelerator. 

Les 21:36

We’ve had Bailey on the podcast.

Jared 21:40

Yes. Yeah. So sure, you know, Bailey, and her organization, you know, has done a great job of getting, you know, just kind of like those resources for, you know, before us, right, you know, how do you get someone out of their garage, to a point that have some sort of proof of concept, something where they could come to us and be like, Okay, now it's time to start scaling. So there's a decent amount of resources there, you know, one of the gaps we have, and it's maybe getting a little better, but we don't have good service providers, right. Like when someone comes to me and be like, Hey, we're trying to raise a deal. You know, like a good startup lawyer. I'm like, Well, I know a couple and when I'm happy, when I'm happy to be the lawyer for the fund, right. So right, yeah. So it's tricky. And accountants and, you know, marketers and stuff like that, you know, there's not a lot of those kinds of service providers. And I think we're getting we're getting better, and we're able to connect some dots to some folks there. And then, especially now, you know, talent is just hard. Now, I could talk to somebody and say, one of my buddies in San Francisco, he'll tell me talents, hard right? To talk to him. You know, I used to be on a board of a company in Munich, he'll tell me talent’s hard, right. So that's, you know, that's a thing now. Yeah. It's

Les 22:43

Hard is everywhere. It's just different gradients, yeah, levels.

Jared 22:46

And I think for some instances, it might be even getting a little better in some places like Wyoming or Montana, where you're at.

Les 22:55

Well, that's what that's what I was wondering. You know, I think one of the interesting phenomena we're seeing in Montana is there's been a lot of people that have moved here during COVID that are bringing their work with them from remote companies, you know, everything from DVT labs, Airbnb to I mean, you name it Stripe. So we're seeing some really unique people come here to work and bringing their work. And I think it's only a matter of time before they start working for some of our Montana companies. But also, what about the prospect of hiring outside of Wyoming? If people are already comfortable in Austin, or Salt Lake City? Like, are you seeing success there with companies recruiting remote talent? And managing it from Wyoming?

Jared 23:33

So two questions in there. And I'll piggyback on what you're saying about people just moving here. Right. I mean, it's probably even probably been worse up in Bozeman, but, you know, you drive to the grocery store right now. And only about half of those license plates have Steamboat on it. Right. And you try to buy a house and you know, they're gone. Right. And that's happening, you know, Casper, right. So you get to like the Sheridans and kind of the little more trendy places to live, I think it's even even worse. So there's a bunch of talent out there that are moving here, just kind of organically. And then I think on the flip side, there is the you know, especially in the tech world, you know, it's gone. It's gone remote, right. And that that seems to be the new normal probably will be for a while. I think that's both good and bad for a little while and base companies. One of them is it's gone remote and Silicon Valley's gone remote, too, right. So you're competing with everybody for talent. And you don't really get to the hey, you know, hey, there's no income tax in Wyoming. Right. So that's what that's 5% that's a 5% raise for you, while they still wanna live in California, or they want to live in Austin, right, or something like that. So so some of that's a little bit a little bit broken, but it does. Yeah, you know, I think, you know, COVID has probably accelerated that remoteness you know, in two years accelerated 10 or 12. Right. There's some generational things as well that the guys your age and younger are are looking for a different thing in life, which is, I think, probably positive for the record in NET is positive for the Rocky Mountains. Because we've kind of got that quality of life aspect that that the next generation is looking for. But yeah, I don't know if I answered your question, but yeah, I think there's both of that.

Les 25:11

Yeah. Cool. What What about follow-on funding for Wyoming companies, especially like companies that are that Breakthrough 307 has gotten behind? Yeah. Has that? How was that then?

Jared 25:25

So four or five years ago, it was a super struggle, right. So so we have, essentially zero venture firms that are that have an office in Wyoming. Right. And, and, you know, there's some, there's some like yourselves up in Montana, there's, you know, maybe a couple of little ones over in South Dakota, there's, you know, a good handful of in Colorado now. And some and some over in Utah, but you know, getting follow-on funding was really hard. Like, really, really hard for, for, for our companies, five, six years ago. So one of our first investments is a company called Language IO. They're a Cheyenne, cool, cool company that the listeners should go should go Google and they do translation software. And we tried to raise a following around for them three or four years, three or four years ago, it was really hard, like, really hard. And now I think we're, you know, COVID, kind of changed that too. Right. So we're two rounds, two rounds later for that company. They're still headquartered in Cheyenne. But almost all of the last two rounds have come from the coasts, right. So you know, venture funds are looking for deals, and they kind of don't care where they're at anymore. You know, I mean, some of them still kind of do. But the fact that, you know, back in my Firehole days, like the first thing I had to say to someone when I was raising money was yeah, we're in Wyoming and this is why it's okay. Right? And if you talk to Heather, who's the CEO of Language IO it doesn't even come up. Right? Like, you're some you're somewhere, right? Your company's remote doesn't matter. So yeah, I think that's changed a lot in the last couple in the last couple of years for the better for the better for a company. That's, that's, that's headquartered here. 

Les 27:01

Yeah, that's great to hear. And, you know, one thing I've noticed, as you know, I've been spending the past year or so I've been taking a couple trips to Wyoming and I've been really impressed by the quality of founders, the quality of, you know, you know, the ideas and the progress. And, I mean, definitely, I mean, Heather's a great, Heather's a great example of a company that, you know, should if, if she were, that company was on the coast, like, no questions asked, but it's good to see that relief valve is starting to break. And I think what I've noticed is a lot of the companies are we're watching very closely, are starting to get that sort of progress, where they're ready. They're ready for, you know, series A and beyond. And I think that that trend will only continue, I agree with you, I think it'll only continue to accelerate for Wyoming.

Jared 27:52

I think we still got work to do on the getting them there. So, you know, if you would ask me three years ago, what was my big concern for the, you know, the entrepreneur ecosystem in Wyoming? It was that follow-on money. I was like, we've got companies that get to that point, and then they gotta move or, or they, we can't fund them, or they just kind of fizzle out, right? And seeing seeing now that I think if we can get them there, I'm more comfortable with our ability to build a go get follow-on money for them. Have you got to figure out how to get more of them there?

Les 28:21

For sure. So from Breakthrough 307, then you got that up and running amazing, you know, raising the second fund, great progress, but you just go in somewhat recent history dove into something completely new yourself.

Jared 28:40

That definitely wasn't a full time job. And I guess I just kind of had the itch and had that had an opportunity to come around, which is this new company of mine called FlowState. I call it new, but it's not that new. We founded it basically. Right before COVID. Right? So so early 2020. 

Les 28:56

Best time ever to found a company. Tell us about tell us about FlowState. 

Jared 29:04

So this is a really interesting company, that it's kind of a good Wyoming company. Right? So we're using machine learning artificial intelligence to detect leaks in oil, gas water pipelines, right. So it's using really kind of cutting edge technology. So we were partnered with like IBM’s Watson Group and Nvidia and Microsoft and stuff like that, to, to take in, you know, all of this, what we call it now, Internet of Things or IoT data, right? It used to be called data that's coming from all these devices that run an oil pipeline, for example, then we we can use machine learning to determine the health of that pipeline. So it's a kind of a cool, you know, old world and industrial technology with new world, you know, machine learning technology and it's very Wyoming to right because this is a this is an oil and gas state. And that was one of the reasons that that that I really kind of dove headfirst into this and, Angie my co-founder I kind of talked to her into it as well, who was one of my employees of FlowState was let's go prove that we can do a tech company in the middle of Wyoming. And that's changed a little bit to us because, you know, COVID got people remote. And, and so a handful of our staff, and that was definitely definitely remote. But, you know, we thought it was a really cool problem, you know, using, you know, AI machine learning to solve a legitimate industrial problem. But it is the kind of kind of thing that we thought we could let's go build grow scale, a tech company in the middle Wyoming. So that's half of half of the fun thing. And so far, it's been pretty successful. So

Les 30:38

What, what have you have you raised any, any equity capital yet for FlowState? Or have you been bootstrapping thus far? What's the strategy?


Yeah, so so we actually spun this technology out of the pipeline company. So it was like an internal research and development project in a little pipeline. Not a little a big pipeline company based here and based here in Casper, so we spun it out. And to date, we have kind of bootstrapped it with our partners, like, like that pipeline company. So we have not had to raise where we've raised company, but it's kind of raised capital, but it's kind of been internal. So 


I see what's the, what's kind of the plans, any any exciting news to share for kind of 2022 and beyond for FlowState.

Jared 31:16

So, you know, I mean, obviously, you know, the pandemic was, it was bad for me, it was bad, it was bad for the world. But, but timing wise, it wasn't that bad for us, because we were really able to put our heads down and build tech, right. While the whole, you know, industry in the world was kind of going on around us. And and now that it seems like, you know, knock on wood, we're kind of coming out maybe the back end of this, you know, we're basically our theme, the theme for that company for FlowState in 2022 is gonna go to market, right. So we're right now, you know, we're engaging marketing, we're trying to hire and build the salesforce, if you know, any, any SaaS salespeople that are interested in interested in the job. So that's kind of you know, it's kind of a fun time, right? Now we've got, you know, you can count on one hand, the number or number of bank customers that but it's not zero. And that's kind of going to be what we're where we're headed towards, you know, towards the middle back half of this year is starting to scale the sales side of it. So

Les 32:09

Very, very fun to watch. For sure, for sure, Jared. Yeah. Cool. What about Wyoming? Kind of on the whole? Any, any thoughts? Predictions? What's in store? I mean, you're obviously long on Wyoming and I yeah,

Jared 32:24

I am bullish on on Wyoming for for a handful of reasons. You know, I mean, we have, you know, we have this little monthly technology meetup here in Casper, that, you know, we started, I guess, might have been last summer. And there was kind of, you know, maybe 10 or 15 people there, which kind of like, organically tried to advertise on Facebook. And now there's 50 people there, right. And we get, you know, you walk around the corner, some guys are working remotely for Instacart. Right. And he decided, decided, decided to move his family here. You know, one of my other little side gigs, I have a co-working space in Laramie. And we're basically full. And it's the same kind of, you know, it's the same theme that, you know, when people decided they can, they can work for, from wherever they want, you know, there's a lot of people that want to get out of the cities and, and experience the outdoors and have places with, you know, great public schools and stuff like that, you know, we have a lot of that. So I think, you know, I am very bullish on Wyoming from the kind of the quality of life aspect that has way more, no, no huge difference than Montana either. Where there's just a lot of people, that's what they want to do, and this is where they can live. And then, you know, from an entrepreneur standpoint, there is just some changing environments underneath that are all mostly positive. For Wyoming, you know, the ability to get capital has changed, you know, there, there has been some successes around here, right. So the ability to get some mentors and some board members and some stuff like that has changed as well. And then there's some resources that the state has, has invested in, either through the university or through some other aspects of that like that, to be able to use some of the muscle the state has, and in our state, from a revenue perspective, being kind of a fossil fuel state there, they got some stuff to reboot, but thankfully, they have this huge sovereign wealth fund,

Les 34:18

Big rainy day fund. Yeah. 

Jared 34:21

So they're able to fund the schools and are able to fund the universities able fund the roads and all that kind of stuff. So so we have kind of that, that basic infrastructure that people expect as well. 

Les 34:30

It seems I mean, there's so many benefits, just obviously the tax climate, it seems like the legislators, I mean, they seem to be very forward leaning on, on, you know, just just trying to pioneer, you know, some of the new legislation that's come out with regards to to Dows and other chancery court.

Jared 34:46

I think that's a really, really good example and a few years, you know, a few years ago, I was involved in a group called endow, which was kind of like a think tank essentially, that the previous governor put together of Hey guys, let's put some smart Wyoming people in a room and figure out who where we need to go as a state? And, and that was some of the stuff that came out of it, you know, like the Chantry court was, was a good example of one of our one of our initiatives. And, and then, you know, we didn't really start it, there was another kind of group on the whole blockchain thing were where the state just decided, hey, there's going to be this, you know, there's kind of this nascent tech industry, and it needs some regulatory clarity. And that's something we can do in Wyoming. Right. So you know, that one of the, one of the things that, you know, when I go talk to my friends in Silicon Valley that they don't really appreciate is like, Hey, do you need to get a law changed? Done? Right? I mean, yeah, I don't want to say done, but that's a thing you can do here. Right. Right. Like, hey, if it makes sense, and, and there's an industry that needs some help, like, we can go down to Cheyenne. And, and, you know, people can 

Les 35:44

Have a conversation with somebody face to face. 

Jared 35:44

It's not like, you gotta go hire more lobbyists. And if I need to get Senator Enzi or Representative Cheney on the phone, you can kind of do that here, right. 

Les 35:55

They’re on speed dial, you just call or text them.

Jared 35:44

It’s not quite like that. But like, but it's close. And so so that is, you know, unique, you know, we used to joke that, you know, there's no reason that Wyoming can't be like the venture capitalist of states, right? So if there's something we need to do, if there's a industry, we need to go invest in and we need to get some regulation around it or something like that. Let's go do it. And that's, I think, something unique. You've seen that with that. What Caitlin Long and, and kind of the people that she's been working with, to go push all these kind of, you know, Blockchain, crypto friendly stuff, that you're, you're really seeing our ability to do that, which is fun, for sure. That's really fun.

Les 36:35

Jared, for our listeners that are excited. And we've we've I think this is the third sort of Wyoming person that we featured on the show. And so I'm hoping we're continuing to build interest for folks that are, you know, thinking about investing, there thinking about starting a company there were but where should give us your perspective? Where should people think about checking out if they are interested? Like, where are the centers of activity in the state for tech in particular?

Jared 37:00

Sure. So like you mentioned, you know, that there's kind of that that southeast corner, let that the Laramie, Cheyenne kind of corridor, you know, Laramie’s got the university, Cheyenne is kind of got that northernmost section on of the metro area. They've got the state capitol there, stuff like that, you know, there's a bunch of data centers in Cheyenne, which is interesting, and it's kind of the intersection of I-25, and I-80. So there's a bunch of high speed fiber that goes coast to coast there. So like Microsoft got a data center there, and Google's got a data center there, right. So there's some infrastructure there. Like that's definitely a place. And that's where Bailey and gBETA is based, all other kind of statewide. So you can see some really interesting stuff going on there. I think there's some interesting stuff going on in the Jackson, Jackson Hole area, right. I mean, Jackson has its own unique challenges. Like I think it's the richest per capita county in the world and around the country. Right. So you know, there's some really smart people there, there's some there's some funding, there. Scaling a company, there's pretty hard, right? Right. So trying to have it, but there's mission things stuff going on there. And then the center part of the state. So Casper, where I'm at Sheridan is a couple hours north of here, which is kind of a cool little community as well. There's some, some active activity going there as well. But kind of the beauty of Wyoming is there's little pockets everywhere, right? So one of the one of the companies we're looking to invest in right now is in Sundance, which is over on their South Dakota border, right. Oh, wow. And, and so there's their stuff, stuff kind of everywhere. But if I kind of had to pick three, three pockets, that'd be kind of the it's really the population centers. But there's also some other reasons that they're kind of Casper Sheridan areas to southeast quarter, Jackson. 

Les 38:33

Jared, is there any anything else you want to kind of leave our listeners with today? Either advice, advice for you know, aspiring entrepreneurs in the Rockies or advice for Wyoming founders, anything to leave, leave the audience with?

Jared 38:46

You know, one of the things that you hear a lot is like, Hey, if you think you're gonna go start a company, just do it. That's not a problem we have in Wyoming, which is awesome. Right? You know, this is a very entrepreneurial place, right? I think you get that in Montana, too. But the other thing that's awesome about being a founder or being an entrepreneur in Wyoming is just kind of that Wyoming network. You know, it's not that big of a place, right? So you're two degrees of freedom away from just about anybody and people here, I think this is pretty true. Across the Rockies, they're really happy to help. Right? So I get, you know, a phone call a week, hey, this founder needs a… has a question, whatever, you know, and that's not something I think you'd get in California or on the East Coast. Right. So, you know, it's the same reason that people moved here 10 years ago, it's really for the people. Right, and I think we get to pivot that and have that same kind of benefit of the great people that are either here or are deciding to move here. That are that is going to be you know, the kind of secret sauce of entrepreneurs in the Rockies going forward.

Les 39:46

Yeah, well, Jared, I really appreciate your time today on the show. I mean, it's as I've gotten to know you and I've learned more and more about what you've done for entrepreneurs in Wyoming I really respect and admire your path your journey true operator true, true, true investor and really committed to the region. So thank you for all you're doing.

Jared 40:07

Happy to be here. Thanks for doing this too as well. I appreciate it. 

Les 40:09

Yeah. Why don't you tell our listeners just where they could find out about you and about Breakthrough 307? 

Jared 40:16

Sure, breakthrough You can find out everything about there. You can even apply for funding there. So that's probably of your audience or if anybody's interested in oil, gas, water pipelines, you can go to FlowState as well. So and find find out about my current company,

Les 40:34

Awesome Jared stack from the venture capitalists of states, Wyoming. Thanks for being on the show.

Jared 40:39

Thanks Les.

Les 40:41

Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to our podcast page at next frontier to get links and contact information for today's guests. If you liked what you heard and want more, please rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop. We'll see you next time.