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Why this VC moved his firm to North Texas to launch its second fund (Video)

After a successful debut fund, VC firm Gore Range Capital is looking to deepen its ties to the skin health industry by launching a second fund from its new digs in North Texas.

On Monday, the Southlake early-stage firm’s Managing and Founding Partner Ethan Rigel joined NTX Inno for another installment of the virtual conversation series Bytes with the Beat to talk about Gore Range’s move to DFW, what the firm is doing differently with its second fund and how successful startups have navigated the pandemic. He also shared where the firm takes its name (hint: it’s the name of a mountain range near where his family has a home).

“I totally love the fact that we're working on technologies that eventually will improve patients’ lives,” Rigel said at the event. “The stuff that really gets us going, we just love getting these technologies and improving patient care.”

Gore Range was initially launched in 2015 by Rigel and partner Humberto Antunes in New York. And it was partly Antunes’ ties to Galderma Laboratories, which has its U.S. operations in Fort Worth, where he formerly served as CEO and board chairman, bringing the firm to DFW. Rigel also said the region, in addition to having a lower cost of living and doing business, allows Gore Range to differentiate itself from the crowded ecosystem of the Northeast.

“The scene here is a little bit smaller than in some other places, but that has benefits too because you can actually take the time to get to know people. Here, we can be ourselves and be different but also be a more meaningful part of the ecosystem,” Rigel said. “It's a very exciting place to grow as everything here is growing, and that's not just a comment on venture or the ecosystem but the whole the whole state. As we're growing as an ecosystem here more broadly, it's a fantastic place to be.

The firm’s first fund closed in at the beginning of 2019. Overall, it has made investments in 14 companies, with six successful exits, including a $60 million IPO for Connecticut-based BioXcel Therapeutics and a $64 million IPO for Texas-based Castle Biosciences.

Rigel said that while the first fund took a more generalist approach on proving its investment thesis, its new fund is focused on identifying companies with skin health tech that has potentially broad implications in the health care field, like skin cancer and inflammatory diseases. While not disclosing specifics, Rigel said the Gore Range’s second fund is set for a nine-figure amount, aiming to make investments ranging from $5 million to $15 million at key growth inflection points.

He said many of the companies would be early-stage, likely with companies that have technology in the pre-approval or Phase I and II trial phase. However, he said Gore Range doesn’t rule out first capital investments.

“It's a huge market, and it's a market that's built many multi-billion-dollar companies, and we needed a little time to have the conviction to dive in there,” Rigel said. “We also want to make sure that we can invest what's needed, not simply what's asked for to prevent undercapitalization and to be able to fix holes.”

When looking for companies to invest in, for Rigel, it goes beyond just the company’s technology and includes the people who make up the leadership team. And for him, there are a few key important factors: passion, self-awareness and drive. He also added that having a transparent relationship with investors is key, along with startups having good legal counsel.

It’s something Rigel knows well, having been a founder before and seeing both sides of the deal table. His role at Gore Range has also allowed him to watch the journeys of other startups across the country. While nearly all have encountered challenges during the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, he said that many of the companies that have successfully navigated have either stayed organized and stayed the course, or they were nimble and pivoted quickly.

“The teams that we're able to successfully get through it are the kinds of teams that are going to be able to successfully navigate the next challenge that they're going to see in their business,” Rigel said. “It's just about staying dynamic and figuring out ways to stay on message.”

While creating challenges, the pandemic has accelerated several trends in the industries Gore Range focuses on. For one, he said aesthetic procedures are on the rise as more people tune into video conferences and events. Also, he said there is likely to be a demand for other skin-related health procedures since several people have likely avoided going to the doctor for non-emergency reasons.

“We're really excited. We're working through getting this new fund, which is going to take this deeper dive into skin health, aging and wellness,” Rigel said. “We think we have a great ecosystem here in the DFW area and look forward to bringing those technologies in and growing fund three, fund four, fund five and continuing to build a franchise.”

If you weren’t able to tune in for Bytes with the Beat this time, you can watch the full conversation below and hear it in Rigel’s own words.


Kevin Cummings, NTW Inno Staff Writer


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