New Venture Fund in Utah: SkyLab Ventures

New Venture Fund in Utah: SkyLab Ventures

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SkyLab Ventures makes its debut in Utah with its $30 million Fund I. The new Murray-based venture fund focuses on early-stage investments in direct-to-consumer, e-commerce and SaaS-based startups. The firm was founded in October 2020 by Jesse Silva and Bensen Metcalf. Both are general partners and have extensive networks and backgrounds in investment, entrepreneurship, tech, and venture capital.

“I founded SkyLab Ventures because my business was acquired by private equity, and the experience was less than ideal,” said Jesse Silva, Co-founder, President, and a General Partner of SkyLab Ventures. Silva previously founded a towing company that ultimately sold for over $125 million. 
 
“I told myself that I really wanted to be a part of a new fund that acquired assets that we could implement into our portfolio companies and really help scale.” 

“We are really looking for fast growing companies that we think have the potential for a 2-3 year journey toward exit,” says Benson Metcalf, Co-founder, CEO, and a General Partner of SkyLab Ventures. Metcalf previously worked as a consultant at Bain & Company before spending over three years in business development, strategy, and operations at Pluralsight.

The first three of Skylab’s portfolio companies are located in Utah: Pestie in Lehi, Swell in Holladay, and The Gunbox in Murray. 

SkyLab announced Pestie’s seed round on March 3, 2021. Pestie is using SkyLab’s funding to accelerate sales of its direct to consumer pest control solution. Unlike other pest control services involving door-to-door sales and scheduled appointments for technicians who spray for pests, Pestie ships custom DIY pest control kits directly to consumers.

“Pestie is a tremendous investment for SkyLab Ventures,” says Metcalf. “We are inspired by the founders and their competitive drive to deliver something truly disruptive to a stale industry (door-to-door pest control) and we see a broader trend of DIY across American households.” 

Holladay-based Swell, a SaaS company focused on customer feedback and experience for small businesses, concluded its Series A round from SkyLab on March 17, 2021. The funding will allow the company to accelerate marketing and product development. 

On March 9, 2021 SkyLab announced its acquisition of The Gunbox, an e-commerce business that produces smart handgun security boxes. SkyLab intends to prepare the company for a future exit, reflecting it’s stated objective for all investments.

In November 2020, SkyLab acquired Welling Media, a digital marketing and customer acquisition strategy company based in Nashville. Welling Media has generated over $1 billion in revenue to date through its content strategy with direct-to-consumer brands with revenue between $2 million and $200 million.

 Additionally, one of SkyLab’s strategic investment partners is The Spacestation in Layton, Utah, which was founded by social media influencer Shaun McBride and business partner Sean Holladay. The Spacestation brings substantial influencer marketing capabilities to the SkyLab portfolio. McBride’s YouTube channel has over 3 million subscribers and 2.5 billion views. Another channel managed by McBride has 4 billion views. 

“We believe our practical and market-tested marketing engine is a genuine value-add to our portfolio,” says Silva.

SkyLab considers itself “a combination of an innovative VC fund, a modern marketing agency, and an influencer marketing network.” The venture fund’s focus is on equipping e-commerce, software and technology leaders with expansion and ‘transformative exits.’

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DARYL PINKAL

Daryl was a founding and principal engineer at Qualtrics. Over his 13-year tenure there, Daryl helped the company grow from a basement startup into the most successful software company in Utah history culminating in an $8 billion acquisition by SAP in January 2019. Serving in various engineering and product management positions, Daryl made significant contributions to many of Qualtrics’ most successful product lines including Research Core, Digital Experience, Customer Experience, XM Directory, and Employee Experience – a portfolio of products with a combined revenue (ARR) in 2019 of more than $400 million.

Tim Holladay

Tim joined the Spacestation in August 2019 as the managing partner for Spacestation Investments, an early stage angel investment team. In addition to funding the famed Spacestation Gaming esports organization, Tim has led investments in Magic Spoon, Olipop, Giggster, Koia, Evercast, Kinder Beauty and 25 more. Tim specializes in connecting SkyLab portfolio companies with influencer marketing strategies for explosive growth. Prior to the Spacestation, Tim and his brother Sean built and sold their startup Crowd Mics to Biamp.

DERRICK HOPE

Entrepreneur and investor in people. Derrick founded Extreme Staffing in 2010 and exited in 2020 in the top 7% of largest agencies in the nation. Over the past decade, Extreme Staffing helped hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of employees build better futures finding careers. Leader in organizational development, how companies should hire successfully and build company culture. Derrick invests in and sits on the board of several successful start ups.

Sean Holladay

Better known as Holladay, Sean is co-founder of The Spacestation. In 2017 he built Spacestation Integrations which has become one of the most innovative and fastest growing influencer marketing agencies in the country. Holladay struck the first influencer deal with Mattel to create two custom Hot Wheels cars. He partnered with Nomatic and launched a $2.4 million KickStarter campaign for the top YouTube photographer Peter Mckinnon. Spacestation Integrations paid creators over $11M in 2020. SkyLab benefits from Holladay’s genuine relationships with top influencers, companies and investors. Prior to founding the Spacestation, Holladay was the co-founder of Crowd Mics, which sold to Biamp in 2016.

Chandler Welling

Over the last 10 years, Chandler has been leading creative and customer acquisition for some of the internet’s biggest brands, most notably Snow Teeth Whitening who went from startup to $100M+ in two years. 

Having successfully deployed tens of millions of dollars across Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Snap; Chandler is no stranger to customer acquisition at scale. Chandler’s unique view on creative, paid media, and innovative products and services made his addition to the Skylab team a foregone conclusion.

Connor Jenkins

Connor Jenkins is an operator and logistics specialist. Prior to joining SkyLab Ventures, Connor had managed a large real estate portfolio, built out sales and logistics infrastructure for a tech startup, and consulted Mercedes Benz covering over 130 dealerships maximizing opportunity across their sales and marketing operations. Connor has a unique ability to look into a business and problem solve, which makes him a valuable asset here at SkyLab.

Greg Woodward

Greg is one of the most accomplished business leaders in Utah. Greg has been at the forefront of building some of the greatest success stories in the last 15 years. He was a founding member of Huntsman Gay Global Capital (HGGC) where he was a leader in portfolio operations and helped drive significant exit valuations in their $1.1B debut fund that propelled HGGC to its second fund. He was CFO and COO of Pluralsight overseeing 8 acquisitions and multiple rounds of debt and equity capital including the largest venture capital round in the State of Utah at the time. Since then, Greg has developed an impressive portfolio of investments, board seats and advisory roles to help the next wave of startups and funds. As an advisor to SkyLab, Greg has been a huge voice in the strategy and positioning of the fund and in the ongoing execution.

BOBBY MEINHOLD

Bobby is a seasoned M&A and fundraising professional. Prior to joining SkyLab Ventures, Bobby worked at SaltStack, a B2B infrastructure software company, where he played an important role in the Company’s financing strategy and eventual strategic sale to VMware. Before SaltStack, Bobby spent time as an investment banker at Raymond James in their Technology & Services group and is responsible for assisting in over 10 successful M&A and capital raising transactions cumulatively worth over $1 billion in transaction value. Bobby started his career as an analyst at Peterson Partners, a middle-market private equity firm in Salt Lake City.