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Hundreds of Startups Soar

EPIC Ventures Looks for Revolutionary Change

Sonny Partola Nov 1, 2017

The year was 1994 and the goal was to support the growth of technology-driven companies, boost the local economy, further employment opportunities and foster a community of innovation in Utah.

The solution was the creation of the Wasatch Venture Fund I, now known as EPIC Ventures, created by Zions Bank.

Driven by those same goals over the years, Zions Bank remains the largest investor in the EPIC fund. Zions also hired EPIC to run an independent evergreen fund, Zions SBIC. Through these entities, Zions Bank has made equity investments in approximately 100 companies in the Utah/Idaho footprint and beyond.

EPIC Ventures' Managing Director Ken Madsen, photo by Kevin Kiernan

Zions Bank a Patient Investor

Active portfolio companies include these and more: AppDetex, Braintrace, Blyncsy, Canopy, The Clymb, Exagen Diagnostics, Health Catalyst, MarketDial, Moki, Numetric, Primary Data, Proskriptive, SaltStack, Shape Security, SilverVue, Simplus, SyncHR, SpinGo, RevIt, Zenefits and Zuma Ventures. Past investments include IPOs of Instructure, Ancestry.com, Everspin Technologies, DivX and others, and acquisitions of Mozy, Solution Reach, Lefthand Networks and dozens of others.

Zions Bank differs from traditional venture fund investors. While most have short investment timelines, Zions has a longer-term vision and remains devoted to the futures of the companies. It can afford to be a patient investor. Relationships are viewed as long-term investments whose success builds a better economy and community. One way these relationships build the economy is by stimulating job growth. Portfolio companies have created more than 5,000 regional jobs.

Ideas, Innovation, Change

EPIC has a grand vision of continuing to build upon the foundation it laid. Plans are to partner with more startups and expand throughout the region to Colorado, Arizona and Southern California. With firm roots established in Utah and Idaho, Epic is ready for advancement and is always on the lookout for great entrepreneurs.

EPIC values experience and gives priority to companies that have spent time in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. People with innovative ideas and cutting-edge developments in technology come through EPIC’s door every day.

“We’re privileged to get to work with such unique products, companies and entrepreneurs, from the earliest stages of development to the mature,” says Kent Madsen, EPIC Ventures’ managing director. “EPIC looks for revolutionary change. We want to invest in companies that we believe will transform whole sectors of an industry. We’re not talking about micro improvements. Rather than a slight innovation, we want to wipe out the status quo or do something that nobody’s seen before. Entrepreneurs need to be willing to take a risk. And if you don’t succeed, try again.”

And when those ideas begin to gain some traction, Zions Bank and EPIC Ventures will be there to help.

Photo courtesy of EPIC Ventures

Crash Course for University Students

Each semester, local university students are hand-selected as "Jr. Analysts" to participate in EPIC Ventures’ 15-week intensive crash course, where they learn how to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

The EPIC Jr. Analyst Program offers students real-life interaction with technology startups as they learn the investment process from deal sourcing to investment and portfolio management.

Working out of the Zions Bank Small Business Resource Center in downtown Salt Lake City, students are trained to interact with senior executives, think critically about businesses and collaborate with their peers to determine the viability of an investment opportunity.

EPIC worked hand-in-hand with its partners at local universities to develop a program that combines classroom learning with real-life experience. Jr. Analysts receive direct mentorship from directors at EPIC who lead weekly courses focused on the investment process. Throughout the week, the team applies the knowledge gained by leading discovery and diligence meetings with startups.

“It has been overwhelming to see the caliber of individuals that our Jr. Analysts are interacting with,” says Jack Boren, director at EPIC Ventures and co-lead of the Jr. Analyst Program. Each of the students interacts with around 50 different management teams per semester, walking away with first-hand knowledge of the industry and a significantly increased professional network.

“These students will go on to do interesting things in their careers,” says Ryan Hemingway, director at EPIC Ventures and co-lead of the Jr. Analyst Program. “As part of the network of EPIC Alumni, students will be able to leverage their experience and relationships with each other for professional opportunities for years into the future.”

Already, alumni from the Jr. Analyst Program have landed internships and full-time roles at high-growth startups, corporate strategy groups, and top-tier investment banks like Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.
 

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