Partner at FirstM
Aaron joined FirstMile in 2013. He thinks a lot about the firm's portfolio strategy and has built a back office that allowed the investment team to greatly increase its pace.
Since joining the firm, Aaron has led 15 investments. Most of his investments are in Colorado, but they cover a number of areas including SaaS, Distributed Ledgers, Security, Marketplaces, Fintech and Robotics. He knows the next big opportunity won't look like the last and is always looking for founding teams that have figured something out that others haven't.
Prior to joining FirstMile, Aaron had a diverse set experiences that provide great perspective as an investor. He spent 10 years as an Army officer and helicopter pilot, leading teams in a number of challenging environments including two overseas deployments. The lessons the military instilled on leadership, teamwork and execution have greatly influenced his thoughts on management and investing.
It was during his MBA that Aaron first developed a desire to work with early-stage companies. He volunteered at a technology incubator, then worked as a summer intern and part-time employee at Novinda, a venture-backed company in the clean coal market. Most recently, Aaron worked in the Corporate Strategy Group at Newmont Mining, the #2 gold miner in the world. He worked on M&A, investor relations and negotiated a mineral agreement with a foreign government.
Aaron grew up in Michigan before studying economics at West Point. After graduation, he attended flight school in Alabama and moved to Korea for his first assignment as a platoon leader. He received his MBA with a concentration in Finance from the Daniels College at the University of Denver.
"We needed to raise a bigger fund this time to be a meaningful participant in bigger rounds — seed founds are getting bigger — between $3 million and $5 million. That used to be the size of a Series A (venture capital) round just a few years ago… It can still be hard to find an investor to lead your earliest round. We're comfortable at that stage, and having a larger fund gives us the capacity to catalyze those rounds."
“Not the best analogy since Silicon Valley is such a unique place with no real equal, but Boulder is to Colorado's Front Range (collection of cities along the mountains between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs) as Silicon Valley is to the broader "Bay Area." Most of the activity is in the Denver-Boulder corridor, which are only 30 minutes apart. Boulder is in many ways the center of entrepreneurial activity in the state, but as another answer mentioned, it has certain space and cost of living constraints that make surrounding communities more attractive places to start a company in some ways. The last funding report I saw showed Denver received slightly more VC dollars than Boulder. Too soon to tell if that means the center of gravity is shifting towards Denver or just a product of some large funding rounds in a given year. VCs in Colorado are also a little more dispersed with nothing like Sand Hill Road, which is another defining feature of the valley.”
“I would not pay anyone to help you raise your first round of funding. As a seed stage investor, one of the things we are evaluating in diligence is the founder’s ability to raise capital, and it can be a red flag if you have to pay somebody to do this for you. If you’re starting a company you expect to grow rapidly and consume capital, you better learn how to raise money. Educate yourself by reading Venture Deals by Brad Feld, talk to other founders in your area and ask how they got funding, get in front of the local angel investor group, look for state grants for high tech companies. Paying a percentage is common on crowdfunding platforms or later stage deals, but we’ve never seriously looked at a seed stage deal using a banker.”
“The cap is meant to protect note holders from paying more than the company was worth at the time of their investment, which is what the cap number should reflect. Note investors typically convert at the lesser of A) ~20% discount to what the next equity investors pay or B) the valuation cap. As a seed investor that often invests using convertible notes, I am much more focused on the cap than the discount. If we get less than a 2x markup on our investment from Seed to Series A, then we probably paid too much; so the 20% discount only comes in to play in a short-term bridge or a company not doing great.”
2018 - Present
2013 - 2018
2013 - 2018
Corporate Strategy Group
2011 - 2013
Finance and Operations Intern
2010 - 2011
Colorado Springs Technology Incubator
2009 - 2010
United States Army
1999 - 2009
- Bachelor of Science, Economics and Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point
- MBA, Finance at the University of Denver - Daniels College of Business
Personal InvestmentsPartner Investments
Material about Aaron