VegasTechFund rebrands as VTF Capital, will focus on commerce startups

VegasTechFund, backed by investors that include Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, announced it is changing its name to VTF Capital, a brand it hopes will better reflect its focus on startups, in Las Vegas and throughout the country, that specialize in physical and digital commerce.

Initially formed in 2011 as part of the Downtown Project, the VegasTechFund was created to support the Las Vegas tech community and attract companies here. About a quarter of the companies it has invested in since then have roots in Las Vegas, including The Mill, a startup accelerator headquartered downtown, and Rolltech, an app company for bowling enthusiasts. It’s also an investor in the social media company Banjo and Local Motors. Both companies have operations here.

But the majority of its investments have been outside of Las Vegas in startups from Los Angeles to New York, including food delivery service Thrive Market and daily fantasy platform FanDuel. The fund lists both Las Vegas and San Francisco as its locations on its website.

Zach Ware, a partner at VTF Capital, said in an interview that having the fund in Las Vegas, a city with little access to local venture investment, will still be beneficial for entrepreneurs. “The fact that we’re based here has proven to be valuable for the Vegas tech ecosystem,” he said.

The fund’s chief mission, however, will be to invest in commerce startups.

"Our primary focus is to invest in the future of retail,” Ware said. "That’s what we do.”

He added: "That’s what we’ve done for several years.”

As the fund began operating, so did its strategy, Ware said. And given that the background of its management was in retail, its investments tended to gravitate toward commerce startups.

While the rebranding was important because it better reflects the fund’s global mission, Ware said it was also necessary to give VTF Capital an opportunity to present its investment strategy on its website, something it had not done in the past. For instance, the website states its desire to invest in startups that enhance shopping or make commerce more efficient but not companies involved with gambling, gaming or nightlife.

The venture fund initially began as part of the Downtown Project, Hsieh’s $350 million initiative to revitalize downtown. At the time, $50 million of that investment was apportioned to the VegasTechFund. Although the Downtown Project still lists VegasTechFund in its portfolio, Ware said the two organizations have not worked together for years. Hsieh is still listed as an advisory partner at the fund but has not been an active participant for several years, Ware said. In addition to Hsieh, the fund has other investors, including some outside of Las Vegas.