A new collective in Fort Worth aims to fund startups across the country, while educating the next crop of investors.
The Horned Frog Investment Network quietly launched earlier this year through TCU’s Neeley School of Business. The venture serves to spotlight the school as an innovative leader in entrepreneurship and investing, whose efforts could lift up the entire ecosystem. And it could change the narrative that Cowtown lags behind other big metros in early-stage funding for entrepreneurs.
The network’s model is a trifecta for founders, investors, and students. The group will connect founders with investors, who can benefit from a “unique, industry-agnostic deal flow.” Business students will get hands-on learning opportunities.
Supporting big ideas
“We want to focus on the demographic that wants to truly invest in venture as an asset class,” Andrew Hicks, RevTech Labs Capital principal and Horned Frog’s network program manager, told Dallas Innovates. “We know folks that are doing really interesting deals, but those are kind of happening in silos. And we know, on the other end of the spectrum, that there are fantastic entrepreneurs and fantastic companies being started, but they don’t really know where to go to raise funding locally.”
“A lot of times you see these fantastic opportunities that don’t have anybody locally on the cap table,” Hicks added, “and we go, ‘That would have been really exciting to be a part of that.’
A ‘hybrid’ between a VC and a traditional angel network
Rodney D’Souza, managing director of TCU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, describes the Horned Frog network as a hybrid between a venture capital fund and traditional angel group.
Through a collective of more than 40 members—including local VCs and angels, leaders of family offices, and private equity firms across the region—Horned Frog sources deals through accelerators and members’ personal networks. Part of the deal sourcing and due diligence work is done by MBA students at TCU, giving them hands-on experience to break into the industry.
“We actively manage and we put a lot of emphasis on the deal sourcing and deal flow, because we want to make sure that the people who are part of the network are getting access to the highest quality deals,” D’Souza told Dallas Innovates. “This is a small piece of the puzzle. But it helps get the right people in the room with the right kind of deals that they might not have gotten access to before.”
Network has evaluated nearly 300 deals
Hicks said the Horned Frog network focuses on the quality of deals, as opposed to a particular industry or geographic region. Since forming in March, the network has evaluated close to 300 potential deals, with multiple others in its consideration pipeline, Hicks added.
“We don’t necessarily have the prerequisite that this has to be a Fort Worth- or Dallas-based company,” Hicks said. “But it just so happens that when we’ve put the infrastructure or network in place, these opportunities start presenting themselves locally,” Hicks said.
Closed on two deals to date
So far, the Horned Frog Investment Network has closed on two deals. In one, the network joined a $25 million Series B funding round for California-based Rizzle, a video app that competes with TikTok, that valued the company at $250 million. Hicks said the makeup of the network’s members allows it to look at deals ranging from seed-stage rounds to later-stage fundings.
“It’s a very diverse group, where we leverage the experience that we have as venture capitalists, as investors, as software developers, to invest at a really high level,” Hicks said.
The network’s leadership team also includes Daniel Pullin, John V. Roach Dean and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, and Horned Frog Program Manager and Co-Founder Joe Dickerson.
Building to scale
As they seek to grow Horned Frog’s membership and add more deals to its pipeline, Hicks and D’Souza said one of the network’s goals is to break down some of the funding silos that exist in the Fort Worth ecosystem. The network also aims to educate students and bring other investors into the mix through shared professional knowledge, in an effort to build out the region’s investor base—and ultimately bring more funding to the local scene.
“With removing the veil of doing this in stealth, we still want to make sure that we’re building an organization that can truly scale,” Hicks said. “Now that we have that infrastructure in place, we can really open up the floodgates to deal flow, new members, and really going to market as a true funding resource.”
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.