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How Cartwheel Raised From The Walton Family Office, with Josh Stanley — CEO at Cartwheel

October 4, 2023

Navigating the world of fundraising as an emerging startup studio has always been a massive challenge.

While studios embody innovation, potential, and transformative strategies, they often face an uphill battle in convincing traditional investors to back their vision.

However, family offices may be a great investor profile to target as you ramp up your raise.

But, how should you get in touch with the right family offices? What do they care about? How should you structure your deals with them?

These are all valid and common questions nowadays. Plus, the old-adage “if you’ve met one family office, you’ve met one family office” continues to ring true.

In today’s deep dive, we'll sit down with Josh Stanley, CEO of Cartwheel Startup Studio, to explore how he successfully pitched, partnered with, and leveraged the unique strengths of family offices as he raised from the Walton Family Foundation.

But before we dive in, be sure to catch the full episode here.

For the astute venture capitalist, understanding the terrain is as crucial as understanding the metrics. When Josh Stanley set out to raise from the Walton Family Foundation, his strategy was not merely grounded in numbers, but in the deeply intertwined narratives of place and purpose. This confluence created an irresistible synergy for the Walton Family Foundation.

More than Just Geographic Proximity

Being both based in Northwest Arkansas wasn't just a logistical convenience; it was the heart of Josh's pitch. This wasn't merely about sourcing funds; it was about sourcing funds from an entity that understood the grassroots challenges and opportunities of the region.

The story of Northwest Arkansas is unique. Historically overshadowed by innovation hubs like Silicon Valley, regions like Northwest Arkansas often lacked the infrastructure, ecosystem, and, crucially, the narrative of being an entrepreneurial hotbed.

Livelihoods and Job Opportunities for Frontline Workers

Josh’s studio wasn’t just churning out tech startups; it was creating ventures aimed at bettering the lives of frontline workers in the region. Each of his portfolio companies had a dual bottom line: Profitability and Social Impact, especially focusing on elevating the livelihoods of the oft-overlooked working class.

He highlighted data showcasing the employment challenges faced by frontline workers in Northwest Arkansas, from wage stagnation to limited upward mobility. Each startup in his portfolio was presented as a solution to one of these challenges.

The Irresistible Synergy

For the Walton Family Foundation, the appeal was multifaceted:

Local Impact:

With each investment, the foundation wasn't just betting on a startup; it was betting on its own backyard. The promise of local economic rejuvenation coupled with genuine societal impact was an unparalleled proposition.

Reputation & Legacy:

The foundation’s investment would further solidify its reputation as not just wealth creators, but as regional stewards. Backing ventures that directly uplifted the community aligned seamlessly with their long-standing ethos.

Portfolio Synergy:

Josh astutely highlighted how each of his ventures would indirectly benefit from the existing investments and initiatives of the Walton Family Foundation. This wasn't just about adding new companies to the foundation’s portfolio; it was about creating a web of mutually beneficial entities.

Beyond the Ask - Crafting a Regional Legacy

When Josh approached the close, it wasn’t just about funds; it was about partnership in crafting a regional legacy.

Collaborative Ecosystem Building

Josh proposed joint initiatives, leveraging the foundation’s clout and his studio's entrepreneurial prowess:

Local Entrepreneurship Bootcamps:

Identifying and nurturing the next generation of local founders.

Frontline Worker Innovation Labs:

Platforms where actual frontline workers could voice challenges, leading to new startup ideas.

Regional Venture Showcases:

Events to attract external investors, shining a spotlight on Northwest Arkansas as an emerging innovation hub.

The Ripple Effect

The pitch culminated not in an exit strategy, but in a vision of the ripple effects: From transforming Northwest Arkansas into a beacon for socially impactful ventures to setting a precedent for how family offices could drive change right in their backyards.

In the realm of venture capital, narratives like Josh Stanley's stand out not just for their strategic depth but for their genuine alignment with place and purpose. It's a testament to the fact that sometimes, the most compelling pitches are rooted in stories of home, heart, and impact.

For those interested in traversing this intricate landscape, the lessons from Josh’s journey are invaluable. Subscribe to The Gallery for more such deep dives, and master the art of building meaningful, lasting partnerships in the studio ecosystem.

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