SALT LAKE CITY — Can combining a vibrant workspace, creative co-workers, veteran mentors and handy access to financiers lead to alchemical magic for a business startup?
And what if you add an affordable residence to the mix, too?
That's the idea driving STRT, a Salt Lake startup that is aiming to bring the best ideas from the realms of coworking, business accelerators and co-living together under a single roof. The company announced Wednesday it had completed an undisclosed seed round of financing led by Celtic Investment Inc., Sentry Investments LLC and 4-D Investments LLC.
STRT co-founder and CEO Victor Gill said the idea of centralizing talented and creative people alongside the tools for business success will create advantages both inside and outside the buildings, or "nodes" as STRT calls them.
"Talent is distributed everywhere, yet the overwhelming amount of venture capital is concentrated in a few areas dominated by Silicon Valley," Gill said. "This bubble creates a barrier for both entrepreneurs and investors alike.
"STRT is about providing entrepreneurs access to other talented people and connecting them with the capital and the resources they need to grow."
While both coworking spaces and business incubators/accelerators have been around for decades, mixing those resources with a residential element in a purpose-built space — one that will play host to 250 to 450 creative minds — is an entirely new twist. STRT founder, serial entrepreneur and current executive director of the University of Utah's Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute Troy D'Ambrosio said the company has set an ambitious schedule for bringing the new creative centers to communities across the country.
"The STRT concept creates a town of entrepreneurs," D'Ambrosio said. "A place where people live, eat, work and create together. The result is more than the sum of the parts.
"Our goal is to take the STRT concept to 50 or more cities and bring access to entrepreneurs everywhere."
The first step, according to Gill, will be to launch STRT's debut facility in Salt Lake City. He said a site search is currently underway and it's one that will look to leverage the area's explosive growth in startup efforts, but that includes an affordable housing component.
"Our area is teeming with the types of people who will be drawn to this type of product," Gill said. "They also have a collective desire to live close to the urban center, but can be put off by the high cost of housing. STRT will provide a shared economy solution in a very desirable area."
D'Ambrosio noted STRT's all-inclusive concept will allow the company to bring the best of the country's hottest tech centers to virtually any community.
"Imagine if you could take the elements of Silicon Valley that make entrepreneurs successful — creativity, passion, talent, capital — and then make it accessible without having to move to the Bay Area," D'Ambrosio said. "STRT has developed a building design, programming and resources that provide access to this environment for entrepreneurs located anywhere."