Image: Brett Calhoun
Crosby MBA Class 2020

Brett Calhoun

"I look forward to building tech companies with Mizzou and the Columbia community over the next decades."

Current Role/Title

Managing Director & General Partner at Redbud VC

  • Investing in early-stage tech startups across North America
  • Limited partner management, i.e., investor relations
  • Fund operations (e.g., legal, accounting, etc.)
  • Marketing and branding
  • Sourcing investments
  • Diligence for investment opportunities
  • Raising subsequent funds
  • Managing a small team
  • Portfolio management and support

What is something fascinating happening in your industry right now?

The venture capital (VC) industry is consistently adapting to market cycles, with the current being a downturn from the longest bull market in history. An article I wrote in Techcrunch walks through the early-stage investing landscape and how decreased costs, increased talent, digital communities, free education, and increased capital empower founders from any demographic to succeed. Historically, starting a tech company without the educational or company pedigree was extremely difficult, but today, almost anyone has the tools to build companies. For some, it’s a cautious time to invest; for us, it is the best time to invest in the last decade. Valuations have moved towards reality, founders focus on cash flow from customers, not investors, and there is more tech talent in the market due to corporate tech layoffs. We are thrilled to be an active investor.

How did you end up in your current position?

In the Summer of 2021, my dear friend Jai Malik met with Willy Schlacks, Co-Founder of EquipmentShare, about starting a fund in Columbia, MO, to support founders in Columbia and across the nation. Based on my background with investing and operations, our relationship, and residing in Columbia, they asked me to run this new fund called “Scale,” now Redbud VC. My prior background entailed working with VC-backed Paytient, Missouri Innovation Center’s tech fund, Co-Founding two fintechs, CapGains and CharlieMike (scaled to $1M ARR 12 months after launch), The LegalTech Fund, and providing valuation consulting services for tech startups to public companies.

In what ways has your Mizzou education/affiliation impacted your life since graduation?

I was lucky to take Bill Turpin’s last venture capital class, where I had the opportunity to work for his tech fund after that. This was my first exposure to venture capital, which is not a widely known industry in the Midwest. Working for Bill sparked my curiosity about breaking into VC and supporting entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. I quickly discovered that this industry was mostly reserved for Ivy League graduates and people with coastal networks. To break in, I was fine with doing whatever it took. Although it seemed like a daunting goal, it was fun to have a challenge for a career I had grown a passion for. I was able to tap into some great mentors and entrepreneurship opportunities through Mizzou. Since graduation, I still have amazing connections and continued support. Mizzou is an investor in our fund, and we are supporters and donors for a venture studio launching in the student center. I look forward to building tech companies with Mizzou and the Columbia community over the next decades.

Why did you choose Mizzou—what makes Mizzou special? Why should someone consider Mizzou?

It started with family since my parents had moved to Columbia. I decided to move close to home and take advantage of extra years where I could take a last-minute drive for dinner with my mom and dad. In addition, after looking into the alumni base and educational opportunities offered by Mizzou, it didn’t seem too far off from more notable programs. Columbia has a great community, and what has been accomplished here still amazes me, e.g., multiple billion-dollar tech companies founded. It depends on a person's goal, but if you are looking for opportunities to break into entrepreneurship or have a community supporting you with a platform to stand out, choose Mizzou. I had classmates competing with and landing jobs ahead of those in top 25 programs.

Fondest memories while a student or faculty member here?

It’s tough to pin down one or even two. I have made lifelong friends from the MBA program. The best man at my wedding was a friend I met at the Crosby MBA program. I’m going to another close Crosby MBA friend's wedding this year. On the faculty side, collectively, many amazing people went the extra mile to support me. A few are Ryan Murray, Tonya Wolf, John Howe, and Bill Turpin. Bill especially allowed me to explore a career in entrepreneurship after my first semester.

In your spare time, what do you like to do?

My favorite hobby of my fiancé and I is trying new restaurants and foods. We take trips just for the food. I have to confess I still play video games and enjoy doing that with some of the founders we have invested in. I am an avid gym goer, working out with my fiancé and Crosby MBA friend five days a week. Often, you can find me in Destin, FL, enjoying the beach. I enjoy reading, but sometimes my impatience precedes me…