Big Oil Money Lured to Tech: Deep Space Ventures Was Deep Space Exploration

Updated 03/29/16 7:19AM: Corrected the location of the fund’s founding entrepreneur.

There’s big money up for grabs in the Dallas/Fort Worth startup scene as a former oil industry investor turns its attention to tech. Deep Space Ventures is a newly founded venture capital firm that’s pumped over a million dollars into two Dallas-based startups, Panamplify and Vinli, as well as the local accelerator program Tech Wildcatters.

Founded on January 1, Deep Space Ventures is flush with cash from an unnamed Frisco, TX-based entrepreneur who boasts more than 30 years in the oil and gas industry, D Magazine reported. The fund is being run by cofounder and managing partner Stephen Hays, an investment banker who previously served at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, the investment banking arm of SunTrust Banks, Inc.

“The opportunities to invest here are a lot more robust than I expected it to be,” Hays told D Magazine. “The quality of the ideas is incredible, and I’m seeing Dallas investors start to step up.”

Hays isn’t shy to put his money where his mouth is, having just plunged $1 million into connected car device startup Vinli’s most recent funding round. This came just a few weeks after Deep Space Ventures invested $750,000 into marketing analytics platform provider Panamplify.

Hays told D Magazine that Deep Space Ventures is looking to invest in around 20 to 30 Dallas/Fort Worth-based startups in the next couple of years, with a focus on early stage startups. In other words, it’s fantastic news for the Dallas startup community, which Hays said is flush with entrepreneurial talent.

“Our ethos is great ideas married to great leaders,” Hays enthused.

Deep Space Ventures will be guided by local accelerators and incubators, Hays added. That helps to explain why the company pumped $100,000 into Tech Wildcatters and will likely donate more funds in the future, he explained.

The investment from Deep Space Ventures is expected to run into millions of dollars over the next couple of years, and that could take the Dallas/Fort Worth startup community to the next level, said Jonathan Shapiro, director of venture development at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Shapiro told the Dallas Morning News that he’s tired of seeing promising startups bail out of Dallas to head to Boston or Silicon Valley, where it’s easier to raise money.

“We are not going to produce billion-dollar companies by putting a couple thousand dollars in,” Shapiro said.

Mike Wheatley