The Alaska Startup Studio: A Valdez venture
While twins Lee and Lucas Brown were growing their Seattle-based tech company Tune, they traveled around the world visiting clients. The brothers were always attracted to Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden — specifically how people are productive with the extremes they face. Even though lightness and darkness vary greatly throughout a year, they believe greater consistency can be achieved.
While they dreamed of living in the Nordic region, they took into account that friends and family would rarely visit. But Alaska — a state that still had those extremes — felt like a good fit.
The twins moved to Valdez in 2016 with the intention of working at Tune remotely but stepped down from the company to begin a new venture. The Alaska Startup Studio was born — a venture studio that partners with entrepreneurs to create global software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups.
“Valdez is remote and connected,” Lucas said. “It’s a six-hour drive, but you can still drive here… Copper Valley got us hooked up to fiber optic internet, so we actually have fiber optic internet here at our property here in Valdez — untapped fiber optic internet whereas, in Anchorage, we haven’t been able to have fiber optic internet.”
Lucas says there are a lot of misconceptions as to what a venture studio actually is. There are even different kinds of venture studios, making it even more muddled.
“You kind of got these two extremes: the incubator and the accelerator, the venture studios have been taking over the middle by providing human resources combined with financial resources,” Lucas said. “We’re a startup studio… we’re focused on actually building the business from zero to one, and those ideas are coming from an external source, whereas a corporate venture studio is getting those ideas internally and then the venture studio is either subsidiary of a large corporation.”
The twins hope that with their experience in software, they can build a tech company in the state through the studio that will grow and scale by creating real value for customers.
“This focus can then eventually help drive economic change in Alaska and hopefully help attract other startups and more valuable talent here,” Lucas said.
The project is based on their experience building SaaS like Aurora.cam, which tracks the northern lights via notifications, Legalverse.io, which handles large document requests and most recently, Keeni Space, process automation for operating procedures.
The brothers have also been in the process of building an open-source project via their non-profit Geeks Accelerator to help bootstrap software-as-a-service startups using Golang. The open-source project is a set of libraries and boilerplate code in Golang for building scalable SaaS applications.
“With our for-profit startup studio, we will be implementing the open-source SaaS Startup Kit into future projects,” Lucas said.
Three years down the road, the twins hope to have launched five staff-based businesses and sight on a potential exit with at least one.
“In the shorter term, though — working with a startup and getting it to a point where we can start hiring locally. That’s the more immediate goal.”
Lee and Lucas are looking for entrepreneurs that have ideas and see a potential fit in the studio.
“It just needs to be an idea with entrepreneurs committed to building it,” Lucas said.