Galena Capital offers investment bank option to Idaho startups

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Galena Capital is helping raise money for StageDotO Ventures, housed in Boise in a historic home. Photo courtesy of State Historic Preservation Office

A new local investment bank is aiming to “repeat an Austin or a Boulder or a Salt Lake” in Boise.

Galena Capital, which started in Boise in April, is yet another type of the capital companies that seem to have been flocking to Boise in recent months.

Bill Benjamin, managing partner of Galena Capital Partners, and his partner Jerry Sturgill decided that the niche they would fill would be investment banking, and went so far as to register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a government-authorized not-for-profit organization that oversees U.S. broker-dealers. Organizations that sell securities and do mergers and acquisitions are supposed to be FINRA members, Benjamin said.

That required 10 months of working through the federal regulation process, including more than 1,000 pages of documentation about compliance, supervisory procedures, money laundering and interviews. The company was made a member in February.

photo of bill benjamin
Bill Benjamin

“Jerry and I said, ‘Let’s be the first and only FINRA-registered investment bank in Idaho,’” Benjamin said.

Different investments

Consequently, the sort of investments that Galena Capital makes are a little different from those of other capital management companies in Idaho. The company has four specialties: Raising capital – not seed funding, mergers and acquisitions, strategic advice and restructuring, Benjamin told attendees at a panel on regional and industry advantages in Idaho during Boise Startup Week.

Galena Capital is currently engaged with three companies to raise money, Benjamin said. One is Melt Organic, a Boise plant-based B Corporation food company that currently has three butter products and is planning to expand into plant-based cheeses, pepperoni and snack packs, he said. The company hired a new CEO in April 2018, hired a new leadership team and has had four record sales quarters in a row since then, he said.

The second is StageDotO Ventures, for which Galena Capital is a placement agent, Benjamin said. StageDotO, also based in Boise, is raising $50 million to invest in Boise startups and has made its first $1 million investment with PlexTrac Inc., an Eagle-based security company.

“PlexTrac could be a really big company,” Benjamin said. “They could be the de facto standard that helps a lot of companies be more efficient in cybersecurity.”

The third is an energy company out of Oregon, which develops software that helps small- to medium sized businesses establish automation around saving energy by monitoring energy useage. Benjamin also couldn’t name this firm.

Galena Capital is talking with a number of other companies about mergers and acquisitions, Benjamin added.

“The sweet spot for us is $5 million to $75 million in sales,” though they’ll consider bigger deals. But they’re interested in private placements, not public offerings, he said.

Boise: the next Austin?

Why Boise? After a lifetime of living in Minneapolis and commuting on a weekly basis to full-time jobs in California and the New York metropolitan area, Benjamin was looking for a place to call home, and Boise had advantages.

“It seems like a fast-growing city,” he said.

The region is also well-stocked with Baby Boomers whose wealth is in their business and are coming to a point of wanting to retire.

“People want to liberate that wealth,” Benjamin said.

In addition, there’s been an influx of knowledge workers to the state, as well as an increasing number of engineers and computer scientists graduating from the region’s universities, along with other components of a startup ecosystem. “There’s Trailhead, Boise State Venture College and mentors all over the place,” he said. “That’s helping drive healthy growth and innovation.”

Benjamin said he felt that while walking around Trailmix, the food production arm of Boise Startup Week. “Not only are they creating innovative products, but they’re really good people,” he said. “That’s the fun of this job: People with a huge passion about something meaningful in the life of consumers. We want to help you grow and get you the capital you need to get to this next level.”