Tara Spalding on Embracing Silicon Slopes for Hen House's New Headquarters

Tara Spalding is the president and founder of Hen House Ventures. Hen House creates, implements and validates successful go-to-market programs for technology companies that need to rapidly scale new products when entering massive emerging technology markets. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Hen House Ventures has been instrumental in raising over $17M in Seed and Series A funding for more than 30 startups throughout the U.S.

Tara began her high-tech career in Silicon Valley when she taught herself to code software and became the first employee, and eventually VP of Marketing at industry leader, SugarCRM. Her Silicon Valley experience included roles as CMO at GroundWork Open Source and co-founder and CPO at BenchPick. Available to guide startups and corporations in the US and abroad, Hen House Ventures’ innovative, impactful programs are tailored to meet each clients’ specific development and funding needs. Clients include Applitools, ApolloGraphQL, Commtrex, eTeam Sponsor, Sequent Software, Inc., Ten Digit Communications and X2CRM.

How long have you been living in Salt Lake? Where are you originally from?

Our family moved to Salt Lake City in 2014 from San Jose, California. At the time, we knew only one other family here. The many wonderful aspects of life in Utah beckoned us to make this life-changing move, and now, our family enjoys a much healthier lifestyle. Because we don’t have long commutes and we have flexibility in our work lives, we can spend much more time together, which has created stronger family bonds.

I am an American nomad – I was born on the East Coast, but I’ve lived in eight states in different parts of the country prior to moving here. Utah has become a special place for me and my family.

What made you choose Salt Lake to headquarter Hen House Ventures?

It was a significant decision for me. I had an established network in Silicon Valley due to my startup experiences and successes there, so it was a true leap of faith to move Hen House’s headquarters to Silicon Slopes. I was afraid I would lose my connections and forfeit opportunities to work with tech startups if my company wasn’t based in close proximity to them.

But in 2016, after hiring amazing talent here, proving that our clients are less concerned about where our headquarters were located, and finding WorkHive as our amazing co-working facility, I decided to take the leap and for Hen House to call Salt Lake City home.

Tell us about Hen House Ventures and when did you launch it?

During my career as an executive in Silicon Valley for several notable startup software companies, I identified a ubiquitous barrier to success for new businesses. The process for fundraising (either by growing a paying customer base or by finding investors) was laborious, full of surprises, and very costly for tech companies. I wanted to create a firm that would reduce this friction, and would help companies that were entering emerging markets or displacing antiquated incumbents. I wanted to serve companies where limited time and resources were working against them. So, I began Hen House Ventures in 2012.

Hen House Ventures offers go-to-market incubation services. We provide supplemental human capital and infrastructure resources to deliver improved awareness, revenue, and process improvements. Hen House begins each engagement with an assessment where we analyze our client’s performance and compare it to other successful businesses to examine and explain the deficits and potential for improvement.

We then put together a report and a program proposal. It’s up to the company whether they choose to hire us, or someone else, or to execute the programs internally.

Our data-driven go-to-market analytics proved to be very accurate and inspired us to create an entrepreneur-serving business viability platform. This platform helps startups prepare for funding, so they are ready to face investors who are merciless with judgment and difficult to convince.

How is Hen House evolving into a software provider?

In October of 2019, we launched Deck to Deal, the first offering powered by Hen House’s Deal Genius analytics. Deck to Deal teaches entrepreneurs how to look at their company from an investor’s perspective. It instructs them on what to expect, how to prepare for fundraising, and analyze how their deal looks compared to other funded companies.

It’s a radical and transparent approach where entrepreneurs can safely get valuable feedback before pitching to actual investors (and potentially burning through investor connections). Deck to Deal data also connects to the data we use for go-to-market assessments.

We hope Deck to Deal will resolve the entrepreneurial frustrations I experienced when I was fundraising for several Silicon Valley startups. Hen House wants to provide better education in effective pitching and business viability assessment to startups before they speak to a potential investor.

How has it been transitioning into Utah, what is the entrepreneur and women community like?

I am blown away by the Utah business community, as I see it rapidly expanding, and its socioeconomic potential is practically limitless. Utah has a strong higher education system, commerce-centric local governance support and privatized funding sources that allow companies to get established, scale, and become a unicorn. Naturally, certain aspects of this ecosystem haven’t developed at the same pace as others; however, where there’s cash and virtuous attention, there’s positive change.

I am also fortunate that I’ve been warmly welcomed into the Utah innovation and economic development communities. Organizations such as VentureCapital.org, Women Tech Council, UVU, and Sorenson Impact have embraced what my company does and allowed me to contribute to their entrepreneurial efforts. Without them, I wouldn’t understand how local business development organically occurs.

As for the women in Utah, they have strengthened me to break into new frontiers and legacy organizations. I am honored to have befriended so many successful women in Utah, who are business leaders, investors, activists, educators, and change-makers. They have inspired me to contribute to Utah’s business ecosystem by mentoring and coaching women who are aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

What can people do to get involved?

I would advise women, or others who feel marginalized, that now is the time to shed their self-inhibitors. Don’t wait for someone else to call you out and ask you to change something that bothers you.

If there’s something that you are passionate about and you believe it can be improved, go for it! But first, take time to understand the systems (the people, policies, and operations) that are behind it and figure out a way to communicate or contribute to positive change. One thing about involvement is that it can’t be fleeting, nor can it be rushed.

Also, don’t overextend yourself, as that will hurt you and your loved ones in the end. Choose your endeavors wisely.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My freedom, my creative and problem-solving mentality, and my ability to pursue my wildest dreams. I can afford this extravagance because I’m surrounded and supported by a network of people (including my precious family and my community), systems, and governances that allow me to apply it in any sense that I desire.

What is your current state of mind?

I’m a doer and an optimist, but recently I feel more exploratory than usual.

What is your mantra in life?

Be the change I want to see in the world, and to persist with kindness.

On what occasion do you lie?

That I’m a fabulous singer and my memorization of song lyrics is 100% accurate.

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