'Shark Tank' star to oversee new North Dakota investment program
The North Dakota Development Fund chose O'Leary Ventures to manage the $45 million Wonder Fund North Dakota program
BISMARCK — "Shark Tank" entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary is heading up a new investment program in North Dakota, another project he's promoting in the state.
The state Commerce Department on Wednesday, Jan. 25, announced that the North Dakota Development Fund chose O'Leary Ventures to manage the $45 million Wonder Fund North Dakota program, which aims to boost economic growth in the state.
O'Leary will be the fund's chairman, and direct its vision and strategy. He is not receiving any direct compensation for his involvement, according to Commerce. His firm will collect a management fee pursuant to U.S. Treasury Department guidelines. Wonder Fund money comes from Treasury's State Small Business Credit Initiative.
“Capital flows through the path of least resistance, and North Dakota offers stable policy and a competitive tax environment for investors and entrepreneurs,” O’Leary said, adding, “... this U.S. Treasury program provides a powerful springboard for long-term job creation, which is the heartbeat of the American economy.”
O'Leary also is a backer of Bitzero, a cryptocurrency mining company establishing itself in North Dakota.
Bitzero announced plans last summer to make North Dakota its headquarters for North American operations, saying that within three years, it intends to build 200 megawatts of data centers in the state and is involved in a joint venture to become an assembly and distribution hub for graphene battery technology.
O'Leary's renown raises the profile of the program, according to Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen, who said O'Leary "will bring access to a broad network to this program, which will generate high-quality deal flow and favorable returns back to North Dakota and our businesses."
O'Leary Ventures was chosen through a competitive request-for-proposal process last year, according to the Commerce Department. Commerce received one response.
The firm will use Wonder Fund money to invest in early stage businesses with fewer than 500 employees, headquartered in North Dakota, though the fund "will consider companies based outside the state if their product and service have a material impact on North Dakota," according to Commerce.
O'Leary drew widespread attention last year when the cryptocurrency exchange FTX went bankrupt. He was a spokesman for the company and said he lost millions in the FTX collapse. He was one of several celebrities named as a defendant in a lawsuit that investors filed in November.