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Getting to know Anjoo

Anjoo Rai-Marchant serves as COO at HighGround, which was acquired last year by YouEarnedIt. In her role, Anjoo oversees HighGround’s Engineering, Product, Customer Success, and Finance teams. With over 20 years of multi-disciplinary experience in companies such as EY, Macromedia (now Adobe), and Barclays Capital, Anjoo’s mission is to build best-in-class products centered for customers’ needs.

We sat down for a conversation with Anjoo to hear about the lessons she’s learned in scaling companies, what she sees in market, and what advice she has for entrepreneurs.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

Stay focused. And by “focus,” I mean “product focus” first and foremost. When you talk to a lot of people with different points of view, it’s really easy to get excited about all of the different paths that your product can go down. You have to stay disciplined and focused — both on the range of products you’re offering as well as the execution of what you create. It’s critical to keep your eyes on the product and how you see that providing value. After you execute, then is the time to test and get feedback. At that point, if needed, you can change course. But it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of trying 1,000 different shotgun approaches and seeing what sticks.

I should also note that I am passionate about getting feedback from customers and then really parsing that feedback. It’s important for entrepreneurs to really understand what that feedback is. Don’t trust customers’ words at face value. Dig in and ensure you really understand what they’re saying so that you build them a product that creates genuine value in their lives.

As someone who oversees both customer and engineering teams, how do you think about their respective relationships with customers?

It’s very obvious but sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day: companies can never lose sight of their customer. Especially in startups, everyone in the organization needs to have access to the customer — including the engineering teams. We have a tendency to shield our technical assets, but I believe that the more interaction they have with customers, the more empowered they are to actually build products that customers value. They need direct feedback. That can be by auditing a customer call or an in-person opportunity. Companies have to make this work for them, but it’s critically-important that they create a strategy around this.

What inspires you?

I like to build, and I like to build things that create value. I know everyone wants to say this, but as I reflect back on my career, where I’ve really gotten excited about my work was when I could see how it added meaningful value to a person’s life, my company, a social cause, or a company whose board I sit on. It’s invigorating when you know you’re contributing to others’ lives and success.

What’s an interesting trend you see in tech right now?

In addition to the common individual industry trends like artificial intelligence and machine learning, I’m excited about the trend of trying to bring more diversity into organizations. It’s not fully successful in execution yet, but I’m encouraged by seeing companies recognize the value of moving in this direction. It’s the first step.

What advice do you have for someone who is looking to raise money from investors or start a company?

Showing traction is critical, of course, but it needs to be clear how you’re going to add value in the space you’re going after. Traction can but doesn’t always equate to revenue, so you need to show how the work you’re doing creates value in the lives of your customers. Can you find external validation for your product and product-market fit?

How do you recharge?

I love to spend time with family and friends. Whether it’s hanging out in my backyard and having a glass of wine, trying a new restaurant, or going on a walk, I’m all about stepping away from work and sharing moments with my friends and family and discussing everything that did and didn’t go well in our days.

The post Why This Executive Challenges Startups to Focus Less on Shielding Engineers appeared first on HPA.

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Getting to know David

David Nelson has started and scaled three startups, most recently Motion AI, a software platform to help businesses create chatbots and develop their conversational strategy. Motion AI was acquired by HubSpot in 2017, and today David works on the company’s product team. He’s also an active member of HPA and invests in and advises early-stage startups.

We sat down for a conversation with David to hear about his journey into entrepreneurship and his best advice for those looking to do similar work.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

It might be a bit cliché, but just ensuring that you can execute is really the core thing. It’s easy to dream big and even relatively easy to meticulously plan around how to achieve those dreams. At the end of the day, no one is going to evaluate you around your ability to dream; they care about your ability to execute.

For me, whether I’m working on side projects or during my day job, the first thing I think about is how I’m going to execute. In software, I’m thinking about how a system can be architected, what the inputs and outputs are going to be, what the UI looks like, etc. As a self-taught engineer, learning and finding ways to grow to meet the needs of building a business are essential — both from the perspective of building empathy for those who are going to work for you and from the standpoint of putting together a practical action plan to grow company.

Tech democratizes education and success in that way. Tell us more about your journey as a self-taught engineer and entrepreneur.

From a very young age, learning how to program and learning how to do graphic design, all of these things were really just a means to an end for helping realize some of the loftier ideas I had but didn’t at the time have the business or financial connections to make happen. I think the big advantage of the internet is that anyone can go online and learn these skills by taking free online courses or leveraging the resources that exist. Tech is increasingly more of a meritocracy, and businesses are really open to working with anyone who’s showing they are willing to get the job done through whatever background they bring.

What’s an interesting trend you see in tech right now?

This is nothing particularly new, but I’m more recently interested in the convergence in next-generation hardware and next-generation software. There have been a lot of huge, independent leaps in both hardware and software that haven’t really converged yet but are bound to. For example, some of the best hardware in robotics currently lacks the software to really provide huge business or consumer value. I think the companies that will basically play matchmaker between these spaces will ultimately be the big winners.

What advice do you have for someone who is looking to raise money from investors or start a company?

This ties into my earlier thoughts on execution, but in general, I encourage all entrepreneurs to take great care in both the timing and preparedness of their fundraise. The more tangible output that you have to show from your game plan, the better you will do with investors. Demonstrably cool offerings are more important than your 5-year revenue plan. In early stage VC, people don’t expect you to have everything planned out exactly, but they do expect you to have a clear ability to execute and roll with the punches as you move along your entrepreneurial journey.

How do you recharge?

In an ideal world, I’d sit down with a book and be able to spend a couple of focused hours on that. For me, more often than not, I’m sitting down with the iPad and spending an hour or two reading blogs or articles on Quora or Wikipedia and seeing where it takes me. I’ve always been a huge reader and love books, but more recently, I’ve grown to appreciate the wide variety of viewpoints I can consume in a quick fashion on the internet.

The post How This Successful Self-Taught Engineer and Repeat Founder Approaches Success appeared first on HPA.

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Getting to know Susan

Now retired from her role as the Vice Chair of market research giant Nielsen, Susan Whiting has helped organizations grow for 35+ years by leveraging her experience in operating, leadership, data analytics, marketing, and media. She now serves in Board and Executive Advisory roles and works with senior leadership at publicly-traded, private, corporate, and not-for-profit entities. These organizations include Kemper, Alliant Energy, and the National Women’s History Museum — among many others. Through these activities, Susan continues to help grow organizations that are aligned with her interests in Media and Consumer Behavior, Energy and Environmental Conservancy, Business Leadership, Education, and Diversity.

We sat down with Susan and asked her to share more about her expertise working with startups, the trends she sees in market, and her work with the National Women’s History Museum.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

I’ve had a lot of years of different kinds of entrepreneurial experience, and what I’ve learned is critical to entrepreneur success is not only having a good idea but having the right leadership at the right time. Having that leadership is absolutely essential, along with a realistic timeline for what it’s going to take for the team to execute on the business idea. Those seem to be the two things that continually rise to the top of what I’ve both observed and learned personally.

What’s an interesting trend you see in tech right now?

One trend I’m seeing in companies I’m involved with — large and small — is the increasing use of machine learning, AI, and data analytics. They’re all connected in my mind. It doesn’t matter the field or the sector you’re operating in; everyone seems to be exploring the ways in which those processes and technologies can help them do what they do better.

Tell us more about the work you’re doing at the National Women’s History Museum

The National Women’s History Museum is a wonderful cause that is focused on telling the contributions that women have made to American history — both in the past and the current. It’s about helping men and women understand how much of what we have today is the result of women’s leadership. So much of history is untold. Women aren’t represented enough in textbooks, parks, statues, etc. This isn’t because women didn’t contribute, which is often the assumption, but because we haven’t told their stories.

So now I feel like my involvement as the chair of the National Women’s History Museum board is much like helping turn around a startup. In this case, we’re not turning around the museum; rather, the museum is doing its part to turn around our telling of history. Our ability to go back and share the history of women’s contributions to society requires the same kinds of strategy, fundraising, board building, and other things that one would do in building or rebuilding an organization.

What advice do you have for someone who is looking to raise money from investors or start a company?

I bring my research background into evaluating opportunities for people to start businesses or build a business further. Clearly you need an idea — a product or service — but from what I’ve seen, it’s critical to do the market research and gain an understanding of the marketplace you’re looking at. Sometimes people are working on the same idea, and you want to know that before you invest a lot of time and money. Market research is also critical in understanding the industry, the customer base, and other aspects of the people you’re looking to serve.

Where do you go to learn?

I’ve always been a news junkie — much due to the work that I did for many years at Nielsen in the media business and my need to understand the market, clients, and what it took to run a very large business. I learned a long time ago that you need to understand the business of your clients, and that requires reading a lot. For me, that means reading a lot of news sources every day, many different points of view, both in broad news and industry-specific news. Given that I’m on the board of companies, being in-the-know is important for my ability to contribute to their success.

Another important way that I learn is by being involved in a lot of organizations where I can gain a deeper understanding of different aspects of life. I’m very inspired by people who are working hard to bring change — whether that’s social change, educational, or business — because I know how hard it is to go up against norms and put in the hours.

It’s notable that my experience with HPA has built on all of the things that I’ve mentioned. HPA has allowed me to see all different kinds of businesses and meet people and entrepreneurs with all different backgrounds. Then I get to apply all of that experience in different areas of my life. It’s been a really nice connective tissue to the different ways in which I like to learn and contribute.

The post How this Executive Applies Her Startup Expertise to Help Rewrite Women’s History appeared first on HPA.

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In my most-recent Forbes article, I shared about 12 Chicago-based VCs that are behind hot startups both within our region, like G2 Crowd, and beyond, like SpaceX. These firms tend to get a lot of buzz and make national headlines, but they are far from being the only venture investors in Chicago that fuel entrepreneurs.

There are a number of firms throughout Chicago that operate more under-the-radar while producing impressive returns to LPs, supporting exciting companies, and garnering the respect and recognition of their peers. In fact, many of these firms are setting an important standard for venture success by putting women at the forefront of their organizations. And while these Chicago-based firms may not be household names (yet), entrepreneurs and venture peers across the globe certainly know them well. In the interest of highlighting their remarkable work, here are 11 “under-the-radar” Chicago venture firms that drive both investor and entrepreneur excellence worldwide.

Adams Street Partners

Kicking off our list is Adams Street Partners. With more than $36 billion in assets under management for more than 400 pension plans, endowments, and other institutional investors, Adams Street is primarily known as a premier fund of funds. However, Adams Street is also in the growth equity business. Just last month, Adams Street led a $75 million Series E in London’s GoCardless, a local payment solution for global businesses, and the firm participated in a $43 million Series C round in PerimeterX, an Israeli-based cybersecurity startup. Earlier this year, their portfolio company TrendKite, which provides digital PR software solutions, was acquired by Cision, the leading provider of tools for marketing communications professionals around the world. The firm’s activity in both investments and exits this year alone signals its success in the VC world.

ARCH Venture Partners

Also receiving recognition in the VC world is ARCH Venture Partners. Just last month, the firm was named the 2019 Venture Firm of the Year Award by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).This NVCA honor is awarded to firms that foster entrepreneurial innovation and advance technology, and ARCH has certainly earned that distinction with portfolio companies like Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics. A cancer-fighting biotech company, Juno went public in 2014 and then in 2018 was acquired by Celgene for $9 billion. ARCH’s momentum is still strong; just this week, the firm led a $68 million Series B round in Boston-based Karuna Pharmaceuticals.

Baird Capital

Another firm that invests with an eye toward healthcare is globally-reaching firm Baird Capital. Baird has been a consistent investor across a host of industries, including technology, industrial solutions, and healthcare. One of the firm’s most recent investments was in Boston’s GreenLight Biosciences. GreenLight’s proprietary cell-free bio-production platform produces RNA-based solutions for agriculture and pharmaceutical applications. Baird participated in the startup’s $53 million Series C earlier this year.

Energize Ventures

Focusing on digital solutions that drive affordability, reliability, and security in the energy industry is woman-led firm Energize Ventures. The firm raised a $165 million fund last fall and has already made eight investments — three of those in 2019 alone. The startups Energize has empowered this year include Aurora Solar, the top software platform for distributed solar energy; Zededa, the leader in edge virtualization software; and Jupiter Intelligence, a provider of predictive data and analytics for climate risk. Energize led each company’s rounds, $20 million, $16 million, and $23 million, respectively.

Energy Foundry

Another energy-focused venture firm with a powerful woman Managing Director who is infusing capital into startups is Energy Foundry. Earlier this year, the firm led a $5.5 million Series A investment in NanoGraf Technologies, which makes longer lasting and faster charging batteries. Last November, Energy led a $9 million Series B in FLEx Lighting, which creates mobile device displays that use significantly less energy than what are used currently.

First Analysis

Boasting a 30+ year history with nearly $800 million deployed, one of the longest-standing venture firms in Chicago is First Analysis. First Analysis closed its 13th fund last summer, with $91 million of committed capital. The firm invests in environmental technology, healthcare, and software companies, such as Chrome River. Chrome River is an expense and invoice automation software company that streamlines organizations’ accounts payable processes. Just this month, the company merged with Certify in a transaction valued at over $1 billion.

Impact Engine

Another important Chicago player that recently received recognition by its venture peers is Impact Engine, a women-led impact investing fund that focuses on driving both financial and social returns. Last month, the firm was named to the global ImpactAssets50 list, which is an annual showcase of the impact firms that are investing in meaningful ways. One of Impact Engine’s most recent investments is CancerIQ, a startup that helps people identify and build health plans around their cancer risks.

Method Capital

Next on this list is the only firm that focuses primarily on the Midwest, Method Capital. Investing in the technology sector, the firm has seen two recent, successful exits by companies based here in Chicago. One was CityBase, a payment, analytics, and communication platform for cities and utility companies that was acquired last year by GTY Technology Holdings. The other recent exit was HighGround, an employee engagement and development platform that was acquired by YouEarnedIt, a Vista Equity portfolio company.

MK Capital

With offices in both Chicago and Ann Arbor, MK Capital invests nationally. Boasting a 25-year history of steady investments, MK primarily focuses on software and cloud service companies that are working to usher in the digital economy, such as high growth portfolio companies Llamasoft and Zefr. MK led both companies’ Series A rounds. While the firm infuses capital across the country, the partners fund great Chicago startups like Lightstream, which closed an $8 million round last month.

Sandbox

A venture firm that started in healthcare but has been steadily expanding is Sandbox Industries. The firm has three venture arms, including Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners, its original healthcare focus; Sandbox Insurtech Ventures, an InsureTech fund focused on helping people obtain better insurance coverage; and Cultivian Sandbox, a food and agriculture technology arm investing in improved industry sustainability. Just this month, Cultivian closed its third venture capital fund.

Tensility Venture Partners

The final firm on our list is Tensility Venture Partners, which is a seed and early-stage venture capital firm focused on AI-enabled enterprise software companies. Some of their key investment themes are cybersecurity, healthcare, and profit-optimization across industries where AI can significantly innovate and disrupt. The founding partners have invested in over 30 data-intensive startups and have seen two unicorn exits, including DocuSign and Duo Security. A Tensility portfolio company driving toward unicorn status is Anokiwave, a startup whose technology is playing a significant role in transitioning mobile consumers to 5G.

With steady investment hands across a wide variety of regions and industries, these Chicago-based firms are key players in supporting entrepreneurs worldwide. Although they may not constantly be in the Chicago venture limelight, they certainly brighten the paths of the entrepreneurs they serve, making it easier for them to find success. And they do all of this while making the venture community stronger, driving positive investment outcomes and with more women in the front seat.

Even better is the fact that these progressive and successful Chicago-based firms are not alone. There are many active angel investors, corporate VC firms, micro-VCs, and specialty sector VCs that are all driving innovation and contributing to the city’s strong venture capital ecosystem. I’ll feature many of them in future articles. While I can’t cover them all, you can learn about all of Chicago’s most active venture investors in PitchBook’s 2018 Chicago VC Ecosystem Report. Spoiler alert: Chicago’s investors are driving some of the best investment multiples in the country.

Originally featured in Forbes.

The post 11 Under-The-Radar Chicago VCs You Should Know About appeared first on HPA.

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Last week’s report about the state of women leadership in Chicago tech was a powerful reminder of where our successes are and where we can continue to improve. The data creates actionable opportunity for everyone — from individual contributors, to executives, to investors — to catalyze our city and industry toward fostering a more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem for all underestimated, and thus underrepresented, minorities in tech.

When thinking about the successes that we, as an ecosystem, can build upon, I was reminded of an entrepreneurial ecosystem where I continually see significant leadership among women: our fellow Midwestern city of Detroit. Although Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert receives a great deal of recognition for driving the city’s economic resurgence (understandably so), there are a number of women whose initiatives are powerful winds behind Detroit’s sail. So in the spirit of highlighting successes and in honor of International Women’s Day, here are 10 women who are at the helm of fueling an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Detroit:

Talent Incubation

April Boyle, Founder & Executive Director of Build Institute

Kicking off our list is April Boyle, the Founder and Executive Director of Build Institute. Founded in 2012, Build Institute provides classes, events, funding, and mentorship to help aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful companies. April and her team are doing their part to foster a more equitable and inclusive entrepreneurial community in Detroit. More than 80% of their aspiring entrepreneurs are women, more than half are ethnic minorities, and nearly 75% come from low- to moderate-incomes. Build then helps these graduates launch companies through a small business microloan program, which has a 98% repayment rate.

Amy Kaherl, Director of Curation at Ponyride & Co-Founder of Detroit SOUP

Next on our list is Amy Kaherl, who helps run Ponyride, a Detroit non-profit focused on making success a realistic opportunity for all. Amy and the Ponyride team make Detroit’s space accessible to artists, non-profits, and entrepreneurs who are working on social missions. Their space offers resources, community, diversity, and collaboration to help make Detroit a better place to thrive in all aspects of life. Amy also co-founded Detroit SOUP, which is a community-driven microgranting dinner where Detroiters support fellow Detroiters in funding projects across a variety of sectors. Winners of these dinners have gone on to create non-profits, businesses, after-school initiatives, and more.

Amanda Lewan, Co-Founder & CEO of Bamboo Detroit

Also incubating talent is Amanda Lewan, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bamboo Detroit. Bamboo was the first co-working space in the heart of downtown Detroit and has been recognized as one of the country’s top shared office spaces. Bamboo’s entire mission is centered around fostering inclusive entrepreneurship and economic impact. Amanda and her team execute this by helping companies of various sizes to launch, learn, and expand in Detroit. And when those companies outgrow Bamboo, Bamboo connects them with partner resources that help companies secure spaces that will take them to the next level.

Capital

Patti Glaza, Managing Director of Invest Detroit Ventures

It’s not enough to simply have an idea and the talent to strategize it, of course; entrepreneurs often need capital to help them execute on their strategy. In recent years, Detroit’s capital has increased to support its entrepreneurs. A notable leader in this is Patti Glaza, the Managing Director of Invest Detroit Ventures, which has invested in more than 100 Michigan-based companies in the last eight years. Patti and the ID Ventures team focus on supporting Michigan’s high-technology startup ecosystem. They do this not only through venture capital funding but by managing the Hacker Fellows program, which connects software developers to Michigan startups, and the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which brings together key ecosystem stakeholders for the purpose of catalyzing entrepreneurial growth through both expert mentorship and capital.

Pamela Lewis, Director of New Economy Initiative

While Detroit has seen an influx of venture capital, there are other programs that infuse significant capital into the growing ecosystem as well. Pamela Lewis is the Director of the New Economy Initiative, which is a $159 million philanthropic program that drives inclusive entrepreneurship and small business growth in Southeast Michigan. Pamela and her team award grants to a wide array of initiatives, from small hackathons, to university research parks, to venture capital funds. NEI’s support of more than 100 organizations has in turn helped nearly 10,000 businesses in the region either start or scale their operations.

Monica Wheat, Managing Director of Backstage Capital Detroit

Working on a new initiative to drive venture capital to Detroit is Monica Wheat of Backstage Capital Detroit. Monica has a deep history of supporting inclusive entrepreneurship throughout the city. As the Diversity & Inclusion Advisor at Detroit coding bootcamp Grand Circus, which focuses on giving individuals of all backgrounds access to tech jobs, Monica has helped support tech diversity for many years. As such, it is no surprise that she would lead Backstage Capital’s new Detroit accelerator. Officially launching in Detroit next week, Monica and the Backstage team are strategically building a bridge between the Bay Area’s financial resources and the underrepresented entrepreneurs driving Detroit innovation.

Ecosystem Support

Olivia Guterson, AfroTech Organizer

In addition to those women working to increase Detroit entrepreneurs’ access to capital and talent resources, there are women leaders in the community who strategically work to support the region as a vibrant hub of innovation. One of them is Olivia Guterson, who organized the first ever AfroTech conference held outside of the Bay Area. AfroTech’s mission is to support the black tech community, and after attending its San Francisco conference in early 2018, Olivia strategized to host the event in Detroit just a few months later. A community builder, former startup employee, and artist, Olivia is on a mission to leverage Detroit’s strengths to make it the black tech capital of the country.

Emily Heintz, Founder & Managing Director of EntryPoint

Also supporting Detroit-based events (among other key initiatives) is Emily Heintz, the Founder and Managing Director of EntryPoint. EntryPoint’s mission is to promote inclusive entrepreneurship in Michigan. Although based in Ann Arbor, Emily and her team at EntryPoint have spent the last year putting a special emphasis on Detroit. They partnered with Invest Detroit to run the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which I mentioned above. EntryPoint also conducted a significant research study that culminated in the 2018 Detroit Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Report. This report is the first of its kind for the city and allows investors, civic leaders, startup operators, and community supporters alike to better understand the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist in Detroit.

Lauren Hood, Community Development Consultant

In the same vein of supporting how people think about growing Detroit’s entrepreneurial community is community development consultant, Lauren Hood. A Detroit native, Lauren focuses on helping the city’s economy grow equitably by increasing awareness about how to enter Detroit thoughtfully and respectfully. Leveraging her expertise in both community engagement and economic development, Lauren empowers organizations to thoughtfully strategize how they can preserve the city’s rich heritage and build with the long-standing Detroit community, rather than displace it.

Jeanette Pierce, Founder & City Institute Director of Detroit Experience Factory

Also native to Detroit, Jeanette Pierce founded Detroit Experience Factory (DXF) with a goal of helping both Detroit locals and visitors have a deeper respect for and understanding of the city’s roots and growth. Jeanette and her team offer free, ticketed, and custom private tours that are led exclusively by Detroit local experts. These experts give attendees insight into the city’s rich history, its development, and how that development has impacted the local community. Of note is their Innovation tour, which takes attendees to some of Detroit’s most innovative hubs in order to highlight the city’s burgeoning entrepreneurial talent and traction.

Each of the women in this list contributes meaningfully and substantially to Detroit’s entrepreneurial resurgence in their own ways. What is special about them, however, is that they also work together. These leaders are helping Detroit build on its existing strengths through the collaboration of its talents, the sharing of its resources, and the common value of fostering an inclusive entrepreneurial community. They’ve had an undeniable impact on nurturing Detroit’s ecosystem of resources, and the city’s entrepreneurs — as well as our broader Midwest ecosystem — are better for their vision and leadership.

Originally featured in American Inno.

The post These 10 Women are Driving Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Growth appeared first on HPA.

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Chicago is quietly becoming a hotbed of venture capital that fuels technology startups — not just in Chicago but across the country and in a wide range of industries. For example, did you know that Calm, SpaceX, and Coinbase all received funding from Chicago VCs? There are dozens of top VCs in the area that anyone in the startup world should know about, especially those in healthcare, marketplaces, and logistics.

To give you a taste of why these VCs and their startups matter — not just in Chicago but to innovators and investors from coast to coast — here’s my overview of some of the region’s key VC players and an example deal from each of their portfolios. It’s important to note that there are several other under-the-radar Chicago VC firms as well, and I’ll cover them in the second part of this two-part series on VCs of Chicago.

7wire Ventures

A venture firm focused on healthcare, 7wire Ventures has a unicorn in its sights. Livongo Health, which received an $800 million valuation last April, combines data science with behavioral signals to help patients see a positive clinical impact on their chronic health conditions. Founded by Glen Tullman, the former CEO of Allscripts and Managing Partner at 7wire, the startup has a wealth of expertise in not only healthcare but in how to fuel startups to positive exits.

Chicago Ventures

Also creeping toward unicorn status is G2 Crowd, a very high-profile investment for Chicago Ventures. G2 Crowd closed a $55 million Series C last year to help expand the company worldwide. An enterprise software marketplace, the startup is a smart bet for Chicago Ventures. G2 Crowd has dual headquarters, one in the Bay Area, close to top tech talent and venture capitalists, and one in Chicago, close to a huge swath of Fortune 500 companies that can use G2 Crowd to evaluate software. Moreover, the company’s co-founder and CEO Godard Abel has ushered startups to positive exits before.

HPA

Another investment in a repeat entrepreneur is HPA’s backing of Catalytic. Like G2 Crowd’s Godard Abel and Livongo’s Glen Tullman, Catalytic CEO Sean Chou previously helped lead Fieldglass to a $1 billion exit. Catalytic develops people-friendly automation software that frees up humans from working on mundane processes to instead focus on value-add business contributions. Its recent $30 million Series B led by Intel and previous backers like NEA will allow the company to expand globally.

Hyde Park Venture Partners

Hyde Park Venture Partners has made some strong bets in Chicago’s logistics industry, most recently with FourKites. Just last month, the company closed a $50 million Series C round. HPVP was an early believer in FourKites and the company’s ability to achieve its aggressive growth plans. Moreover, FourKites is one of several Midwest-based startups that have received substantial dollars to innovate in the logistics industry.

Jump Capital

Jump Capital, which invests in a wide range of sectors including enterprise infrastructure and FinTech, kicked off the new year strong by co-leading a $20 million Series C investment in EdTech startup BenchPrep. A platform that allows educators and training program providers to create more engaging learning environments for students, BenchPrep is based in Chicago but also received strong support from coastal investors.

Lightbank

Founded by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell (who’s also the CEO of Uptake), Lightbank continued to back Tempus. Lefkofsky is the CEO of Tempus, a unicorn that  raised a $110 million Series E round last year and is now valued at $2 billion. The Chicago-based healthcare tech startup uses genomic sequencing technology to more successfully battle cancer and will use its new funding to expand to additional illnesses.

Listen Ventures

Also in the healthcare space, Listen Ventures was an early investor of Calm, an app that provides its users meditation techniques that increase mindfulness and help put a focus on mental health. Based in San Francisco, Calm is focused on leveraging technology to make the world healthier and happier. The startup, which reached unicorn status in its latest round announced last month, is a perfect match for Listen, which focuses on consumer products and goods that have a strong focus on branding.

MATH Venture Partners

In a similar “peace of mind” play, MATH Venture Partners recently backed IoT startup Jiobit. Jiobit allows parents to monitor their children’s — and pets’ — locations with a small tracking device and corresponding mobile app. A Chicago-based startup, Jiobit took on $6.5 million of new funding in November of last year.

OCA Ventures

Our last notable investment in the healthcare category is OCA Ventures’ backing of Regroup. Regroup is an integrated telehealth and telepsychiatry startup that is innovating to democratize mental healthcare. The company closed a $5.5 million round of funding last summer to make mental healthcare available to people everywhere via video conferencing.

Origin Ventures

Shifting gears entirely, Origin Ventures invested in social media marketplace startup Cameo last year. Cameo allows users to purchase personalized shoutout videos from their favorite musicians, actors, athletes, and influencers. While Cameo is one of Chicago’s sweetheart startups, the nature of its platform ensures that it has strong connections (including an office) in Los Angeles.

Pritzker Group Venture Capital

Chicago is among the top financial markets, so it’s no surprise that Pritzker Group Venture Capital, one of the city’s most active investors, would be keen on backing a top cryptocurrency startup, Coinbase. Coinbase, a San Francisco-based unicorn that trades digital currency, also opened a Chicago office, where it can grow a technology team in the heart of a strong financial market.

Valor Equity Partners

Finally, we have Valor Equity Partners, which led a $23 million Series C round in San Francisco-based Mode Analytics earlier in February. Mode allows those who rely heavily on data to easily collect, analyze, and share that data through a connected platform. Valor Equity Partners has invested heavily on the coasts, including in well-known, high-tech companies like Tesla and SpaceX.

These notable investments by some of Chicago’s top venture firms highlight the city’s deep strengths, such as healthcare, as well as its broad reach. It’s a strong sign of Chicago’s growing strength that a lot of our capital is being put to work in our own ecosystem and has reached the point of being able to strengthen Bay Area companies as well.

Note: Several of the companies associated with each venture capital firm have received investment from other firms on the list as well. For example, HPA invested in FourKites and Regroup as well.

Originally featured in Forbes.

The post 12 Chicago VCs You Should Know About appeared first on HPA.

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Getting to Know Kenny

An expert in mobility and two- and three-sided marketplaces, Kenny Tsai was an early employee and director/General Manager at Uber, where he led various business units such as Uber Freight and Uber’s rides in the Central U.S. Leveraging what he learned at Uber, Kenny became the COO of JUMP, which he left last July after being acquired by Uber. Now, Kenny is in Chicago where he’s exploring new business ventures, investing in companies through HPA, and advising entrepreneurs. He loves meeting people and learning about new ideas.

In this interview, Kenny shares his perspectives on successful entrepreneurship.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

Execution wins. Anyone can come up with an idea and even a plan, but how hard you work and execute determines how successful you will be. Additionally, and perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, work until you’ve reached your breaking point, then push harder – you’ll accomplish and learn a lot about yourself. Work / life balance will come later.

What inspires you to do what you do?

My parents emigrated from Taiwan in the ’70s to give me and my sister a better life. Understanding all the challenges they’ve faced — things I’m not certain I could do — inspires me.

What advice do you have for someone who’s looking to raise money from investors or start a company?

Talk to lots of people, know which metrics VCs look for, know your company and industry inside out, and make a slick pitch deck.

Where do you go to learn?

Books and experienced entrepreneurs are great resources, but real learning comes from doing. Move fast, experiment, make mistakes, iterate, and learn.

How do you recharge after a long day?

I need 30-minutes of cool-down at night. I’m currently re-watching Seinfeld.

The post Early UBER Leader Shares Insights on Executing as an Entrepreneur appeared first on HPA.

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Getting to Know Amanda

If you haven’t met Amanda Lannert, you should. She is the CEO of Jellyvision — which makes ALEX and is one of Chicago’s most successful tech companies. Beyond her own entrepreneurial success, however, Amanda invests in the success of emerging entrepreneurs as well. She invests in startups through HPA, where she serves as the co-chair of membership. She also serves on multiple boards; is a Council Member for the Zell Fellows Program at Kellogg; and is a “Super Mentor” for Chicago incubators Impact Engine and TechStars, where she was named Mentor of the Year. On top of all of those attributes, Amanda is quick to laugh and enjoys a good cupcake.

To kick off our Entrepreneur Insights series, we went straight to Amanda. Here she shares some of her best advice for entrepreneurs, what drives her, and the trends she sees in market.

What’s your advice for someone who’s looking to raise money from investors or in the early stages of starting a company?

Know your customers better than they know themselves, and have a plan for making repeatable revenue.
Click To Tweet
What’s an interesting trend you see in tech/entrepreneurship/VC right now?

The automation of boring but big ($$) two side marketplaces. And an appetite for solvency/cash flow positive businesses, even at earlier stages.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

It’s important to have audacious dreams.

What inspires you to do what you do?

People. Always the people. And the potential for meaningful, lasting impact.

Where do you go to learn?
  • To Amazon, where I buy and read more than 50 books a year
  • To Harvard Business School, where I spend a week a year with other CEOs through a YPO program
  • To multiple blogs and newsletters
  • To coffees and dinners with my peers and friends in Chicago tech who teach me things all the time
Last but not least, how do you recharge after a long day?

Drinking and binge watching Netflix, going for a run, and hanging with my husband and many daughters.

Keep up with Amanda’s insights on Twitter.

The post Dreaming Big with One of Chicago’s Most Successful CEOs appeared first on HPA.

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Last week, enterprise software marketplace G2 Crowd announced the winners of its Best Software Awards 2019. This is a list of the best software products and companies, according to G2 Crowd’s algorithm that analyzes 500,000 verified customer reviews of nearly 60,000 products.

Among that list are 11 Midwest companies that are not only top in the region but leaders in the world. G2 Crowd’s CMO Ryan Bonnici spoke of these companies’ strength, saying “Since G2 Crowd is headquartered in the Midwest, we hear about these companies all the time and certainly think they’re impressive. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see them win so many awards, which is clear evidence that their customers love them and recognize their value as well. We don’t pick the winners. Real customers and users do, which is a real statement to the quality of their software.”

Company G2 Crowd’s Best Software Award Location
ActiveCampaign
  • Top 50 SMB Products
  • Top 100 Software Companies
  • Top 100 Software Products
  • Top 50 Products for Marketing
Chicago, IL
Applied Systems
  • Top 50 SMB Products
  • Top 100 Software Companies
University Park, IL
Basecamp
  • Top 100 Software Companies
Chicago, IL
BigTime
  • Top 50 SMB Products
  • Top 100 Software Companies
Chicago, IL
Centro
  • Top 100 Software Companies
  • Top 50 SMB Products
Chicago, IL
Cision
  • Top 50 SMB Products
  • Top 50 Products for Marketing
  • Top 100 Software Products
  • Top 50 Products for Marketing
  • Top 50 Products for Marketing
Chicago, IL
Cleo
  • Top 50 Mid-Market Products
Rockford, IL
Lessonly
  • Top 50 Fastest Growing Products
  • Top 50 Mid-Market Products
Indianapolis, IN
Paylocity
  • Top 50 Mid-Market
  • Top 50 Fastest Growing Products
  • Top 100 Software Companies
Arlington Heights, IL
Sprout Social
  • Top 50 Products for Marketing
Chicago, IL
Techsmith
  • Top 100 Software Products
  • Top 100 Software Companies
Okemos, MI
Marketing

More than one-third of the Midwest software companies that received Best Software Awards operate in the marketing space, and all of those companies call Chicago home.

Raking in four awards on G2 Crowd’s list is Chicago-based ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign brings together three fundamental marketing tools: email newsletters, marketing automation, and a sales CRM. The result is human interaction maximized by automated marketing that drives personalized customer experiences at scale. Given their ability to help companies expand their customer communications leanly, it’s no surprise that ActiveCampaign has earned the favor of small-to-medium businesses.

Also driving marketing innovation is Sprout Social, which streamlines social media management and provides deeper insights into customer interests. A late stage startup, Sprout Social closed a $40.5 million Series D round last month, which it will use to further deepen its platform abilities and expand into new markets. Customers already find great value in what Sprout Social offers, however; the company was listed among the Top 50 Products for Marketing.

The third Midwest marketing company that earned G2 Crowd awards is digital media platform Centro. Centro allows customers to manage their digital marketing planning, reporting, and financials in a single, comprehensive place. Founded in 2001, Centro grew up in the digital age and has been deeply embedded in the digital media and digital marketing evolution. This expertise earned the company two different Best Software Awards.

Finally, the Midwest company that took home the most G2 Crowd awards was Cision. An established pillar in public relations, Cision creates public relations distribution and monitoring software. Headquartered in Chicago, the company received five separate awards for how its products help businesses target and engage their audiences.

Employee Support

Another sector in which Midwest leaders emerge is employee support software.

Indianapolis startup Lessonly is a leader in the team development and training space. The company’s learning management software helps companies to onboard new employees and get them up-to-speed quickly and efficiently. Lessonly has raised modest venture capital — and the company has put that capital to good use. The startup received a Top 50 Fastest Growing Products award, as well as a Top 50 SMB Products award.

Boasting a longer history supporting back office human resource operations is Chicago-area’s Paylocity. Paylocity has transformed the HR software market by combining both technology and services into a one-stop solution for companies. The company, which went public in 2014, has been a consistent force in Chicago’s tech ecosystem. It received three awards on G2 Crowd’s list, including Top 100 Software companies.

Employee Productivity

While Midwest companies are driving innovation in employee support at the HR level, they also shine in driving employee productivity. Notably, some of these companies have been anchors in their spaces for a long time.

Newer to the group is Chicago’s Basecamp. While the company was originally a web design consultancy, it has since transformed to produce tools that facilitate project management and team communication. Its flagship product, which eventually became the company’s namesake, helps teams to work cohesively and transparently. Basecamp received a place on the Top 100 Software Companies list.

Okemos, Michigan’s TechSmith was founded in the 1980s and develops video editing software Camtasia and screen capturing and screencasting software SnagIt, the latter of which got the company placed on G2 Crowd’s Top 100 Software Products list. The company was also listed among the Top 100 Software Companies. These are both remarkable accomplishments, particularly in a small city that doesn’t boast a huge tech talent pool.

An even older mainstay on the employee productivity list is the Chicago-area’s Cleo. Founded in the 1970s, like TechSmith, Cleo has weathered the tech booms and busts — and remained strong. The company develops a cohesive integration platform that allows small- and medium-sized businesses to connect their data across various systems. Their ability to do this exceptionally well earned them an award in the Top 50 Mid-Market Products.

Agency Support

The final area in which Midwest software companies scored high based on consumer recognition is in agency support.

One of those companies is Chicago’s BigTime, which produces time tracking and invoicing software to help agencies and professional service firms accurately track and bill for their time. The company was founded in 2002 and pivoted their entire customer base to a SaaS model to keep up with the transforming digital business landscape. The disruption to the customer base seems to be a challenge that the company successfully met, however. Their customer recognition earned them two G2 Crowd awards, including Top 50 SMB Products.

Last but certainly not least is a Chicago-based company that innovates in the insurance agency space. Applied Systems offers a variety of products to help connect companies that operate in insurance, a space in which Chicago has shown innovation. Applied System’s tools empower insurance agencies to access better data, communicate with stakeholders, and create greater customer value. The company’s product Epic earned a place on the Top 50 SMB Products list.

The strengths that these Midwest companies bring to their products are earning the respect and commitment of customers around the world. In turn, these companies further reinforce the Midwest as meaningful — and top performing — players in the tech ecosystem. The next step is to not let our feet off the gas pedals, so that we see even more Midwest companies on G2 Crowd’s lists in 2020.

Originally featured in Forbes.

The post The Top Enterprise Software Companies in the Midwest appeared first on HPA.

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As the new year gets underway, 2018’s fundraising numbers are rolling in, allowing us to get a snapshot of how the Midwest’s top startups fared. It was a good year for the Midwest, which we define here as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Here is a list of each Midwest state’s top VC investment in 2018, in order of smallest to largest rounds closed.

6. Wisconsin

Coming in at number 6, the largest VC investment in Wisconsin was in Propeller Health, with a $20 million round, led by AptarGroup, with participation from Safeguard ScientificsSocial CapitalHikma Ventures3M Ventures, and SR One. The company planned to use the money to expand its medical treatments beyond asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Just last month, however, Propeller was acquired by ResMed,a company that supports millions of people who suffer from respiratory disease. The addition of Propeller Health will help position ResMed as leaders in COPD patient management.

5. Indiana

Ahead of Propeller Health is Indiana’s Scale Computing, which according to an SEC filing closed $21 million of a strategic funding round in October. Scale Computing uses machine virtualization and data analysis to help IT administrators scale their operations. This latest round was led by Lenovo. The companies are strategically working together in direct competition with VMware.

4. Michigan

The largest VC deal in Michigan last year was an investment in Detroit-based StockX, a stock market of authenticity-guaranteed goods, like rare sneakers, watches, and designer clothes. StockX closed a $44 million round of funding that was co-led by Google Ventures and Battery Ventures. Also participating in the deal were Detroit Venture Partners and notable individuals like Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, rapper Eminem, and actor Mark Wahlberg.

3. Ohio

Cracking the nine-figure mark is Columbus, Ohio’s Root Insurance. Root closed a $100 million Series D round in August that was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Redpoint VenturesScale Venture Partners, and others. Root uses machine learning to develop personalized insurance quotes based on individuals’ driving behavior and has received a great deal of investor interest. In addition to the $100 million round in August, the company closed a $51 million round in March.

2. Illinois

In second place is Chicago’s Tempus Labs, which raised a $110 million Series E round last August. Tempus uses machine learning and health care data to provide actionable medical insights that drive better outcomes for individual patients. Baillie Gifford led the round, with participation from existing investors NEAT. Rowe Price, and Revolution Ventures. The company plans to the use the investment to expand into non-U.S. markets and provide insights about other diseases. Tempus had previously announced an $80 million round of funding in March, bringing its total 2018 funding to $190 million.

1. Minnesota

Finally, at $200 million, the largest VC deal the Midwest saw in 2018 was Minnesota’s Bright Health. Bright Health is transforming the U.S. health insurance and health care industries by making them both more affordable and more accessible to individuals. Declaration Partners and Meritech Capitalwere new investors in this round, which included renewed backing from Bessemer Venture PartnersGreycroftNEA, and Redpoint Ventures. The company will use the money to expand its offering to more markets and accelerate business growth.

The major investments we saw in these startups in 2018 further reinforce the Midwest’s expertise in industries like health care, insurance, and marketplaces. It will be interesting to see what these companies — and others emerging and gaining traction in the Midwest — do in 2019.

Originally featured in VentureBeat.

The post Breakdown of biggest VC raises in Midwestern states in 2018 appeared first on HPA.

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