Regional Investors Converge For 2008 Midwest Venture Summit

Regional Investors Converge For 2008 Midwest Venture Summit

March 25, 2008

CHICAGO - “ More than 400 attendees, which included more than 100 angel and venture capital investors, attended and participated in the 2008 Midwest Venture Summit. The two-day program included presentations from 50 growth-stage companies as well as high-level networking and educational opportunities. The summit succeeded as a result of the generous commitment of all event and investor sponsors.

- œI was impressed by the number of angel investors and venture capitalists in attendance throughout the two days,-  said McGuireWoods partner Scott Glickson. The law firm is a founding sponsor of the summit. - œThe IVCA put together a great opportunity for the companies seeking funding and for the rest of the community to get together. Though they're not always immediately visible, my experience is that [a] number of good things result from high-level events like this.- 

Glickson was a key organizer of the Midwest Venture Summit's predecessor event, which was called the Great Lakes Venture Capital Conference. In all, 18 Series A-plus companies, 24 early stage companies and eight business school companies presented in forums held at the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center on March 17 and the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on March 18.

The summit kicked off bright and early the morning of March 17 when highly prepared business students from the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, University of Illinois at Chicago, Southern Illinois University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University, Northwestern University and Loyola University competed for a $50,000 IL Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Entrepreneur's Challenge grant.

In addition to a little luck of the Irish, presenting companies were coached for the second straight year by Dennis Serio and the Illinois Business & Investors Forum. The $50,000 grant, which was the second time DCEO awarded such a prize to area business school companies, was shepherded by DCEO Managing Director of Illinois Entrepreneurship Jaime Viteri. The prize was announced by DCEO Director Jack Lavin.

- œThere are many challenges effecting start-ups - “ one of which is capital,-  Lavin said. - œAs we begin to feel the pinch of a nationally slowing economy, it is important to fuel entrepreneurship. While these companies are not making headlines today, years from now we can say the challenge grant helped the company.- 

ReTel Technologies, which is a University of Chicago-based company that uses RFID technology to bring shopper analytics and dynamic pricing to offline retail environments, won the highly competitive contest. Other companies included online career management company Avanya, - œtween-  interactive marketing firm eMotion, solar power company Greenlight Planet, medical device company HeartSounds, biodiesel technology supplier Midwest Energy Group, medical footwear manufacturer Rhea Mobility and coupon delivery firm Samplesaint.

The Business Plan Competition room was sponsored by Winston & Strawn LLP. Presentations were judged by a panel of early stage investors as well as attorneys and professional service providers that focus on that stage.

The early stage competition featured 24 companies competing for a $70,000 grant from uber-angel investor Bob Geras. Geras donated the capital to inspire young companies presenting as a way to celebrate his 70th birthday. A lump-throated Geras shared his motivation for providing the grant during the March 18 breakfast keynote.

He said: - œWhy the $70,000? After having been in this crazy business for most of my life, I thought celebrating my 70 years on this Earth by giving some needy young entrepreneur $1,000 for every year of my wacky life would be fun.-  A transcript of that speech can be found here.

Companies from the Internet, software and life sciences sectors competed in two jam-packed rooms on March 17 for the $70,000 prize. These presentations were facilitated by Fred Hoch of the Illinois Information Technology Association (ITA), David Weinstein of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, Barbara Goodman of iBIO and Joe Kremer of the Wisconsin Angel Network.

Of the highly focused and prepared presentations, PatientImpact in Evanston, Ill. stood out for Geras and the other angel investors who served as judges. PatientImpact helps doctor's offices and health care companies better communicate with their customers via online surveys. PatientImpact CEO Patty Riskind said her success was largely due to the coaching she was provided.

- œI had a business-changing experience with the Midwest Venture Summit,-  Riskind said. - œMy coaches were Tom Churchwell from Midwest Venture Partners and Don Jenkins from the Technology Ventures Group. They not only helped me improve my PowerPoint presentation but truly helped me evaluate the potential of my business, my financing goals and how I wanted to grow my company. They pushed me and it was worth it. I learned more in three weeks than I ever expected. Now I plan to take what I learned and implement!- 

All presenting companies had access to IVCA investor members for valuable coaching and mentorship opportunities. It showed during the presentations.

Other companies presenting included General Biomass; Aursos; Colby Pharmaceutical; HeartSounds; Bio Integrated Solutions; SureGene; Medical Technology Systems; Axxess Biometrics; iSocket; Segmint, Inc.; Go Child Grow; The Perfect Dinner; Home School; PrepMe; eXtreme Networking;; ParkWhiz; AdRefinery; Clairvista; Leo Software; Global Velocity; Go2Call Software; and MicroBlade.

After a day of showcasing university and early stage business plans, more than 250 Midwest Venture Summit attendees met at McCormick & Schmick's for an energetic and enthusiastic cocktail networking reception. There is no telling how many deals and partnerships can be done when you bring together the community's critical mass of venture investors, entrepreneurs and high-level service providers.

Green was in the air in many ways as the event also served as a celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

The celebration was tempered enough for a full house the morning of March 18. IVCA Chairman Danny Rosenberg kicked off the day and introduced Bob Geras to officially present the 2008 Bob Geras Grant. After the breakfast, attendees were treated to a day of 18 Series A+ company presentations and highly focused industry and informational content.

Among the presenters were Firm58, which is a New World Ventures-backed company that's seeking $7 million in its second round of financing.

New Firm58 CEO Curt Witte said the company's market of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery for financial firms to account for their transactions is already at $1.7 billion. Liquidus On Demand Marketing CEO Todd Holmes is raising up to $5 million to fund his company's expansion into Internet video markets. The company currently provides video production services for Comcast and several other cable companies.

FastRoot CEO Terry Howerton noted that many of the presenting companies are also customers of his firm, which markets SaaS services to software companies. FastRoot is raising $4.5 million. Univa UD CEO Jason Liu noted that his firm has received a $10 million offer sheet. Univa is funded by New World Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners and OCA Ventures.

Other companies that presented included Accuri Cytometers, Adams Harris, Apogee Software, Bias Power, Hybra-Drive Systems, HyperQuest, LifeSeat Corporation, Mobile Armor, Nerites Corp., Nuestra Casa International, Payment Pathways, Reserve Brands, Sword Diagnostics and TPD, Inc.

Before lunch, three panels focusing on venture and angel topics were available for participation. The Midwest Showcase Companies, which was sponsored by Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and moderated by Mike Rosenthal, highlighted the SAVO Group, a portfolio company of Sterling Partners,  and SmartSignal and TomoTherapy. All three companies noted that they were decade-old overnight sensations, which is an attribute common in the Midwest.
Sponsor Reed Smith's Frank Ballantine moderated a VC panel on the Outlook for Exits to Strategic Buyers.  Panelists included Matthew Levin, Hewitt Associates, Warren Holtsberg, MVC Capital, Phil Gerskovich, Zebra Technologies and Michael Bruns, Robert W. Baird & Co.
The third panel of the morning was an angel roundtable that focused on diversifying the angel portfolio.

Lunchtime keynote John Gartner, who is the author of - œThe Hypomanic Edge,-  shared his thesis about why a little bit of mania is a common if not useful trait of successful entrepreneurs. In his own highly kinetic style, Gartner believes hypomania is a unique trait of both immigrants and entrepreneurs. He noted that the top four countries in the world starting new businesses - “ the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia - “ are all immigrant-founded countries.

Before the conclusion of the March 18 programming, the Midwest Venture Summit offered three final panels.
A panel moderated by Robert - œMac-  Hofeditz of Probitas Partners looked into the current market for raising funds in the early stage venture sector. The panelists - “ including Kevin Callahan of Adams Street Partners, Timothy Wegener of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Shari Young of Ennis Knupp + Associates and Jon Madorsky of RCP Advisors - “ cautioned general partners not to focus too much on today's economic climate.
An additional panel sponsored by The Revere Group and moderated by Michael Parks discussed CIOs review of 2008 - IT Trends and Outlook.  Panelists included Debbie Wilson, Hub International, Mike Zanilla, WMS Industries and Loren Claypool, Extendicare Health Services.
An additional roundtable for angels on deal syndication was also offered to accredited investors. Both angel panels drew nearly 40 investors each.
The Midwest Venture Investors only have a couple weeks to catch their breath before the next gathering. Stay tuned for the IVCA/NVCA annual luncheon on April 16 featuring economic consultant Carl Tannenbaum.