Informance performance draws VC applause
April 4, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
John Oskin, 42, is
something unusual in Chicago. He's the founder of a software company
serving the manufacturing industry headquartered in Northbrook,
not Silicon Valley.
company, Informance International, helps manufacturers measure
and improve operating performance.
make America more competitive marrying financial information and
lean manufacturing techniques," says Oskin.
With the typical
U.S. factory running at less than 50 percent efficiency, Oskin
wants to protect domestic manufacturing jobs by improving factory
customers are looking to be competitive and keep jobs on shore,"
include packaged goods leader Unilever, chemicals giant ICI, and
big pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson, Novartis
and Wyeth. Oskin has even iced Chicago's own World's Finest Chocolate
as a customer. Talk about a sweet start-up. Oskin's running one.
At least he was.
Oskin demoted himself to executive vice president of strategy
to make room for Michael Ker to become CEO. Ker is a veteran software
company executive, having run Canada-based WebPlan for nine years.
a $6 million series B round of funding in December with bicoastal
support. California-based Mayfield and Virginia-based New Enterprise
Associates anted up with Cargill Ventures, Minneapolis, also part
of the mix.
results and Fortune 500 customer base made the VCs salivate.
a phenomenal fourth quarter," says Oskin. "We grew by
150 percent over the prior year's fourth quarter and 200 percent
from Q3 to Q4 in revenue."
his craft at GE's appliance division, where he worked after graduating
from the University of Louisville. His claim to fame was doubling
the output at GE's fractional-horsepower motor facility. Those
are the motors that go in your dishwasher.
provided the springboard for his software venture. Not bad for
a fellow who grew up near Harlem and Irving in the shadow of O'Hare's
has a done a great job building a software company," says
David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial
Center. "He's attracted great VCs, and he's got George Roberts,
Oracle sales EVP, to serve on his board. That's the type of talent
we want working with our local companies. He's huge," says
be a sleepy town. The residents probably didn't notice the giants
of technology wandering into Northwestern University's Allen Center
for the 11th Annual Kellogg Technology Conference.
In the lobby,
the man who brought the Kellogg School of Management to prominence,
former Northwestern business school dean Don Jacobs, was quietly
reading the Financial Times. No one noticed him, either.
the tech classic Crossing the Chasm, Geoff Moore, who wrote the
book on building a startup company, keynoted the event.
followed by Matt Szulik, CEO of Linux software provider RedHat,
and Dan Rosensweig, COO of Yahoo.
The MBA candidates
got the message. Mina Arsala, 29, a first-year MBA candidate,
wants to work this summer at Ed Zander's Motorola. Says Arsala,
"I think high tech is dynamic. It changes every day."
professor of technology and director of NU's Center for Research
in Technology and Innovation, drew a strong crowd. Sawhney's mantra:
"Why market soap when you can market technology?"
tech boom isn't over at Northwestern.
leading members of Chicago's innovation community Thursday at
its Innovation Roundtable Workshop at the Swissotel. The meeting
gathers Chicago's top VCs, academics and execs from emerging software
companies. Dave Carlquist, IBM central region vice president,
is on tap to speak.
The IBM event
coincides with the National Venture Capital Association and Illinois
Venture Capital Association lunch Thursday at the Fairmont. NVCA
President Mark Heesen and Adams Street Partners' T. Bondurant
French will expound on the current state of the private equity
Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.