Venture summit signals new collaboration
April 26, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
community takes a major step forward Thursday when the Midwest
Venture Summit convenes at the Sheraton Chicago. The event signals
a new collaboration among local venture capitalists at a time
when returns on venture investing are rising. The event could
become a global magnet for attracting investors, though organizers
are taking things one step at a time.
value of the conference is twofold," says Mark Glennon, vice
president, Leo Capital Holdings. "It creates a public profile
for the entrepreneurial community, and entrepreneurs get introduced
to investors. Deals get done at the conference."
showcases 26 entrepreneurial organizations seeking venture funding.
Local presenters include: Arxan Technologies (software security),
BridgePort Networks (mobile telecommunications), Dakota Beef (organic
beef distribution), nPhase (machine to machine wireless sensors),
PEAT International (waste remediation), Profind (Web recruiting
technologies) and Renew Power (micro fuel cells).
Like a juried
art fair, companies are vetted by a committee of VCs, and assigned
a coach to assure the presentations and business cases are top-notch.
also showcases research under way at local companies and universities.
Presenters in that group include: Caterpillar, Battelle/NASA,
Motorola, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and
timing is opportune. Thomson Venture Economics reports private
equity delivered an 18.3 percent performance in the fourth quarter,
the second consecutive up quarter after three years of negative
returns. Though one-year returns for venture investors were lower
at 8.1 percent, the trend is clearly positive.
a slow, steady recovery for venture capital nationally,"
says J.B. Pritzker, partner, New World Ventures in Evanston. "We've
seen more deals lately. Entrepreneurship is picking up. A few
more people seem willing to leave their corporate jobs to be an
entrepreneur. I have enormous respect for people who do that.
It's the business world's equivalent to conquering the frontier."
for local optimism is the measured approach organizers are taking
to the event.
expect venture capital nirvana," says Steve Beitler, chairman,
Illinois Venture Capital Association, and senior managing director
of Dunrath Capital. "Illinois is the sixth most populous
state. We're 11th in venture funding. It's reasonable for us to
move from 11th to 6th."
Glennon and Pritzker, along with Scott Glickson, partner Gordon
& Glickson; Dean Stieber, partner, KPMG, and Maura O'Hara,
executive director, Illinois Venture Capital Association, with
creating this week's momentum.
among local private equity leaders bodes well. That ultimately
means more locally based entrepreneurial ventures and more jobs.
Concourse Communications is widening wireless Internet access
at a second terminal at Detroit's Metro airport.
on La Salle Street, Concourse wirelessly connects travelers' laptops
at New York's LaGuardia, Newark's Liberty and Minneapolis-St.
Paul International airports. Accord-ing to Concourse President
Joe Beatty, service expands this week at Kennedy International.
to Chicago last summer," says Beatty, who is no stranger
to Chicago or the telecommunications industry. Beatty grew up
near 83rd and Pulaski, and is one of four founders of Focal Communications,
a competitive local exchange carrier. He earned his MBA at the
University of Chicago, where today's curriculum includes a case
study of Beatty's Focal experience.
on campus last week teaching the case in Professor Steve Kaplan's
entrepreneurial finance class.
seeing great results in Wi-Fi uptake at airports," adds Beatty,
who reports his company's services increased 35 percent each month
in the first quarter. Concourse's advantage, Beatty says, is its
role as a "neutral host." Concourse allows access to
multiple wireless providers. "You can't be a Boingo Wireless
customer and use a T-Mobile hot spot. If Concourse provides service,
anyone can be connected," he says. Beatty believes his model
best serves travelers and airport operators.
Dennis Hastert appears today at a fund-raiser for the Illinois
Coalition. ... Text message promoter Vibes Media inks deals with
Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's and U.S. Cellular.
Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.