Wilhelm's Hopewell Ventures finds good VC value in Midwest
August 21, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
After helping Bill
Clinton and Rod Blagojevich get elected, and chairing the Democratic
National Committee, entrepreneur and political adviser David Wilhelm
trained his sights on a difficult task. In September 2004, Wilhelm
launched Hopewell Ventures to prove there are good entrepreneurial
companies in the Midwest.
it's too soon to assess Hopewell Ventures' financial returns,
Wilhelm is making good on his promise to raise money and back
Illinois companies. According to the latest MoneyTree report,
during its first full year, his relatively small firm, with only
$110 million under management, invested $10.94 million in Illinois
companies, more than any other Illinois VC.
thought there was something seriously out of whack," Wilhelm
says, referring to an oft-heard assertion by local VCs that they'd
invest in more Illinois companies if more Illinois companies had
good business plans. "There are plenty of good deals. It's
surprising a small fund like ours in its first year would wind
up No. 1. It says a lot about the size of the capital gap."
Hopewell managing partner
Bill Sutter says, "We've uncovered many interesting enterprises."
Hopewell's deals include investments in InStadium, TLContact,
CompassCare, CSMG and iTRACS.
Sutter is pumped about
Hopewell's recent investment in Lansing-based National Pasteurized
"NPE holds the
only commercially available FDA-approved process for pasteurizing
eggs in the shell," Sutter says. "Their disruptive technology
could eliminate illnesses caused by egg-borne salmonella and bacteria."
Sutter thinks the technology could prove critical if a major bird-flu
outbreak occurs because in-shell pasteurization could assure egg
themselves to finding the best possible deals in Illinois,"
says Maura O'Hara, Illinois Venture Capital Association executive
director. She credits Hopewell with being flexible and not limiting
investments to a particular growth stage or industry.
seeking a fast track to Series A funding should visit www.MidwestVentureSummit.com
before Sept. 5. The link goes to the home page of the Illinois
Venture Capital Association's Midwest Venture Summit, which takes
place Nov. 1.
The summit was launched
in 2003 to showcase entrepreneurial companies and connect them
with VCs. It has helped raise more than $160 million for entrepreneurial
To qualify to present
in the Series A category, a company should already have raised
start-up capital, have revenues and a proven business model, and
be in the Midwest. High growth companies seeking capital should
check it out.
Rattan Khosa, founder
and CEO of Amsysco Inc., is a successful Chicago entrepreneur.
He doesn't have a computer on his desk, yet he uses technology
innovation to drive down costs.
Khosa's specialty steel
cables add strength to high-rise buildings. They can be found
supporting airport terminals and parking garages across the Midwest.
Khosa came to the U.S.
from India in 1969 with pennies in his pocket. "It was a
rude awakening," he laughs. "I had a scholarship to
study engineering at the University of Maryland. I only had $8
when I got off the plane. I expected someone from the university
to meet me at the airport with a check."
Khosa quickly learned.
He earned a degree in engineering from Maryland and an MBA from
the University of Chicago.
He expected a corporate
career. He worked for a major steel company. Suddenly with a wife
and a two-year-old to support, Khosa was laid off. It was the
best thing that could have happened to him.
He launched his company
in the basement of his Downers Grove home in 1981. Today business
is booming. "Our product costs are the same today as when
I started 25 years ago," Khosa says. "Unless you spend
money on technology, you can't achieve efficiency."
Khosa's other tip for
entrepreneurs: Share your success with your employees. Last year
was a record year. He paid his employees an across-the-board bonus
of 25 percent of their pay.
c. stars holds its "Big Bang" event Friday
at the Northern Trust. Panelists include CNA CIO John Golden,
Baxter CIO Karenann Terrell and Laidlaw Education Services CIO
Industry Organization will stage the Midwest's largest
annual showcase for biotech and medical-device companies in Cleveland
Sept. 25-27. Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach
will keynote. For info, go to http://www.bio.org/
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.