Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chicago Venture Capital Firms & Angel Investor Networks

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/28/2013

Below is a list of selected venture capital firms that are actively investing in Chicago.  All of them will look at technology related s...


Below is a list of selected venture capital firms that are actively investing in Chicago.  All of them will look at technology related startups, although many invest in additional industries, as well.  Please research them at their linked websites, to see who may be the best fit for you.  I organized this list in terms of stage of investment focus, from early to late stage investors.  So, please don't reach out to VC's if you do not fit their target criteria.  And, be sure to research their specific technology focus on their websites (e.g., healthcare, education, digital media, SaaS), to make sure your business is a fit for them.  I have added notes below, if they were available from their websites.  Also, as a reminder, don't blindly cold call these companies.  It is always best to have a warm intro into one of their partners, where Red Rocket or others may be able to help here.

ANGEL INVESTOR NETWORKS IN CHICAGO

Chicago ArchAngels  medical, green tech, clean energy, fin svs., education, CPG, others

Cornerstone Angels  clean tech, software, internet, mobile, mfg., industrial, consumer, food/bev., biz svs., health, medical

Harvard Angels  generalist

Heartland Angels  science, retail, mfg., distribution, telecom, info tech

Hyde Park Angels  digital media/tech, biz/fin. svs., consumer, health

Irish Angels

MD Angels

Pipeline Angels  women founders

Purple Arch Ventures  co-invest along other VC's; generalists

West Suburban Angels  info tech, biz svs., industrial, finance, CPG, health


SEED STAGE (Up to $250K checks from $0 revenues)

Birdsong Ventures consumer, media, healthcare, SaaS, OTT

Cardigan Ventures  tech

Founder Equity

Fulcrum Investing  all industries, 25% pre-revenue, $25-$100K checks

G2T3V insurance, auto, media, marketing, data, customer satisfaction, tech, education

Harbor Street Ventures

Illinois Ventures  university based research

Impact Engine  education, health, better economy, lower resources

Jumpstart Ventures

KB Partners  tech, medical, industrial, real estate, consumer

KGC Capital

Kilmahew Group  food, food service, healthcare tech, SaaS, virtual reality

Koh Founders  B2B, marketplace, health, AI, messaging, IoT, inefficiencies, software, svs., mobile

Laveer Capital  consumer, business, real estate

Listen Ventures  brands

M25 Group  Midwest, generalist

Network Ventures  Midwest, marketplace, networks, platforms

OS Fund  "see beyond our lifetimes"

Rebellion Partners  financial, B2B marketplaces, cloud, data

Ringleader Ventures  health, insurance, consumer

Tribal Ventures

Vue Ventures  Midwest

Washing Pond Ventures  software, consumer, B2B, social enterprise, events

West Loop Ventures  financial tech

Also, be sure to research this list of Chicago startup accelerators as some invest capital.

EARLY STAGE (Up to $500K checks in under $500K revenues)

ARCH Venture Partners  life sciences, physical sciences, info tech

Abundant Venture Partners  human wellness, performance & engagement

Batterson Venture Partners  high tech, bio tech, energy, medical, media

Bluestein & Associates  tech-enabled services, food related (retail/cpg/supply), ecommerce/retail

Breakpoint Ventures  real estate, law, tech, financial

Ceres Venture Fund  Midwest, health, info tech, biz svs.

Corazon Capital

DRW Venture Partners  financial, technology

Energy Foundry  energy

FireStarter Fund  digital tech

Garland Capital

Graphene Ventures  B2B SaaS, collaboration economy, mobile svs.

Guild Capital  contrarian, non-VC friendly, underserved geographies

Hyde Park Venture Partners  Midwest, B2B SaaS, consumer marketplace

Independence Equity  natural resource utilization

Lakewest Venture Partners  Chicago, generalist

Lead Lap  biz svs., consumer

Math Venture Partners

Next Gen Venture Partners  "network driven", like an angel network

Nin Ventures  crowd-based, finance, education, internet, digital media, mobile comms, cloud

Sandbox Industries  health, food/agriculture

Serra Ventures  Midwest, SaaS across all industries

Synetro Group  B2B software, biz svs., niche CPG

Wicklow Capital

SERIES A STAGE ($500K-$1MM checks in $500K-$1MM revenues)

Breakout Capital  consumer that can leverage their inhouse creative agency (fundless sponsor)

Bridge Investments  biz svs., SaaS, consumer, ecommerce, niche mfg., health, real estate

Chicago Ventures  ecommerce, data, education, health, marketplace, media, payments, SaaS

Cultivian Sandbox  food/agriculture

LEO Capital  entertainment, youth, internet, mobile, health

Lightbank  generalist

Jump Capital  enterprise SaaS, fin tech, health, marketplace

Moderne Ventures  real estate, mortgages, fin. svs., home svs.

OCA Ventures  tech, financial, education, health

Origin Ventures  ecommerce, digital media, ad tech, SaaS

Promus Ventures  analytics, data, mobile, digital media, connected web

Red Barn Investments

Second Century Ventures  SaaS, data, digital media, fin tech, biz. svs.

7 Wire Ventures  health

2x Partners  consumer products, food

Wintrust Ventures

SERIES A/B STAGE ($1-$5MM checks in $1-$5MM revenues)

Apex Venture Partners  tech svs., (B2B and B2C), info tech, clean tech

Baird Venture Partners  health, industrial, technology, services

Duchossois Capital  health, education

First Analysis  technology, health

Kenex Holdings (can do seed stage too)  mfg., food/bev, agric., transport, logistics, infrastructure

MK Capital  digital media, data, sotware, education

Matthew Pritzker Company

Pritzker Group Venture Capital  consumer, enterprise, health, emerging

R7 Partners  "big things"

Range Light  active life, natural foods, tech svs.

Romar Partners  B2B tech

SERIES B/C STAGE ($5-$20MM checks in over $5MM revenues)

Adams Street Partners  software, mobile, health, security, finance

Chicago Growth Partners  education, tech svs., health, industrial

JK&B Capital  comms., info tech, health

KDWC Ventures  B2B tech

Merrick Ventures  marketplace

MVC Capital  CPG, food, distribution, industrial, mfg., finance, insurance, chemicals

Sterling Partners  biz svs., education, health

CORPORATE FUNDS

Abbott Ventures

Abbvie Biotech Ventures

Allstate Investments

Baxter Ventures

Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners

CME Ventures

DV X Labs (DeVry EdTech Accelerator)

Mondelez Shopper Futures

Motorola Solutions Venture Capital

Walgreens Well Ventures

FAMILY INVESTMENT OFFICES

See this list of Chicago family offices

REGIONAL FIRMS THAT LOOK AT CHICAGO DEALS

Beringea (Detroit)--Series A/B stage, helath, life svs., info tech, clean tech, CPG, mfg., media, biz svs., retail, leisure

Blossom Street Ventures (Dallas)--Series A stage, generalist.

Castlestone Capital (Dallas)--Seed stage, SaaS, finance, health, enterprise apps

Calumet Ventures (Madison)--Early stage, Midwest

Chrysalis Ventures (Louisville)--Series A/B stage, health, technology

CID Capital (Indianapolis)--Series B/C stage, CPG, industrial products

Connectic Ventures (Cincinnati Area)--Seed stage, tech

Detroit Venture Partners (Detroit)--Early stage

Drive Capital (Columbus)--Series A stage

Dundee Venture Capital (Omaha)--Early stage, ecommerce, SaaS, consumer networks

Firebrand Ventures (Kansas City) --Early stage, Midwest, generalist

4490 Ventures  (Madison)--Series A, Midwest, software, or enabled IoT hardware in health, mktg, business services, industrial, agriculture, logistics, transportation.

Frontier Capital (Charlotte)--Series B/C sates, software, services

Grand Ventures (Grand Rapids)--Seed/Series A stage, Midwest, mfg., agric., energy, food, transp. and mobility

Huron River Ventures (Ann Arbor)--Early stage, Midwest, agric., energy, transport

Matchstick Ventures (Minneapolis)--Early stage

Mercury Fund (Houston)--Early stage, Mid-Continent, enterprise B2B, SaaS, cloud computing, data

NorthCoast Technology Investors (Ann Arbor)  Midwest, software, comms., mat. sciences, medical

Omphalos Ventures (Minneapolis)--Early stage, consumer, health, info tech

Open Prairie (Illinois/Michigan/Kansas)--Early stage, agric., life sciences, medical, software, info tech, energy, mfg., real estate

Pallasite Ventures (Vancouver)--Seed/Series A, technology, CPG

Plymouth Ventures (Ann Arbor)--Series A stage, Midwest, B2B

Resonant Venture Partners (Ann Arbor)-Seed/Series A, super compute, security, industrial IoT, cloud

RPM Ventures (Ann Arbor)--Early stage, B2B SaaS, cloud, social infrastructure, marketplace, auto

River Cities Capital (Cincinnati)--Series A/B stage, health, info tech

T Gap Ventures (Kalamazoo)--Series A/B stage, software, life sciences, medical, internet infrastructure, specialty mfg., plastics, data/comm tech

Venture Investors (Madison/Ann Arbor)--Seed/Series A, health, health tech

Vine Street Ventures (Cincinnati)--Early stage, internet, mobile

In addition, don't forget, many startup accelerator or incubator programs in Chicago will also provide cash for their startups.  And, there are many other anonymous angel investors who invest in startups, that you need a solid introduction into those high net worth individuals.  So, be sure to tap into your networks for these other sources of capital.

If you think I am missing anybody.  Please add them in the comments field below.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the social sharing buttons to share with your social networks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lesson #144: Remove All Friction From Your Sales Process

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/20/2013

In physics, friction between two items creates resistance, impeding maximum velocity.  The same holds true in business; any friction created...

In physics, friction between two items creates resistance, impeding maximum velocity.  The same holds true in business; any friction created between you and your customers, will limit your full sales potential.  So, this lesson will help you identify what types of things create sales friction for businesses, and how best to "lubricate" those issues for maximum sales performance.

To me, sales friction is typically bundled into the following categories:

RESISTANCE TO COMPANY OR BRAND

If a customer does not trust a company, it will not do business with that company.  So, you want to do everything you can to increase trust around your brand.  This includes: (i) having a professional looking website; (ii) visible customer reviews from happy past customers; (iii) featured mentions in brand name media outlets; and (iv) icons and high scores from reputable credibility checkers (e.g., Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe privacy), to name a few.  Put on the hat of your customers, and ask if you would make a first purchase from your company, if you knew nothing about it.  Startups have the biggest hurdles here, so do whatever you can to alleviate any fears customers may have about buying from your business. And, keep religious focus on your company reputation, especially in social conversations, to learn what people are saying about your business, and to address such items.

RESISTANCE TO PRODUCT OR SERVICE

If a customer does not like the product or service being offered, compared to other competitive products or services in the market, it will not do business with that company.  So, take a critical look at all the competitive products or services that are available in your market, and compare your own business, to see how you stack up.  Does your product or service have better functionality and features?  Do you have better customer service?  If not, go back to the drawing board, to figure out how you can gain a competitive advantage.  And, clearly communicate such competitive advantage in your marketing materials.

RESISTANCE TO PRICING

If your prices are too high, or do not bring a high enough value to your customers, they will never buy from you.  My rule of thumb is to price your product or service, at a discount to your competitors, on things that are largely similar.  Or, price your product at the same level as your competitors, but add in additional features and functionalities, that makes the consumer feel they are getting a "bigger bang for their buck" and more value when buying from you.  In Lesson #143, we talked about "freemium" pricing techniques, which I think work great for removing any price related friction from the sales process, as who isn't going to be willing to try out a product for free?  And, when comparing prices, be sure to fully load your prices for things like taxes, fees and shipping, as your customers will be doing the same.

RESISTANCE TO POLICIES

If there are any surprises in the purchase process, or the consumer has any sense of fear related to the purchase or the company's policies, they will abandon their cart and not purchase from you.   This includes things like: (i) do you offer free shipping; (ii) can customers return products to you with free shipping; (iii) can customers return the products to your stores, as well as your online fulfillment center; (iv) do you offer an unconditional customer satisfaction guarantee; (v) do you provide cash refunds, or only store credit; (vi) did you include any unexpected service charges, on top of the product price; (vii) did you give customers the option to locate inventory in your closest store, in case they are nervous about buying online; and (viii) did you give the customer the option to book over the phone, in addition to the web.  Make sure you are 100% customer-friendly in all of your policy making. 

RESISTANCE IN USER EXPERIENCE

If buying from you is not easy, customers will shop elsewhere.  So, it is critical you optimize your user experience.  This includes things like: (i) keeping your site speed fast; (ii) making it easy to find items with site search and navigation; (iii) having a clean site page design that is not cluttered or confusing; (iv) using nice photos or videos to help sell the products or services; (v) offering a live chat option for answering questions while people are shopping the site; (vi) showing sample reports or screenshots of what customers can expect from your service; (vii) making sure inventory is in stock; (viii) making sure it is clear what date the product will be shipped and received by the customer; and (ix) keeping any order forms as short and sweet as possible, without too many fields to fill in.

So, as you can see, there are lots of potential friction points between you and your customers.  Make sure you are doing your best to have a few friction points as possible, and optimize your business for maximum sales performance of each over time.

For future posts, please follow me at: www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the social sharing buttons to share with your social networks.

Monday, May 13, 2013

[NEWS] Red Rocket Blog Readers Save 15% on Techweek Chicago Passes

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/13/2013

Techweek is one of the premier technology focused conferences and expos in Chicago each year.  Thousands of people attend to hear presentat...

Techweek is one of the premier technology focused conferences and expos in Chicago each year.  Thousands of people attend to hear presentations from big-name industry executives, learn about hundreds of startups in the exhibition hall and for general networking purposes.  I have been involved as a panelist or judge in each of the last two years, and will be involved again this year.  So, for these reasons, Red Rocket agreed to become a media partner for this year's event, helping to get the word out there to my readers.

This year's event is only a few weeks away and will be held from June 27-29, 2013 on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.  You are recommended to purchase tickets early, as the prices rise the closer you get to the event date.  For tickets purchased this week, the general admission prices are $30 for the expo only or $475 for the conference and the expo (compared to $45 and $650 at the door).

But, Red Rocket has negotiated a 15% discount for all its blog readers.  Which means, if you purchase your ticket this week, using the graphic link below, your price will be $25.50 for the expo only or $403.75 for the conference and the expo.


Hope to see you all there.  The event is well worth it!!

For future posts, please follow me: www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the social sharing links to share with your social networks.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lessons in Entrepreneurship: Skylanders (Upselling on Steroids)

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/06/2013

Following my last Lesson #143 on upselling techniques , I wanted to share this case study on Skylanders , the popular video game franchise ...

Following my last Lesson #143 on upselling techniques, I wanted to share this case study on Skylanders, the popular video game franchise from Activision launched two years ago.  Any of you with six to nine year old boys, like me, have most likely learned about Skylanders from your kids.
 
First of all, what is Skylanders?  It is much more than a simple video game disc you play on your gaming console.  You can't use the video game, until you have the matching action figures, which you place on a docking station, to bring that character to life in the video game.  So, think video games meets collectable action figures, with around 48 characters you can buy for this this game, each with unique powers.
 
So, here is the lesson on upselling.  The Skylanders starter set is priced around $69.99, which includes the video game, docking station and three action figures.  But, once your kids start playing, they become hooked, and want all the additional characters.  And, the additional characters range from $9.99 to $14.99 each . . . yes, I said EACH.  So, if your addicted kid ends up collecting the entire set of 45 additional characters, that would end up costing you around $632 plus tax!!  Compare this to a more typical top-of-the-line video game that may cost you $49.99.
 
And, believe me, the kids get hooked.  My son is up to around 10 of the action figures, after about two weeks of owning the game.  And, it is a feeding frenzy in the stores for these characters.  I was at Target yesterday, and there were four boys with their dads all jockeying for space within this five foot shelf of action figures.  And, apparently, some of these characters are in such short supply, it has created a "scalper-like" after market, with certain characters fetching up to $49.99 by themself.
 
So, what has Skylanders done for Activision's business and the video game industry?  It has entirely revolutionized the way video game manufacturers are thinking about designing their video games, as Skylanders has become the #1 selling video game on the planet.  Skylanders have sold in excess of $500MM in revenues in the last two years around this franchise, including the game, the action figures and all the other related merchandising.  A typical top-of-the-line video game would be lucky to sell 1MM units at $50 each for around $50MM in sales.  Skylanders has sold around 10x this average!!  To put this in perspective, the #1 toy brand, Lego, does around $4BN in annual sales.
 
So, when you are designing your business plans, try to tap into large upselling opportunities like this.  Anything you can do to leverage your fixed investment with additional revenues will simply flow thru additional cash flow to your bottom line.  What a great financial success Skylanders has become with this model, at the unique intersection between the video game and collectible toys markets.
 
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