Outside In: Q&A with tech investors from outside Minnesota
What is your name, title, and firm/fund?
What is the firm/fund located and what is the summarized founding history?
Network Ventures is based in Chicago but invests across the Midwest. I founded the firm in 2016 after spending several years at Pritzker Group Venture Capital. PGVC has a nationwide focus so I saw the emergence of the New York and Los Angeles tech ecosystems and the rise of seed funds there.
The Midwest is a few years behind those markets but there are some great companies getting built here – capital has not kept up though as there are few true seed stage funds here. My goal is to bring the coastal seed fund model to the Midwest and help companies get ready for the Series A and beyond.
What is the firm/fund size and thesis?
Network Ventures is focused on Midwest-based companies raising their first $500k-1.5m. The fund invests $100k-250k initially in companies and prefers to lead or co-lead rounds. I look to be pretty active with companies for the first 18-24 months post-investment until they raise capital from Series A investors. Network Ventures invests in software/internet companies that leverage network effects (i.e. the value of the platform grows as more users/vendors/customers come onboard) to build competitive advantage.
How many portfolio technology companies do you currently have?
Have you experienced any exits?
Network Ventures’ portfolio is still way too early for an exit. At Pritzker Group Venture Capital, I worked with several successful companies including SinglePlatform (acquired by Constant Contact), FleetMatics (IPO), Playdom (acquired by Disney) and Zinch (acquired by Chegg).
How much capital do you currently have in the fund?
I can’t get into specifics just yet due to SEC rules on fundraising, but I’ve invested in three companies so far and plan to invest in 15-20 over the life of this fund.
Why are you interested in investing in Minnesota technology companies?
I’m interested in investing where the opportunity is. The Minneapolis-St. Paul region is large enough to support a thriving tech ecosystem and has domain expertise in a number of sectors given some of the large employers there. Big companies have and will continue to be built there.
How many Minnesota tech portfolio technology companies do you currently have?
None yet. I anticipate that half of the fund’s portfolio companies will be based in Chicago and the remainder concentrated in two to three other Midwest hubs. I’ve seen some good stuff coming out of MN so I think it’s just a matter of time.
What does an ideal Minnesota tech investment look like to you?
A software/internet company with network effects (e.g., marketplaces, networks, software platforms) raising $500k-1.5m. I don’t have any revenue or customer threshold but want to make sure that a good amount of customer development has been done. I want to be able to do calls with current or prospective customers and see that this is a top three priority for the buyer. I invest across industries but an ideal MN-based investment will probably leverage some of the industry expertise resident in MN (retail, healthcare, etc.).
How do you prefer entrepreneurs connect with and pitch to you?
A warm intro from a common connection is best, but I respond to cold emails as well. My contact info is on my website at www.networkventures.vc.
What else would be valuable to add?
Once I get a few MN-based portfolio companies, I’ll have a good excuse to get there on a regular basis. Short of that, I’ll try to get to Minneapolis again for a few events this year.