November 26, 2013 @ 1:33 am

Jim Adox and Venture Investors Charge Full Steam Ahead

Jim Adox and Venture Investors are charging full steam ahead in a challenging economy, and in doing so, are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible here in Michigan. Dreaming big – including the potential for a new, state-sponsored fund of funds – and being willing to work for it are setting Adox and his firm apart, and positioning them for leadership.


Adox joined Venture Investors in 2007 as a managing director and heads up its Ann Arbor office. Venture Investors, founded in 1982, is one of the leading venture capital firms in the Midwest.  It’s focused on making seed and early stage healthcare and technology investments.  With offices in Madison, Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Venture Investors is strategically located in the backyards of the nation’s two leading public research universities. The firm is currently investing out of its fifth fund and has more than $200 million under management.


Venture Investors recently made three exciting investments, UpTo, Reshape Medical and NetSocket.  UpTo, a social calendar app that’s generating a ton of buzz, is the firm’s first investment in Detroit, and one that it made in collaboration with Detroit Venture Partners. ReShape Medical is a nonsurgical weight loss company headquartered in Southern California, and NetSocket is a Plano, Texas company focused on software-defined networking solutions (SDN).


Although Venture Investors’ recent deals are diverse having just closed its fifth fund has Adox and his team particularly bullish about Michigan’s future. “It’s a really challenging environment to close funds, and we’re pleased we were able to accomplish it,” he said. “Michigan offers some unique resources, such as the Venture Michigan Fund, that make choosing to raise VC and make investments here appealing. There are a lot more VCs to do deals with and more experienced entrepreneurs, and Venture Investors has a new fund and money to invest. I’m looking forward to making a few more Michigan investments in the next year.”


Adox came to Michigan from the east coast, despite never having heard of Ann Arbor before choosing University of Michigan’s engineering school. “My familiarity with Ann Arbor was tied to Bob Seger’s song about Ann Arbor,  ‘Main Street’,” he said. “Once I got here, though, I didn’t leave. After graduation, I became a gear head in automotive world through an executive engineering program at Chrysler.  I left that position and returned to U-M, where I earned my MBA.”


He left U-M with more than an MBA, though. It was during his MBA program when he was introduced to VC through professors David Brophy, director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, Andy Lawlor, Lecturer of Entrepreneurship and Strategy and Director, Global MBA Projects, and Tom Kinnear, the Eugene Applebaum Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies.  Adox maintains these transformative relationships today.


Adox, who was recently elected chair of the Michigan Venture Capital Association, sees assets like the Venture Michigan Fund, a fund of funds managed by Credit Suisse, as critical to the state’s future success. He also sees the state’s burgeoning entrepreneurial network as a strong indicator of future success.


“The more I’ve gotten involved with MVCA, the more I’ve seen that there’s an opportunity to improve Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Adox explained. “I want to play a role in that. I’ve been here 15 years and have a good idea of where we’ve been and where we can go. I want to do my part to improve the opportunities for everyone – entrepreneurs and VCs alike.”


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September 10, 2013 @ 7:02 am

Michigan Companies Make Forbes Venture Player List

Three Michigan companies, and MVCA members, are considered among the top venture players in the midwest.


(excerpted from Forbes article)

“As entrepreneurs all over the country and the world make the leap into startup life, investors are keeping step to finance them—hoping to own a piece of a company that could yield buckets of cash. Venture capital firms have been circling innovation capitals like Silicon Valley and New York City for years but have recently been forced to take notice of other regions where young companies are putting down roots.”


Read the full story.

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April 19, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

The Road Less Traveled: Detroit Venture Partners Pursues “Crazed Mission” to Back Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs


Detroit Venture Partners

Ask Josh Linkner what’s got him, and the team at Detroit Venture Partners, fired up, and you’ll get a simple response: Detroit.  The VC firm’s “crazed mission” is to back companies that are committed to rebuilding the Detroit area by entrepreneurship.


We view business building as a palette for creative expression and an opportunity to make a difference and change the world. If not, why bother,” explained Linkner, who is managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners.


Linkner and the Detroit Venture Partners team aren’t shy about getting in the trenches to make sure these world-changing businesses succeed.  “We are willing to get down and dirty with our entrepreneurs in order to drive results. We look at venture investing as a full-contact sport, and are ready to do whatever it takes to help our portfolio companies win. You’ll find us hands-on and deep behind enemy lines while other VCs are enjoying their French-vanilla, no-whip, mocha frappuccinos.”


Detroit Venture Partners’ commitment to entrepreneurial warfare has helped the firm achieve a key goal to re-establish Detroit as a beacon of innovation and entrepreneurship.  “We’ve led the way and set a path for others to come invest in Detroit, and for startup leaders to build their businesses here,” Linkner said.  “We believe that this region has tremendous untapped potential and this last year was about laying the foundation to harness it.  With the groundwork in place, Detroit is now poised to take off as one of the most important startup cities in the country.”


The firm’s investment portfolio is a telling reflection of Detroit Venture Partners’ commitment to backing entrepreneurs who are making their mark in the Detroit area… and beyond.  Over the last year, it’s invested in several exciting Detroit-based companies, including:


  • LevelEleven, a company that develops enterprise gamification and CRM solutions that help sales and other managers keep their teams focused on the right things. The company’s flagship product, Contest Builder, is a app that gives companies new ways to motivate salespeople to make more calls, book more meetings, and close more business, which in turn spikes adoption of Salesforce.
  • Chalkfly, which is becoming known as the ‘Zappos for office supplies.’ It offers 50,000 products, 24/7 customer services, free over-night shipping, and a 365-day return policy. Most importantly, Chalkfly gives 5 percent of all sales directly to teachers in your local community.
  • iRule, LLC, a cloud software company offering a platform for the connected home and home entertainment control. iRule’s control and automation software, available for both iOS and Android, is loved by its customers for its functionality, versatility, and value, and is sold by professional dealers in 50 countries.

Linkner is careful to point out that Detroit Venture Partners’ “crazed” mission is really rooted in a common sense, practical approach to investing.  “Michigan offers real advantages to other locations,” he said.  “The state, and the Detroit area in particular, are ripe with top talent that are attracted to what’s unique here: Affordable housing, and accessibility to business leaders and networks.  Plus, there’s a low cost of doing business here that makes an investment go far.”


While pursuing their favorite pastime of changing the world’s mind about VC opportunities beyond the coasts – and in Detroit, specifically – Detroit Venture Partners will continue to work hard at being an illustration of all that’s going right here. “We’re excited to add eight to 10 more companies to our portfolio this year,” Linkner said.  “While we continue to grow, we’ll continue to work deep in the trenches with our existing companies to help them win.”

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July 11, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

MVCA Programs to Attract Investment, Entrepreneur Talent Gaining Traction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JULY 11, 2012 — ANN ARBOR, MICH. — The Michigan Venture Capital Association’s (MVCA) programs to develop the state’s investment community are helping venture capitalists and their portfolio companies attract and retain top talent.


As part of its Michigan Venture Fellows Program, MVCA recently placed fellows at member firms Detroit Venture Partners and Open Prairie Ventures.  The organization also awarded funding for CEO Placements to ArborMetrix, a firm backed by MVCA member Arboretum Ventures, and ProNai Therapeutics, backed by MVCA member Apjohn Ventures. MVCA member firms Plymouth Ventures and RPM Ventures received funding through the Executives in Residence program.


“Finding, recruiting and developing top talent is a critical need for both investment firms and their portfolio companies,” said MVCA board chair and Arboretum Ventures managing director Tim Petersen.  “MVCA’s programs to help VCs and venture-backed companies fill a void while shining a light on the opportunities that exist in our state for both investment professionals and C-level talent that want to work for entrepreneurial ventures.”


The MVCA’s Michigan Venture Fellows, CEO Placement and Executives in Residence programs are funded by the Venture Upstart II allocation from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The Michigan Venture Fellows Program is intended to create the next generation of venture capitalists and investment professionals in Michigan.  The Executives in Residence and CEO Placement programs are designed to support the eventual placement of an executive into a portfolio company’s operations post-investment or find and hire a qualified CEO candidate for a portfolio company.


Jared Stasik, a recent graduate of UC-Berkeley, and Sam Hogg, former director of venture development at NextEnergy, are participating in the MVCA Fellows program.  Stasik is joining Detroit Venture Partners and Hogg is joining Open Prairie Ventures.


ArborMetrix and ProNai Therapeutics received funding CEO Placements awards from MVCA.  The funding will be used to execute CEO searches, which both firms are currently conducting.


Plymouth Ventures welcomed Kevin Terrasi and RPM Ventures welcomed Kurt Skifstad into their firms for a period of deal sourcing and advisement, with an ultimate goal of placing these executives in a leadership role at a portfolio company.  Terrasi and Skifstad both bring operational experience to their venture firm sponsors.


Michigan venture capital firms participating in the Michigan Venture Fellows program receive assistance in hiring an associate.  Michigan venture capital firms may apply for a loan award to assist with the first year salary of an Executive in Residence or a CEO for a Michigan-based portfolio company.  The CEO Placement loan award may also be applied toward the recruiting fees incurred in finding an entrepreneurial CEO.


About the MVCA
The MVCA is a non-profit trade organization designed to bring together venture capital industry participants in the state of Michigan.  The organization’s goal is to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.  Membership includes private venture capital funds, corporate venture capital funds, private equity firms, angel investors, and entrepreneurial infrastructure participants.  The MVCA is a vehicle to bring together industry participants and to provide a concerted voice for Michigan’s venture capital industry.


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August 22, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

MEMBER NEWS: DVP’s Josh Linkner recognized at White House as “Champion of Change”

Josh Linkner, CEO & Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners (part of the Quicken Loans family of companies) and Founder & Chairman of ePrize, was recognized as a “Champion of Change.”

The Champions of Change program is a weekly series that is part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative, which honors entrepreneurs that have started creative companies, hail from every corner of the country and work in diverse fields that are bringing services and products to the market. They’re winning the future by starting businesses, and creating jobs, wealth and opportunities for their communities.

Josh was chosen because he is an “outstanding example” of President Obama’s vision to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, and is one of just 11 entrepreneurs being honored at the White House today!

Read more:

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February 8, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

MVCA Roundtable: VC & C- Level Executive Breakfast

Michigan entrepreneurs Rob Malan (Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Arbor Networks), Ted Dacko (Former President and CEO, HealthMedia Founder, Arbor Dakota Strategies), Josh Linkner (Founder and Chairman, ePrize Managing Director, Detroit Venture Partners), and Tim Mayleben (President & CEO, Aastrom Biosciences) joined moderator Mina Sooch for a lively panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities of running a venture-backed business in Michigan.

All panelists agreed that Michigan is a good place to start a business, but cited lack of talent and capital as issues for our state’s entrepreneurs.  Linkner empathized the importance of culture in creating a valuable and sustaining business, while Dacko discussed how measurable outcomes were vital.   Mayleben talked about marathon fundraising campaigns he underwent at Esperion and also named talent attraction as the biggest challenge he sees in locating a life sciences business in Michigan.  Malan envies California’s non-enforceable non-compete law and suggests that Michigan adopt a similar position to encourage serial entrepreneurialism.

The panelists were:

Ted Dacko
Former President and CEO, HealthMedia
Founder, Arbor Dakota Strategies
Ted Dacko, the founder of Arbor Dakota Strategies, has more than 36 years of experience in executive-level management and leadership, principally in the area of software applications and solutions. His career has primarily been spent following the founder where, as CEO, he has been credited with taking great ideas and turning them into great companies.

Most recently, Ted was CEO of HealthMedia® Inc., which he took from a small, near-death company to a $30M annual SaaS business. The company was sold to Johnson & Johnson in 2008 and resulted in an 18 to 1 return on invested capital for Chrysalis Ventures in a six year time frame and a 10 to 1 return on invested capital for Arboretum Ventures which invested a short time later. This was accomplished during the worst economic time in recent history.

Josh Linkner
Founder and Chairman, ePrize
Managing Director, Detroit Venture Partners
As the founder and CEO of ePrize, Josh Linkner has led a revolution by dislodging the old guard and dominating the industry through disruptive innovation and creativity.  ePrize has produced over 5,000 industry-leading interactive promotions across 36 countries, for 74 of the Top 100 brands including Coca-Cola, at&t, The Gap, Procter & Gamble, Disney, Dell, adidas, Citibank and Microsoft. ePrize has won dozens of awards including Red Herring’s Top 100 Technology Firms in North America, Inc. 500 (five years in a row), #1 fastest-growing on PROMO 100, Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader’s Choice, and 101 best places to work in Michigan.

Josh has won several business, technology, and design awards including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Crain’s 40 under 40, and Automation Alley’s CEO of the Year. His highly-anticipated second Book – Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System for Breakthrough Creativity – is due out in February, 2011 (Wiley / Jossey-Bass). The book offers a 5-part process that will transform your organization – or your career – into a non-stop creativity juggernaut.

Rob Malan
Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Arbor Networks
Rob brings over twenty years of research experience in computer networking and security to Arbor Networks. Rob, whose thesis work at the University of Michigan formed the basis for Arbor Networks’ technology, is the author of the company’s patents. Rob has successfully transitioned technology from research prototype to product during his tenure in industry, which includes work at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Laboratory and Hewlett-Packard. Rob began his networking career working as a researcher on the Mach operating system project at Carnegie Mellon. He has authored 18 papers published in top-tier computer security and networking journals and conference proceedings. Rob holds a Ph.D. and MSE in Computer Science from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon.

Tim Mayleben
President & CEO, Aastrom Biosciences
Tim joined Aastrom as a member of the Aastrom’s board of directors in June 2005. Previously he was an advisor to life science and healthcare companies through his advisory and investment firm, ElMa Advisors. He was formerly president, chief operating officer and a director of NightHawk Radiology Holdings, Inc.  Mr. Mayleben also served as chief operating officer of Esperion Therapeutics, where he led the raising of more than $200 million in venture capital and institutional equity funding and later negotiated the acquisition of Esperion by Pfizer in February 2004. Mr. Mayleben is on the advisory board of the Wolverine Venture Fund and serves as a director for several private life science companies. He holds an MBA with distinction from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a BA in business administration from the University of Michigan Ross Business School.

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The MVCA is a non-profit trade organization designed to bring together venture capital industry participants in the state of Michigan. The organization's goal is to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.
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