When global investment firm Baird Capital announced in 2013 that it was opening a Michigan office, investors – and entrepreneurs – took notice. Not only is the firm’s Ann Arbor office its first outside of a major metro area, it’s being headed up by David Gregorka, whose entrepreneurial roots grow deep in the state.
Before joining Baird Capital, Gregorka was working on several projects with the Office of Tech Transfer at the University of Michigan. He assumed this position after leaving HealthMedia, a venture-backed company he co-founded in Ann Arbor in 1998 that was acquired in 2008 by Johnson & Johnson.
Being deeply entrenched in Michigan’s entrepreneurial eco-system is a differentiator for Gregorka. “I’ve worked with all seven research universities in the state and most of the ecosystem partners, at the state and local levels, and can bring those relationships to bear in building a network in Michigan for Baird,” Gregorka explained. “Although we chose to locate in Ann Arbor, Baird is excited by what we are seeing across the state.”
Baird Capital’s venture capital team invests in early and growth stage companies in tech enabled services and health care. Since its inception, Baird Capital has invested approximately 50 percent from its three funds in Midwest companies.
“We see a strong pipeline of potential investments in Michigan in both IT and health care,” Gregorka explained. “This strong potential is consistent with Baird Capital’s overall investment strategy. As an organization, we are committed to partnering with leading entrepreneurs and helping them build great companies.”
Those partnerships and relationships are key to what Baird is and does – and was a critical factor in the firm’s decision to open an office in Michigan. Gregorka intends to use his experience and existing relationships to help Baird find the best investment opportunities in the state.
“Being here is a chance to work with entrepreneurs, regardless of whether they’re in Baird Capital’s ‘sweet spot’ for investments,” Gregorka explained. “Being a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is something that Baird Capital, as an organization, likes to do. You never know when an entrepreneur or company that isn’t a potential investment today will become a future partner.”
Baird Capital was an early investor in Accuri Cytometers, an Ann Arbor company that had a very successful exit. It is currently invested in Ann Arbor-based Molecular Imaging, a contract research organization that provides services to pharmaceutical companies and conducts small animal imaging studies. The company is on the fast track to success, having just expanded operations to the west coast to run a preclinical imaging center at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in La Jolla, Calif.
Baird Capital’s investment in Molecular Imaging is part of larger pool that also includes Michigan Venture Capital Association member Beringea. Baird typically syndicates with other investors and hopes to increase the deals it does with other Michigan firms.
“Ultimately, finding and making investments in IT services and health care companies – both early and growth stage – is the primary focus of Baird Capital’s work, including our office here in Michigan,” Gregorka said. “As an organization, the Baird team has been in the trenches as venture capitalists and as entrepreneurs, and we know what it takes to be successful. We see Michigan as a ripe environment for future success.”