Ask Beringea founder and managing partner Charlie Rothstein what makes doing business in Michigan different and you’ll get a quick, candid answer. “We don’t follow the herd and trip over competitors like you would on the coasts. We collaborate and we cheer for each other, and that makes us different than the rest of the world.”
Looking beyond the Great Lakes has provided Beringea with terrific perspective and unparalleled opportunities for investing, but the firm’s roots in Michigan are the strong foundation on which it’s continued to thrive. Beringea chose to call Michigan home because unlike others, it saw the state as offering amazing potential for those willing to take a chance and start here.
“People outside of Michigan wondered what we were doing starting here,” Rothstein said, recalling Beringea’s humble beginnings in his basement 25 years ago. “That always struck me as the wrong question because the answer is so obvious: In order to be successful, you have to see things different than the rest of the world. In Michigan, we don’t give up when things are tough, which is a huge advantage for entrepreneurs that will get knocked down a lot in the early stage of business. Knowing these companies will get off the mat and persevere makes them a really attractive investment opportunity.”
That eye on Michigan’s strengths has helped Beringea find great investment opportunities that those outside of the state are missing. Recently, it backed Fiber Byproducts, a Michigan company that recycles wood waste.
“Fiber Byproducts is based on a smart, simple concept that’s in great demand,” Rothstein said. “The company takes scrap wood from construction business that would otherwise go to waste and recycles it for wood pellets used in heating stoves as well as mulch, wood chips, and other consumer products. Investing in Fiber Byproducts gives Beringea the chance to support a company that’s innovating a clean, cheap, sustainable fuel, and commercializing a Michigan-made product. Fiber Byproducts is a great investment because it created an in-demand product but needed capital to take business to the next level.”
Identifying and embracing those attractive investment opportunities has helped Beringea become a partner of choice for entrepreneurs in a range of business sectors including media, healthcare, clean technology and IT. Today, the firm has offices in Detroit and London, more than 60 companies in its portfolio, and more than $525 million under management.
Recently, the firm’s portfolio has been boosted by a few major wins. Beringea investment Pioneer Surgical Technology was acquired by RTI Biologics Inc. for $130 million. Earlier this year, the firm was also part of a $5 million investment round in Abe’s Market, an online store for natural and organic products.
Looking forward, Rothstein is as enthusiastic about the future now as he was 25 years ago. “We are seeing an economy nationally and locally that has stabilized,” he said. “In Michigan, we’ve laid the groundwork and now’s our opportunity to show that we’re home to great VCs and great companies.”