It only takes five minutes with Tim Streit to get excited about Michigan’s potential. The venture capitalist could easily be the state’s chief evangelist.
“People who don’t know what’s happening here think I’m crazy for being so enthusiastic about Michigan,” Streit explained. “From even the most pragmatic, reserved viewpoint, all I see is potential; Michigan has everything it takes to nurture a healthy start-up ecosystem. You can see momentum building statewide from Grand Rapids to Detroit.”
It’s that view that compelled Streit to leave a comfortable corporate position at HSBC to co-found Huron River Ventures with Ryan Waddington in 2010.
Huron River Ventures, which has offices in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor was funded initially by Michigan’s $6 million Accelerator Fund Program. It’s on track to finish fundraising in the $12 million range. With that money, the firm has focused on making $250,000-$1 million seed investments in early-stage, Michigan-based companies. The firm is keen on investing in energy efficiency technologies, digital cleantech – IT enabled solutions to global resource constraints – and smart transportation. Tim’s background building software-as-a-service businesses combined with Ryan’s background investing in energy technologies was a perfect complement.
“In 2010, we had hypothesis about the future of technology: With the right backing, the talented minds and businesses in Michigan could help redefine the energy economy for the world market,” Streit explained. “It was the perfect time to start Huron River Ventures; Michigan-based entrepreneurs were struggling to attract coastal VCs, who didn’t understand what they were missing.”
Huron River Ventures’ portfolio reflects this vision of the future through its investments in digital cleantech companies like SideCar and FarmLogs as well as energy efficiency technologies like Ambiq Micro and OptoAtmospherics. It also reflects the firm’s commitment to Michigan: FarmLogs and OptoAtmospherics are based in the Ann Arbor region. SideCar and Ambiq Micro are both spin-outs from the University of Michigan that have expanded outside of the state.
Three years later, the rest of the world is catching up and recognizing that energy efficiency and digital cleantech are the future. “We are really proud of our co-investors, including Google Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Mercury Fund, Rockport, First Step Fund and others that can help us propel these world-changing innovations forward,” Streit added. “Huron River Ventures is bringing real value to our portfolio companies, and Michigan’s economy, by attracting these other sources of capital.”
“Huron River Ventures looks for investments that not only show growth potential and will deliver ROI, but also for those that show potential to change the world,” said Streit. “We’ve found these great opportunities here in Michigan, and know that there are more to come. The researchers, engineers and technologists here, combined with an unbeatable work ethic and wealth of ingenuity, make early-stage Michigan companies a winning investment opportunity.”