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.”