RPM Ventures, founded in 2000, is a seed and early stage venture firm with $75 million under management. RPM concentrates its investing in the information technology (IT) space, on companies in specific disciplines. RPM specifically seeks opportunities in businesses where the firm’s West Coast experience and Midwest roots add strong value: Retail automotive software, industrial and retail enterprise solutions, E‐commerce, online marketplaces, and cloud and social media infrastructure.
RPM co-founders Tony Grover and Marc Weiser both attended University of Michigan, and chose to come back to the state to grow their careers. Before starting RPM, Grover and Weiser’s experiences included working for Intel and starting three venture-backed IT ventures.
“The story isn’t that we left the excitement of the coast to come back to Michigan, but that we deliberately chose to start RPM here,” said Grover. “Our presence in Michigan is a strong asset in the sectors where we focus; our portfolio companies can tap into the resources here in the Midwest and use those resources to leap ahead of their competition.”
“Michigan offers the relationships and global connections that few other locations can match,” Grover added. “We’re home to major automotive manufacturers, Tier 1 automotive suppliers, Whirlpool, and Dow Chemical – to name a few. Some of these companies are focused on consumer products, some on industrial B2B, but every single one has large international presence and all are using IT to make their business more efficient. For RPM’s portfolio companies, those factors are enough to make the argument for ‘Why Michigan?”
The quality and type of investment that RPM is able to find in Michigan strengthens that argument. The firm has made a new investment in Michigan every six months for the last 18 months. RPM led investment rounds in DeepField, Kontextual, and ArborMetrics. All of these recent investments are reflective of Michigan’s ever growing and strengthening entrepreneurial economy.
“DeepField was co-founded by two early Arbor Networks employees and is a great example of a successful local company that spawned entrepreneurs who launched several ground breaking new startups,” explained Grover. “Kontextual was founded by Kurt Skifstad, a local tech CEO and serial entrepreneur who has a track record of success here and wanted to stay in Michigan. A prominent University of Michigan faculty member founded ArborMetrics, and its seed round was led by Michigan VC firm Arboretum Ventures. All three of these companies have very exciting stories that center on wanting to grow in Michigan and being able to find the talent and funding to help them do it.”
“When you look at what Michigan has to offer entrepreneurs and venture backed companies, you see that we have a strong B2B base and deep roots in building sustainable businesses. Those deeps roots are actually changing our present economy. We’re starting to have more successes here, gaining experience here, and we’re growing the entrepreneurial talent base here,” Grover added. “Recently, we’ve seen successful exits, like Arbor Networks, HealthMedia and Accuri Cytometers, and increasing VC activity. It hasn’t happened overnight, but it’s happening here now and building the base for continued future entrepreneurial growth.”
Looking forward, Grover is optimistic that this upward trend will continue. “We’ve spent a decade growing RPM and are confident that the areas where we’ve built our expertise are our future. We’ll keep doing what we do, and we’re excited for how things are changing in the market and in this state. We’re seeing more capital, talent, and experience accruing in Michigan, and that provides a great outlook for the future.”