Graduating MVCA Venture Fellow Sam Hogg has become immersed in the world of early-stage agribusiness, with ag-tech venture investor Open Prairie Ventures. Sam recapped his two years in the MVCA Fellowship Program for us, and how he became an expert on spider venom’s most useful properties:
Tell us about your Fellow position–where are you, what have you been doing?
I’m at Open Prairie. We are an Illinois-based firm that has a Michigan office primarily because we took over management of the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund in 2012. I work across both the Open Prairie and SWMF portfolios. We are a four-man team so there aren’t a lot of layers in our organization. If you can imagine it, I probably do it.
Best deal done during your tenure? Or Favorite technology or CEO or solution you’ve encountered during your time as a Fellow?
I’ve had a wonderful time working with the team at Vestaron. Not only is the technology extremely novel (a spider venom-based agricultural insecticide), but the management team is top notch, both funds are investors and, selfishly, they are right in my backyard in West Michigan. The only new deal we did during the fellowship was NewLeaf Symbiotics (St Louis) which, along with Vestaron, could change the face of sustainable agriculture forever. It is exciting to be working on stuff that is very impactful.
One thing you’ve learned during your Fellowship that you didn’t know before you started in the industry?
How much the people matter in this industry. You envision venture capital as picking winning ideas, but A teams with B technologies will outperform the opposite every time. It makes you realize that successful VC firms aren’t necessarily the ones that have the smartest people, but rather the ones that have surrounded themselves with networks for success.
Anything surprising you’ve learned about yourself/your perspective on venture capital as a profession you didn’t know before you started?
How to stay focused amidst turmoil. The SWMF LSF portfolio is reaching the natural age where some of the companies that didn’t catch stride are starting to wind down. It has been really rewarding to work with management teams in distressed situations too. In an industry where everyone clings to every success, I think folks who can can squeeze water out of rocks when things don’t go as planned really show their merit as money managers and bring value to their limited partners.
Plans for post-Fellowship?
I am committed to stay with Open Prairie and help manage out the remainder of the SWMF LSF. I’m also highly committed to staying in Michigan because I love it here. The mutual hope with Open Prairie is to pursue new fund products where Michigan is very much part of the investment thesis, and we are making good progress towards those ends.