|September 21, 2011|
The May Report: 9/21/2011: Welcome to Willer's World: Big Citizen
Editor and publisher: Ron May, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, www.themayreport.com , 773-525-3944.
If you missed an article, go here: http://www.tmronline.com/A55951/tmrarticles.nsf/vwFullNewsletter
Louis Brandeis: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
Real-time Communications Conference & Expo
(Formerly the VoIP Conference)
Featuring - VoIP, Video, Mobility, Web, Grid, and more
October 4-6 at Illinois Institute of Technology in Wheaton
Register Now - Special Ron May Rate (use discount code - MAY)
$200 for 2 days / $300 for 3 days (with tutorial)
Join us for the multi-track Real-Time Communications Conference with 2-3 day options that includes 50+ speakers, 200+ attendees, 100+ participating organizations, 30+ sponsors, tutorials (SIP or NG 9-1-1), keynotes, panel discussions, networking opportunities, lunches, and a cocktail party.
Speakers from: Google, Skype, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and Martin Cooper (innovator of the cell phone), and others
Sponsors: AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Comcast Business Class, NEC, Siemens, Verizon and others
Visit http://www.cpd.iit.edu/voipconference for more information about the program, speakers and sponsors.
To Register: Visit http://www.cpd.iit.edu/voipconference/ (save with the Ron May discount code - MAY)
$300 for 2 days ($200 for Ron May readers)
$400 for 3 days ($300 for Ron May readers)
Sponsor: $500-$2,500 with exhibit table and 2 free attendees
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Scoop section:
-- Welcome to Willer's World: Big Citizen, by Ron May
Fast and Professional Search Engine Optimization Solutions
please contact Backlinks Company http://www.BLcompany.com
Mike Freud 970-391-0632 firstname.lastname@example.org
September 2011 Event - Future of the Office - How Technology Will Change the Way We work
September 26th 5:30-8:30 pm
We invite you to our first event of the 2011/12 season and boy do we have some great programs in store for you!
Kicking this year off with The Future of the Office our panel of experts will provide us with a peek at what changes are in store for how and where we work in the future.
Whether it's the way you collaborate with co-workers, customers, and partners--or doing away with cubicles and office layouts--technology plays a large role in what will shape the way we work. And very soon. We will see social networking migrate into social working. Hear how technology is driving how we source labor and manage the workforce. If you're tired of being held up in a conference room for endless meetings, see what happens when technology and design join forces for new work spaces.
You'll also want to be on hand as we make several announcements, including our new relationship with the Global MIT Enterprise Forum and Technology Review, MIT's respected magazine. Membership changes/benefits and our goals for continuing to support the entrepreneurial community of Chicago are also on the agenda.
The presentation includes panelists from:
· Ross Kimbarovsky, Co-Founder crowdSPRING
· Dr. Hugh Musick, Associate Dean- IIT School of Design
· Jeffery Calusinski, Distinguished Engineer- IBM
· Sudhaker Lahade, Steelcase
One note for our members. We are now charging a nominal $10 fee for each meeting to help defray costs of hosting these events. Be sure to register early, the fee increases to $20 the day of the event.
Monday September 26th
5:30 - 8:30 pm
Hosted by our host sponsor, IBM
IBM Innovation Center
71 S. Wacker Drive, 6th floor
(Note that the Wacker entrance is closed. Enter from Franklin Street)
$10 for members.
$30 advance payment for guests.
The Scoop section:
Welcome to Willer's World: Big Citizen, by Ron May
Kevin is bright eyed and bushy tailed. He exudes positive energy and he does not swear like his predecessor. He does not travel with a large entourage like his predecessor. He's no Little Lord Fauntleroy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Lord_Fauntleroy
He also does not have ADD and I'd bet that when he does preside at meetings in the conference room over at the CEC's offices, he sits in a chair, not on the credenza anxiously moving his dangling legs.
The guy is basically normal, not neurotic, and not suffering from low self-esteem issues. I'd even bet that he does not swear every ten seconds.
Normal yes, but also a fireplug. He has a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm and he's not jaded as so many tech leaders in this town have become.
And one more thing that Kris Hammond will like: "No poker charity," Kevin declared. As Robert Graves wrote: "Goodbye to all that." Great book, btw and what's even better is that it has nothing to do with Chicago high tech.
We had breakfast at The Bagel on August 12th from 8am till a bit after 10am. Kevin bought the breakfast which I did not eat until he left. The bill was $24.32 and he left a tip of $8.00 which was nice of him but we were there for more than two hours. It's a lot more than I would have tipped which would have been more like $5.00. So, he is not cheap like me, we now know that.
We covered a lot of topics as you will see and he did not refuse to answer any questions except for one topic he said that he had not decided yet and would let me know when he has decided.
Originally, he had a meeting with Una Pipic at his office and he pushed that back.
He is 37 and has a wife and three kids: one daughter, Elizabeth or "Lizzie," born in early August of this year, Jacqueline and Max. (I got the names Jacqueline and Max from reading his blog below.) His wife used to work for McDonald's along with Sam Yagan's wife. BTW, would you like to take a guess about how many hours I worked on this article? I started at 8:17am today and worked all day thinking that I had about an hour left and it is now almost 8pm! I would bet that 25 or more hours went into this and that is conservative. On top of that, I have not shaved in almost two weeks and I'm becoming a mountain man. And you have no idea how many questions I emailed to Kevin, probably at least thirty. And the number of Google searches I've done!
Kevin went to Loyola Academy and Boston College and earned an MBA at ChicagoBooth in the Executive Program which he just finished about two years ago. Jason Felger, formerly of the CEC, took that program with him.
Kevin's dad worked for 25 years for Sears, first in merchandising and in his later years in real estate.
His dad's side is Swiss and his mom's side is Irish and her maiden name is Delaney (I think).
Kevin's uncle was an engineer at GE.
Kevin's job history is interesting. He worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming. He also worked for U. S. Robotics which he left in 1999. Then I believe he worked for a division of CMGI called Ad Smart and he told me that he was worth a lot of money on paper at CMGI. Remember that CMGI invested a lot of money in divine interVentures when it was first getting off the ground.
Kevin took a job with a little known firm named Google at age 26. It was so little known that he was employee #185 and the first in the Chicago office!
Sometimes during our conversation, I had to remind myself that Kevin was born in the year I graduated from high school. His range of contacts, his general knowledge of business and the way it works, the fact that he has already become a veteran angel investor at such an early age, his big picture sophistication, all kept slapping me in the face (figuratively) while we were talking. I had to keep reminding myself of his relative youth.
If you want to get a feel for Kevin's world view, check out a book called Big Citizenship, http://www.amazon.com/Big-Citizenship-Pragmatic-Idealism-America/dp/1586487868
Kevin has tons of connections to local tech people and national people and they come from all over the place. Some names that came up included little known people like Barry Diller -- he was head of IAC which bought Match.com and Match.com bought OK Cupid which was started by Sam Yagan. Tim Armstrong from AOL, another name. Don't forget that in Willer's world, a guy like Jamie Crouthamel routinely comes up. Jamie ran Performics which was bought by DoubleClick which was then bought by Google. http://www.dfj.com/team/Jamie_Crouthamel.shtml
Stuart Larkins is another name. Stuart was also a Performics executive.
We talked about the Google experience. One thing I did not know is that Google is organized along functional lines so there is not one person who is head of the Chicago office. That is a frequently misunderstood fact. Kevin was the first employee in Chicago along with John DiCola and as he describes it, "it was two phones, two desks and two computers at 401 N. Michigan Ave."
I believe Kevin said he started in sales. The first engineer in the group was Brian Fitzpatrick and he is still here in Chicago at Google.
"The first four years were miserable," he told me emphatically, as if he were refuting those who think working for Google is like winning the lottery. He added that nobody knows that. They worked their butts off and very long hours. The reason is that when Kevin joined Google in 2000 as employee #185, a lot of people, including Jack Philbin of Vibes Media, www.vibes.com, another Boston College grad, thought he was crazy. What was search and what was SEM? Even Dullka might have had a hard time answering that in the year 2000. Remember that back then it was all about websites and clicks and not search which was viewed as a commodity. Search was a utility, of no value, he told me. And remember that Yahoo! passed on a chance to buy Google.
Kevin educated me on the Google business model. "Why did Google succeed?" I felt as though I was in an MBA class at ChicagoBooth. (BTW, Kevin is quick to point out that the New Venture Challenge run by ChicagoBooth and the Polsky Center there is now ranked #2 in the country.)
But that discussion showed me that he had insight that many others did not. Go back to the TMR archives. When is first time Google is even mentioned? I just checked (it's Wednesday, September 21st). There is a reference to my using Google in 2001 and a reader mentions Goggle in February 2002 but he also mentioned Dogpile. Who on earth remembers Dogpile?
On 6/21/2002, I published a letter from a reader who wrote: "I have no involvement with the telecommunications industry. Everything I know about Tellabs and Ocular Networks has been gleaned from the Washington Business Forward magazine, the May Report, and the Google Internet search engine."
E-gads, as Darcy would say! Can anyone imagine today that someone would have to explain what Google is?
This is just to demonstrate that Kevin was on the leading edge in 2000 when he took that job.
In 2004, Google went public at $85 a share and it was a Dutch auction.
There are many things I learned in our conversation that lasted more than two hours.
Kevin mentioned a firm I have never heard of, Narrative Science, http://www.narrativescience.com/about.html, run by Stuart Frankel, a guy I have not heard of. But it turned out that I do know the guys behind the firm very well, Kris Hammond and his sidekick Larry Birnbaum. Another small world connection. Frankel comes out of DoubleClick and DoubleClick was bought by Google, and before that took place, DoubleClick bought Performix (or is that Performics because I see both on Google although the "ics" ending seems to dominate?) which was started by Jamie Crouthamel who is also an angel investor these days and with DFJ.
Dave McMurray, as I wrote yesterday, thanks for flagging the NYT article. This section was written a month ago and I could have beaten the NYT to the story, but as usual with me, I am the laggard when it comes to news.
So clearly now Narrative Science is starting to be on the radar, not below it.
Another local connection I was ignorant of is Coinstar. I had heard of Redbox of course but Coinstar bought out the 47% of Redbox that McDonald's owned in Redbox.
More recent news on the firm:
Coinstar Inc. (CSTR) fell 8.8 percent to $53.50. The operator of the Redbox film-rental kiosks said preliminary second-quarter revenue rose to $434 million to $436 million, falling short of analysts' projections of $445.6 million. Mitch Lowe resigned as head of the Redbox unit, from which Coinstar gets 85 percent of its sales.
Let me get down to business with respect to the CEC.
1. The CEC is a 501(c)(3), whereas the Chicagoland Chamber is a 501(c)(6). The CEC is not a lobbying organization whereas the Chicagoland Chamber is. The CEC pays rent to the Chamber and its offices are housed in the Chamber's offices.
2. Kevin took the job on the condition that the CEC would not report to Jerry Roper (or Gerry Roper). It's not just about Roper. Part of the agreement Kevin has is that the CEC will work to become more independent from the Chamber.
3. That requires some explanation. Kevin reports to the CEC board which is entirely separate from the Chicagoland Chamber board. He did not want a job where he was going to be a flunkee for Roper and as I understand it, David Weinstein did report to Roper. Dan Lyne told me (and Tom Bennett had tipped me off on this,) that he (Dan) did not want the job if it meant reporting to Roper. Kevin just put his foot down. Roper does sit on Kevin's board but so do a lot of other folks.
4. Kevin has done some belt tightening with the staff at the CEC. Jasmine left and she went to Seattle with her husband, Kevin said. Una Pipic is in a key role as the person in charge of entrepreneurial outreach. You know I have my spies everywhere. I just got off the phone with Bill Anthony at about 2:30pm today, Wednesday, September 21st. He told me that Una Pipic just spoke at a lunch meeting for the Chicago Bar Association about how lawyers can work with the CEC. How's that for current info? Bill said there is also a meeting today on the 40th floor of the AON Building about electronic payments. That is not the CEC since they are on the 22nd floor and it's not payments like Google Wallet, it is internet encoded money which is similar to barter. BTW, Bill attended Daliah Saper's talk yesterday in Tribune Tower which drew 100 people. The topic: something I know nothing about -- defamation! :-) But it's more than defamation, it is more about reputation management. But Daliah, I can tell you the difference between defamation per se and per quod. Bill told me that it's hard to get info. on Social Media Week, bit here is a link he sent me.
5. The basic model Kevin is using has changed from the Weinstein days. The big change is that the CEC is no longer using the client model. I did not know this before our conversation, but all those firms that the CEC worked with like Argo Tea signed formal agreements with the CEC stating that they were officially clients. "It was a bad deal," he told me. I think he said that because the firms had to apply and then there was nothing they really got for their effort except for providing PR for the CEC. There was no money that came their way in exchange for that formal client agreement, Kevin explained, but either way, he has dispensed with that system. I think it has to do with the "kiss the ring" philosophy of David Weinstein and Kevin made a big point of saying that he wants to get away from the attitude of superiority that seemed to define the CEC in the past. As he made clear, now under him, the CEC goes to you the entrepreneur and before under David it was too much you come to the CEC.
6. The domain areas that the CEC is looking to support include:
-- Financial services
-- Digital and marketing
-- What else?
The website says
"We work with high-growth entrepreneurs in five target industries:
Financial Services Tech
The list on the site is a bit misleading. Kevin freely and proudly admits that the CEC is working with partners. One of their industry areas is Clean Tech and basically outsource some of their areas.
Kevin wrote me in one of my thirty clarifying emails that "Amy Francetic runs the Clean Energy Trust, one of our CEC partners."
Another CEC partner is the ITA even though it turns out that at the time of our meeting, Kevin had never attended an ITA board meeting. Fred Hoch did offer the use of the Tech Nexus space for some summer start-ups the CEC was working with for no charge and according to Kervin's blog, he met with Fred in his first three weeks at the CEC.
The collaboration, facilitation and outreach philosophy extends to iBIO if I heard right. I believe Kevin said that they refer people to Propel.
I'm not clear in my mind about what happened to Fashion and to Restaurants as two domain areas the CEC was working with under Weinstein.
7. I am not sure about my notes here, but if I have this right, Kevin said that the CEC was in the past handling firms all over the state, but now they are limiting themselves to the Chicago area.
8. Significantly, the i2A fund is not, I repeat not, a part of Kevin's plans. Why? Well, it is tapped out. There are no free funds left, what is commonly called dry powder for new investments. BTW, for 2010, the i2A gave $250K to Excelerate, I believe. Kapil Chadhaury still has an office at the CEC, but he is just managing the remainder of the fund. Kapil and Jason Felger who is now at Redbox ran the fund in David's absence and now it is in maintenance mode under Kapil.
9. But Kevin is working as a partner at New World Ventures with Matt McCall, Adam Koopersmith, Chris Girgenti, et. al. and of course J. B. Pritzker. That relationship started officially in May, 2011 I believe. His responsibility is the seed deal area and we're talking $50K to $100K here. As Matt McCall explained to me, "you can't do much with $50K to $100K." That fact necessitates that they reach out and bring in other investors. Kevin has the title Partner at New World and I don't know what he gets paid.
Kevin clarified one point that I have wrong here. "I'm not a full Partner at New World Ventures - I'm a Venture Partner and it is a part-time role - check out: www.newworldvc.com "
One seed deal they've done was before Kevin got there: New World Ventures put $50K into www.giveforward.com which is run by Desiree Vargas Wrigley.
BTW, Kevin finally cleared up something that I have been unclear about for years. Yes, Chris Girgenti is the managing partner at New World Ventures, but he stated quite clearly that "J. B. approves all investments."
Is there a conflict of interest in Kevin being at both the CEC and New World Ventures? Well, if there is one, I seem to be the only one in this town who sees the possibility of it. My logic is as follows. What is the lifeblood of VCs? Deal flow, deal flow, deal flow. Deal flow is to Venture Capital as location is to retail or real estate.
Through his position heading up the CEC, Kevin gets plenty of deals or potential deals coming his way and he can bring those deals to New World Ventures which can get a first look see. But Matt McCall's point is that any seed deal is going to need much more than $50K or $100K and therefore any deal has to be shown around. And the show around circle is pretty big but it is not, I would argue, the entire universe of active investors in the Chicagoland area. Nonetheless, as Lon Chow said to me in our lengthy conversation on Monday night, July 25th, at Mother Hubbard's, "we can't possibly have too many early or seed stage deals in this town." Lon was saying that all of my palaver about conflicts is just silly given how little activity there actually is. When I heard about all the funding action and actual check writing in the Valley from the young people I spoke to Sunday night from www.attorneyfee.com and www.spothero.com, Lon's point was driven home to me. Even with all the activity we do have here with Sandbox, Lightbank and others, we are still very much at the cusp and the word "burgeoning" is overstated.
That was also Lon's way of deflecting my criticism that there were some conflicts for the judges at TechWeek. How this came up is that I bellowed about how Lon is putting $15K of his own money as an angel into www.GetChute.com which turned out to be one of the five finalists for the COMPETE award; and New World is considering but had not agreed to a seed investment in www.getchute.com, Kevin Willer told me but he was not there for the judging of the COMPETE firms and I showed him the TechWeek book to show him that he missed the judging -- just another point about communication and organization for the event --; and Sam Yagan who is the co-manager of Excelerate Labs was handling www.BabbaCo.com as one of the firms he was coaching and Excelerate was investing $25K in; and Paul Lee of Lightbank was a no show for the judging but Lightbank invested $1MM into BabbaCo about a week after TechWeek ended and we all know that the way deals typically work, notwithstanding that 19 day deal for GrubHub that Matt Maloney described at TechWeek, the BabbaCo deal with Lightbank had to be in the works at the time of the judging, but as I just wrote, to my knowledge, Paul Lee was not there for the judging. These conflicts are inevitable in a small tech town like Chicago. In my view, next year they should make a genuine effort to get bona fide out-of-town judges like Brad Feld or if they could pull it off Fred Wilson.
I even asked an intern for Hyde Park Angels who was at TechWeek about it and he said he had not even thought about it. And I also asked one of the tech guys at www.safetybook.org at MoMo in August about it and directly confronted Dan Verakis about it at Tech Cocktail about it and he was glad to be considered as one of the five and he got some good connections out of TechWeek but he also said that BabbaCo is not a technology firm.
At another point in our conversation, Kevin brought up the Edgar Fund which is run by OCA Ventures. I gather it is a seed fund.
I just googled it. The Edgar Fund is named after a true giant in the history of Chicago venture capital, Ned Heizer.
Remembering Edgar "Ned" Heizer, 1929-2009
December 16, 2009 11:59 PM -
Edgar "Ned" Heizer, a monumental figure in the history of the venture capital industry, died December 3rd in Lake Forest, Illinois. He was 80 years old. Heizer was a founding member of the National Venture Capital Association and was NVCA's first president. Heizer received IVCA's Stanley C. Golder Medal in 2004 as someone who made "profound and lasting contributions to the private equity industry in Illinois".
After getting his feet wet within the "private placement" arm of Allstate Insurance Co., which Heizer transitioned into venture capital, Heizer broke away in 1969 to form the Heizer Corporation. At the time Heizer Corp was founded, investing in Venture Capital/Private Equity was not considered to be in accordance with the "Prudent Man" rule. With support from William Blair and McDermott, Will & Emery, Heizer successfully argued that the VC/PE asset class fit the "prudent" description when managed professionally. With this victory Heizer opened up our asset class. Continuing to trail-blaze and recognizing the need to educate lawmakers about venture/private equity, Heizer founded the NVCA and served as its first president. With NVCA, he lobbied Congress to pass a law in 1980 making it easier for venture capital firms to go public.
Heizer Corp.'s biggest investment hits included Amdahl Corp., Federal Express and the International House of Pancakes. In the 1970s, Heizer Corp was the largest independent venture capital firm in the United States and paved the way for VC/PE growth to the present.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ned Heizer as we prepared for the 2004 IVCA Awards dinner. We lunched and I heard about his early work helping to build an industry. Ned had plenty of amusing stories including trying to work within the Sears framework while at Allstate - Sears refused to adjust the pay ladder for Ned and his team - to his early days lobbying in D.C. on behalf of a nascent industry.
While Ned had great successes in that effort it is amazing how much similar are the obstacles we face today - still rooted in a misunderstanding of our industry. Ned and his wife endowed a center at Northwestern's Kellogg school - recently renamed The Heizer Center for Private Equity & Venture Capital. While Ned presented himself humbly, it was clear I was in the presence of a great leader and a fine gentleman. I am honored to have met him and pleased that IVCA was able to honor his accomplishments.
May again. I have known about Ned Heizer, Skip Heizer's dad, for many years mostly from Jerry Mitchell. Skip Heizer was active in the MEF under Jerry and Jerry educated me on the history of venture capital in Chicago, back in the days long gone when I sat eagerly at the foot of the master. :-)
Jerry, you know, eventually students graduate even though I took my time, 18 years to be exact, to graduate from the "Jerry R. Mitchell school of the way the world works." Few students in that "school," including Tom Thornton, stayed so long.
10. Up till now, the CEC has been living off of a federal grant for the last two years called the EDA. Kevin did not say how big it was, but however big it was, it ended at the end of August 31, 2011. "We don't get one dime from the city or state," he said and he emphasized that this is a commonly misunderstood matter. Frankly, I was surprised even though I have seen the CEC's 990s filed with the IRS in the past, that they rely heavily on the revenue from the Momentum Awards Dinner which this year is October 6th. They charge $500 per seat and have 700 people. That is $350K in gross revenue but they still have to pay The Hilton for those tiny pieces of filet mignon steak and the au gratin potatoes. The website says there are just 20 days left before the Momentum Awards, so sign up. https://www.cecmomentumawards.org/ . As of today, the 21st, there are 14 days left.
They will need more money to run the operation than can be generated by the dinner alone and I did not get a good feel for where that other money will be coming from.
11. John Roberson, as readers of TMR know, is gone from the CEC but his office is still at the offices of the Chamber. John now works for DCEO and he runs one of the many SBDC operations in the state. The release dated June 30, 2011 http://www.commerce.state.il.us/dceo/News/pr06302011-a.htm states that DCEO "finalized an agreement with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to host an Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC)." This would not be The May Report if we did not read between the lines. Kevin started in early April, 2011 at the CEC. John Roberson must have been a big hit to his budget and it seems to me that they saw an opportunity to offload John's salary and took it. Roberson does not report to Willer but I am sure there will be plenty of synergy between them.
12. Scott Issen is still at the CEC and I believe he runs the CAP program, and the Future Founders program http://www.chicagolandec.org/futurefounders/ and so is Caity Moran whom I saw at the Tech Cocktail Mobility Mixer on September 8th. Kevin was probably at home with his wife and three young kids.
Here's the staff from the site.
President & CEO
Managing Director of Client Services
Program Coordinator, Future Founders
Client Services Manager
It would appear that Scott is now second in command under Kevin and Patrick Smith runs the Future Founders program.
13. I'm still a bit unclear about this but under David Weinstein the CEC required that a company they worked with be in the revenue stage. Pre-revenue or just and idea on paper was not good enough. Having actual customers was key. I heard nothing from Kevin to make me believe that this has changed.
14. Just a bit of history. When Kevin was at Google, one of his areas was the telecom field, but he also worked part-time on entrepreneurial outreach. In effect, Kevin has really had two full-time jobs. He has always been about outreach to the community. For example, he's involved with the Economic Club of Chicago. I busted his chops a bit on that, saying to him that what does the Economic Club have to do with entrepreneurship. Kevin's response was that they need more input from entrepreneurial and tech sectors.
15. Kevin's board:
Name Title Company
James O'Connor, Jr. Managing Director MVC Capital, Inc.
Bryant Keil Chairman of the Board Potbelly Sandwich Works
Name Title Company
Hank Adams CEO Sportvision, Inc.
John Aiello Founder, Chairman The SAVO Group
Laura Ferris Anderson Senior Private Banker JP Morgan
Leslie Anderson Senior Vice President, District Market Manager Harris Bank
Jeffrey Aronin President & CEO Paragon Pharmaceuticals
David Baker VP External Affairs Illinois Institute of Technology
Robert Blackwell, Jr. President Electronic Knowledge Interchange
Matt Brown Partner Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Lon Chow Partner Apex Venture Partners
Michael Cole Managing Director Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC
Linda Darragh Director of Entrepreneurship Programs Chicago Booth
Dean DeBiase Chairman & CEO Entertainment.com
Jim Dugan CEO/Co-Founder/Managing Partner OCA Ventures / O'Connor Partners
Larry Eppley Partner K&L Gates
Michael Ferro, Jr. Chairman & CEO Merrick Ventures, LLC
Chris Gladwin President & CEO Cleversafe
James Gray Chairman of the Board optionsXpress
Sam Guren Managing Director Hyde Park Angels
Troy Henikoff Co-Founder & CEO Excelerate Labs
Warren Holtsberg Co-Head of Portfolio Management MVC Capital, Inc
Gregg Kaplan President & COO, Coinstar, Inc. Coinstar, Inc.
Talia Mashiach CEO and Founder Eved
Bret Maxwell Managing General Partner MK Capital
Matt McCall Managing Director DFJ PORTAGE Venture Partners
R.J. Melman Managing Partner Hub 51
Maura O'Hara Executive Director Illinois Venture Capital Association
J.B. Pritzker Managing Partner The Pritzker Group
Eric Reeves Vice President and General Counsel Duchossois
Jerry Roper President & CEO Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Danny Rosenberg Managing Director Sterling Partners
Patrick Ryan, Jr. Founder and CEO Incisent Technologies
Joe Shenton Director Barclays Capital
Andy Skoglund Vice President - Private Banking Credit Suisse
Juergen Stark Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Mobile Devices Motorola Mobility
Tim Stojka CEO Agentis Energy
Randall Tavierne Partner| Midwest Area Strategic Growth Markets Leader Ernst & Young LLP
Genevieve Thiers Founder Sittercity.com
Tom Thompson Managing Director WP Global Partners Inc
David Tolmie Partner Edgewater Funds
Jason Tyler Senior VP, Director of Research Operations Ariel Capital
Kevin Willer President & CEO Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center
Sam Yagan Executive Director / CEO & Co-Founder Excelerate Labs/ OkCupid
New topic. So, what is Kevin's circle of investor contacts as far as I could garner?
Some of the investors whom Kevin mentioned included:
Baird where he works with Benedict P. Rocchio and Jim who? It is either Jim Daverman who is an older guy or Jim Pavlik who is the most likely Jim that Kevin has been talking about.
APEX Ventures and no doubt about it, Kevin is a huge fan of Lon Chow whom Kevin believes does not get anywhere enough credit for all the work he does for entrepreneurs in the media.
OCA Ventures and the two names that come up there are Jim Dugan http://www.ocaventures.com/Team/Jim+Dugan.aspx and Jason Heltzer http://www.ocaventures.com/Team/Jason+Heltzer.aspx
HPA and I see that Sam Guren is on his board. BTW, I got this link from Jeff Carter whom I know knows Kevin and he is a member of Hyde Park Angels. http://blog.hydeparkangels.com, and I just looked at it. An HPA portfolio firm, www.feefighters.com has launched a new product called Samurai.
Craig Bradley's angel group, Wildcat Angels
Of course, Kevin is a venture partner at New World Ventures and he speaks very highly of J. B. Pritzker whom he says "works his butt off." And Kevin noted, as we all know, that J.B. does not have to do that. He also speaks highly of Matt McCall who is at NWV and has been for some time.
Some of Kevin's investments as an angel include:
Evolve Vacation Rental Network, http://evolvevacationrental.com/ I think this is the right URL, and it's a Denver firm!
Brad Flora and www.NowSpots.com which also got a $250K grant from the Knight Foundation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tMCUbnqWpQ
All in all, he has invested in about 15 companies and he generally bellies up for about $25K, sometimes more, sometimes less. He told me that with angel investing you have to be willing to lose it all since that is often the case. If I am not mistaken, Kevin's pool for investing in start-ups as an angel is about $300K.
I am not sure but I think Kevin is invested as an angel in TapMe Games, http://tap.me/wp/ and BrightTag, http://www.brighttag.com/. The name of Eric Lunt came up quite a bit and Lunt was with FeedBurner before they were sold to Google. The name Mike Sands, formerly of Orbitz, also came up. Mike is now with BrightTag.
Kevin's investing is eclectic since he is also invested in a number of restaurants:
near Grand and Wells and I believe he said that they are only three months old
At 1800 North Lincoln;
The website has lots of pictures of people on it but it is hard to navigate and I could not even find the address.
It is possible that despite the high failure rate for restaurants, they may be a better bet than a start-up tech firm. :-)
It turns out that many of the restaurants Kevin is invested in are part of the BOKA Group. Another restaurant he's invested in is called Landmark.
BOKA RESTAURANT GROUP was founded by Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm in 2003 and has become one of the premier chef-driven restaurant groups in the country. Anchored by partnerships with three of America's great chefs, Stephanie Izard, Paul Virant, and Giuseppe Tentori, BRG has 5 restaurants, each of them crafted individually and conceptually unique. BOKA Group's corporate team is rounded out by Vice President Ian Goldberg, and company mixologist Ben Schiller.
Boka, the group's first restaurant, was awarded a Michelin Star in 2010. It has received 3 stars from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine, and was given the coveted 4 Diamond AAA in 2011. Chef/partner Giuseppe Tentori was named Food and Wine's Best New Chefs in America in 2008, was a James Beard semi-finalist in 2009 & 2010.
Girl & The Goat may very well be the hottest restaurant in the country. Saveur Magazine called it "The Best New Restaurant in America," and it was nominated for the James Beard Award for "Best New Restaurant." Chicago Tribune awarded it 3 stars and called it "Restaurant of the Year." It was also named Restaurant of the Year by Time Out Chicago and Eater National. Chef/co-owner Stephanie Izard was named Food and Wine's Best New Chefs 2011, and was named National Chef the Year by Eater.
Perennial Virant opened in May 2011. James Beard Award winning writer Mike Gebert called it, "The Best Restaurant of 2011," and Chicago Magazine called it "a damn good restaurant." Chef Virant was nominated for Best Chefs Great Lakes at the James Beard Awards in 2011, was named Food and Wine's Best New Chefs 2007, and has appeared on Iron Chef.
GT Fish & Oyster opened in 2011 and was awarded 4 stars by Time Out Chicago, and 3 stars by both Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times. USA Today called it one of the hottest restaurants in America. David Tamarkin said "The Food coming out of GT would make any chef a star." Mike Sula of the Chicago Reader, says "Boka Group Scores Again."
Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm were nominated for a James Beard Award in 2011, and were named "Restaurateurs of the Year," by Time Out Chicago at the Time Out Awards. Chicago Magazine said "The pair is on a magical run right now one unmatched since the nineties."
BOKA CATERING GROUP began in 2007 and has been involved in a number of high profile events including Hedge Fund Cares and The Sundance Film Festival. Our Catering Division can do anything from weddings to a private corporate event. Boka Catering is a preferred vendor at The Ivy Room and A New Leaf.
For catering and special events inquiries, please submit this form and our talented team will contact you within 24 hours.
"Ask any young chef in town, "Who would you like to work for? And chances are that Chef would name Kevin Boehm, 40 and Rob Katz, 44, the men behind the hottest restaurant group in Chicago."
Chicago Magazine, May 2011
May again. Look, this work takes much longer to do than I would have ever expected. Reading my own notes is a problem, looking for things on the web is another issue. It is 3:43pm Friday, September 16th and I am hitting the send button at 5pm sharp come he** or high water. I will finish the rest over the weekend. Well, once again, for the umteenth time, my intentions did not come to fruition. WHAT A LIAR, I AM, I AM!
Let's talk about the people in Kevin's circle of contacts.
The regular "go to" list includes:
Lon Chow of APEX Venture Partners
Troy Henikoff of Excelerate Labs
Matt McCall of New World Ventures
Sam Yagan of Excelerate Labs
Jim Dugan of OCA Ventures
Jason Heltzer of OCA Ventures (Kevin also mentioned that Eddie Lou left OCA for a start-up, http://eddielou.wordpress.com/ Eddie's blog which I checked out has him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and as one of Chicago's most eligible singles.)
Dan Lyne of World Business Chicago
Maria Katris of Built In Chicago and TiE-Midwest
Matt Moog of Built In Chicago and www.viewpointsnetworks,com , http://moog.viewpoints.com/
Bret Maxwell of MK Investments
Willer's reach out extends to folks like Stella Fayman http://www.mo.com/stella-fayman-feefighters
from Entrepreneurs Unplugged and my old buddy Jason Rexilius even came up. Kevin has a Community Advisory Committee on which he has put Rexilius. I told him that is good because Jason is a big blabber mouth -- good for me, not so good for him -- so we'll get the inside skinny.
Some of these people are investors and some run organizations and entrepreneurial help out groups.
Kevin knows Paul Lee, for example, from when he was at Playboy Ventures (and before that at NBC?? -- I am puzzled by my notes) and he feels that Paul is a big asset for Lightbank which is where he is now. In fact, I got a note just yesterday from Paul Lee.
My views on Kevin have changed only slightly since we met on August 12th.
I'm still quite impressed with the guy. He is absolutely a breath of fresh air and he combines real business experience with a community focus. As one prominent person in Chicago tech who is also a critic of the local scene who probably does not want to be named, told me, "Kevin Willer may be our last best hope to change the inside circle problem."
To some degree, I am still grappling with the question: How beholden is he to his board? Some of the names mentioned by Kevin from his board included: J. B. Pritzker, Michael Ferro of Merrick Ventures, John Aiello of The SAVO Group, Bryant Keil of Potbelly, James O'Connor, Jr. Managing Director MVC Capital, Inc., Genevieve Thiers Founder Sittercity.com who is also a Boston College grad, and Patrick Ryan, Jr. Founder and CEO Incisent Technologies.
When I asked him if he would rather meet with a start-up entrepreneur or a board member, I got the impression that he would prefer the entrepreneur and especially the one he does not know.
But my big question is: No doubt that he is very connected to the "inside" crowd and he knows a lot of CEOs, but is he a get along and go along guy or is he willing to throw some elbows and fight the whole "inside" crowd mentality and thought process and clique?
BTW, as much as I like Kevin, and I do like him, I am not enamored of some of his buddies as he is. More to the point, some of his buddies like Troy Henikoff are out and out hostile toward me. I get that everyone is not lovey dovey with everyone and that is the price I pay for what I do. To be clear, there is no protective shield that comes from Willer and covers others. I am certainly willing to hear Kevin out in a fair way on how and why he respects certain people.
He sometimes seems naive in that everyone seems to him to be a "good guy" but I have to say, Kevin, everyone may not be so magnanimous or altruistic as you are and everyone may not be as transparent. To be blunt, some people are gilding their own lilies and some people are self-serving in their statements and actions.
Part of the problem is that while we have moved far beyond the days when Dick Reck, Bill Weaver and Bob Geras were the only game in town, we are still pretty darn small and there is a relatively small pond. Take Stella Fayman as an example. She is with FeeFighters, formerly TransFS, which was a 2010 graduate of Exelerate. And she runs Entrepreneurs Unplugged. That ties her in with Henikoff and Yagan, et. al.
Take Matt Moog as another example. He is tied into just about everyone going back to his days at CoolSavings. And look at who has invested in Viewpoints as angels. Matt McCall, J.B. and many others. Plus Matt Moog also started Built In Chicago.
Take Lon Chow. So he isn't Bill Weaver but he has as many touch points as Bill had in his day. You might say the same about the Valley or NYC or Boston. But Chicago is still a pretty small town when it comes to tech.
And as we were talking I could sense that Kevin is a visionary but also a realist. But he has some grandiose ambitions such as bringing together all the universities which is a monumental task much easier said than done. I told him he should talk to Dennis Serio about the difficulties in doing that. Kevin does correctly see the CEC as a facilitator and a partner with companies and organizations and not an empire unto itself. I admire that and I believe he is sincere about not wanting to empire build. He did not want to meet me at the office for a few reasons in my view and one of them is probably that he wants to show that the office is not where the action is. He spends most of his time outside the office in the offices of the firms he meets. He wants to see them where they live, see their environment and atmosphere and get a good feel for the place. That also helps a lot in building lasting relationships.
I talked to a young man named Bobby Stapleton when I came home the other night who is an associate at the Apple store downtown and he just graduated from college. Of course he has a degree in computer science, right? Wrong! His degree from the University of Michigan is in cultural anthropology!
He understands culture, organizations, teams, etc. And that is what Apple is all about. (As a complete digression, other companies are far more open about their plans than Apple but Bobby told me that they build up much more excitement by being cryptic about their plans. He notices that all the time fielding questions from customers at the store.)
How does this relate to Kevin?
Well, I think it relates to Kevin a lot. First, he wants to really get to know people and the cultures of the entrepreneurial firms. He is about culture more than financial projections and valuation calculations. He gets that the culture matters. Second, he does want to work with firms that have customers already, that is their sweet spot -- do I have that right Kevin?-- and relating to customers and the outside world was a big part of his job at Google where he worked part time and really on his own time to do that.
When it comes to angel groups, Kevin's goals are ambitious. He wants to bring groups together and he would like to see scalability in which angels become mentors. Now that may be happening already to some degree but most angel groups are still very loosely and informally structured.
Kevin stressed that he gets calls all the time from folks in the Valley who want to know what is going on here and many are his former colleagues from Google. He believes that programs like Excelerate can help along with many other such programs for start-ups. In the conversation, he mentioned Shawn Carpenter and YCharts which came out of Chicago. In fact, Shawn was at a firm that has spawned many start-ups, Classified Ventures. http://ycharts.com/analysis/team
Matt Maloney and Mike Evans of www.grubhub.com also came out of Classified Ventures. And it turns out -- surprise surprise -- that GrubHub is one of the finalists at the Momentum Awards along with Moog's Viewpoints and Irv Shapiro's IfByPhone, www.ifbyphone.com.
Kevin is hopeful that we can grow here "if they can create a magnet." He adds that "if we're talking about Groupon a year from now, we haven't done our job."
He was noticeably careful about what he said about Groupon itself. I guess he might read TMR. :-)
But he did say that Brad and Eric should be honored for what he called "recycling of capital."
That is not something that folks like Casey Cowell of USR or Michael Krasny of CDW have done enough of. I'm saying that and a prominent local VC told me that. So let's not put words in Kevin's mouth. He's a pretty skilled diplomat and it is my job to tick people off, not Kevin's job to do that. BTW, the decision to honor Brad and Eric at this year's Momentum Awards Dinner on October 6th was made before Kevin started at the CEC.
I take his comment about talking about Groupon a year from now to mean that a rising tide raises all boats. We have an opportunity to take advantage of things now and we'd better do it.
Let me end with this. Kevin's blog which he just started in April after he started at the CEC and after he left Google. There are about 26 comments, many from his buddies and his own board members. And a few masters at A** Kissing like Mr. Bland. I see that my buddy Bobbie Geras even puckered up. BTW, where's Neil Kane? You know what, there has not been anywhere near enough cynicism or snark in this article. I have to throw some in. :-)
Kevin Willer's Blog (27) Search Blog Posts
Willer @ the CEC: Illinois Venture Activity Last week was a brief break for me with my family in the mountains and it looks like I missed a lot of great action - especially with the exciting news about VC investment in IL.
Venture Capital investment in Illinois businesses hits record levels! Check out this post by World Business Chicago's Jake Tressel. Source: Illinois Innovation Index...
Added by Kevin Willer on September 18, 2011 at 12:42pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: 9/11 On Monday, 9/10, I was in New York City at the small Google office on Fifth Avenue in midtown for internal meetings and we were supposed to fly home to Chicago early the next morning. But during that day we got word that our new CEO, Eric Schmidt, would be flying in and wanted to address the Googlers at the office - so we re-scheduled our flights for later on Tuesday. I was traveling with the entire Google Chicago office as of September 2001: John Dicola, Kim Strauss, and...
Added by Kevin Willer on September 11, 2011 at 11:52pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: Excelerate How great was Excelerate's Demo Day at House of Blues last Wednesday?
Now I'm a little biased because I personally was a LP in the first Excelerate last summer and supported it again this year, but the presentations by those 10 companies were amazing! Add to that the incredible buzz and energy around the event, Mayor Emanuel coming to speak, Joe Born's talk, the news that one of last year's class, FanGo, has been...
Added by Kevin Willer on September 5, 2011 at 10:43pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: startup eco-system Most of my blog posts are spent talking about the many great folks I get to meet across our incredible local startup community and last week was no exception - from long-time entrepreneurs, to new entrepreneurs just out of school, to corporate executives - from angel groups to companies that started small and have seen rapid growth. We have an exceptional group of talented, smart, passionate leaders in our community that want to see Chicago become the best place in the world to start a...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 28, 2011 at 9:15pm - 2 Comments
From TechCocktail and Swathy Prithivi: Angel Investing Series Part I: Who are Angels & Angel Groups? Angel Investing Series Part I: Who are Angels & Angel Groups?
6:22:27 PM Swathy...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 26, 2011 at 11:40pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: acquisition To start this week, I'm going to go back to the BuiltInChicago Leaders event on the Thursday before last because I realized I had met some other great folks that I didn't mention in last week's post. This is a credit to the excellent group the Matt and Maria brought together. At my table at the event was Kristen Parsons from the lunch sponsor Silicon Valley Bank, Tom Ryan the CEO of ...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 21, 2011 at 11:30pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: press, metropolis, built-in After being out much of the week before with our newborn, it was fun to get back at it last week and meet with a bunch of folks in our entrepreneurial community.
Monday was catch-up day and then Tuesday morning was filled with interviews with press both local and national who are interested in what's happening in Chicago. I talked with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the ...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 14, 2011 at 9:09pm - 1 Comment
From NY Times and Chicago News Cooperative: "Loving Groupon but Dating Others"
August 13, 2011
Loving Groupon but Dating Others
By DAVID GREISING
David Greising writes a column for the Chicago News Cooperative.
When Groupon Inc. first filed papers for its initial...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 14, 2011 at 12:30pm - 1 Comment
Willer @ the CEC: new additions On Monday morning, 8/1/11, our family welcomed a new addition: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Grace. Mom and baby are doing great, sister Jacqueline and brother Max are thrilled - and because I'm such a proud daddy, I had to include a picture in my weekly blog post....
Added by Kevin Willer on August 7, 2011 at 3:15pm - 6 Comments
Another successful Chicago exit: ValueClick buys Dotomi
ValueClick Buys Personalized Display Ad Technology Company Dotomi For $295 Million...
Added by Kevin Willer on August 2, 2011 at 9:37pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: late July in Chicago It's late July in Chicago and there is no slowdown in our startup community. Last week began first thing Monday morning with an exciting CEC panel at TechWeek entitled "Why Chicago is the Best Place to Start a Company" - we went 15 minutes overtime because of the many questions from the audience. Thanks to Lon Chow, Matt Spiegel, Brian Fields, Josh Hernandez and Collin Wallace for being a part of this discussion and providing their unique...
Added by Kevin Willer on July 31, 2011 at 10:04pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: techweek, techcocktail, old friends, and a new site I just came from the TechWeek100 reception tonight at Sidebar Grille and was impressed with the turnout for a Sunday night in July. Of course Geoff Domoracki and Jonathan Pasky - but also Maria Katris, Jeff Maters, Dan Lyne, Jeff Carter, Rishi Roongta, Troy Henikoff, Ranvir Gujral, Lon Chow, Steve Collens, David Culver, Erik Severinghaus, Fred Hoch, George Deeb and Mr. Ron May. TechWeek is yet another sign that Chicago's startup community...
Added by Kevin Willer on July 24, 2011 at 10:55pm - 1 Comment
Please support TheStartupAct proposed by The Kauffman Foundation Hot off the presses from the Kauffman Foundation. Please support through Promoting on BuiltInChicago.
A proposal for new legislation aimed at jump-starting the U.S. economy through successful startups
Achieving a strong, sustained U.S. recovery will require...
Added by Kevin Willer on July 19, 2011 at 9:56am - 6 Comments
Willer @ the CEC: indicators What does it mean when the most influential angel investor in Silicon Valley comes to visit Chicago? As many of us have known for sometime, there are so many great startups being built here - we just need to get the word out more nationally and globally. Super-angel Ron Conway came in to visit with Lightbank, Groupon, and Excelerate at the end of last week. I spent a few minutes with him at Lightbank's CEO happy hour and...
Added by Kevin Willer on July 17, 2011 at 10:56pm - 1 Comment
Willer @ the CEC: startups selling into corporate chicago First - yes, I think Google+ is pretty cool, but I'm a little biased...
Who is looking to learn how to sell their Startup's products or services into large Chicago companies like Motorola? The CEC is hosting a talk by Motorola Mobility executive,Juergen Stark, on this topic on Friday, 7/15, at 9am and we have a...
Added by Kevin Willer on July 10, 2011 at 8:00pm - 2 Comments
Willer @ the CEC: CGI, SBDC, DLX, TiE Happy 4th of July! As we celebrate Independence Day, what is more American than taking an idea and starting a business? We saw two more successful startups in Chicago announce investments last week: Braintree Payment Solutions (2007 winner of ChicagoBooth's New Venture Challenge) and SAVO Group (previous winner of the CEC Merrick Momentum Award).
Added by Kevin Willer on July 4, 2011 at 3:00pm - 2 Comments
More Chicago Success: Braintree Raises $34MM Series A From Accel Partners Braintree Raises $34MM Series A From Accel PartnersPUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, JUN. 29, 2011
CHICAGO, June 29, 2011 -- CHICAGO, June 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- $34 million is a lot of money for a Series A investment and...
Added by Kevin Willer on June 29, 2011 at 8:43pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: innovation, awards, and the future Last week started quickly with the Illinois Innovation Council meeting first thing Monday morning at Flashpoint Academy with Governor Quinn. I'm honored to have recently been named to this Council and look forward to being a part of this work to start more innovative companies in our state. Howard Tullman posted some great pictures from the meeting on his ...
Added by Kevin Willer on June 26, 2011 at 10:50pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC: impact I keep thinking that the summer is going to slow things down soon, but there's no sign of that yet. Here's a run down of last week's activities:
Monday was the Impact Investing Summit put on in partnership between Kellogg & Booth - love to see that collaboration on this growing area of entrepreneurship. I've heard it called many things like Social Entrepreneurship, Venture Philanthropy, Double Bottom-line - whatever...
Added by Kevin Willer on June 20, 2011 at 8:03am - 1 Comment
Willer @ the CEC: telling stories Many great meetings last week with a wide variety of folks, but most exciting to me was the many local media outlets that are interested in telling the stories of Chicago entrepreneurs and startups. I've recently met with folks from Crain's, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and Chicago Magazine to name a few. Telling the stories of our entrepreneur's work continues to be very important - especially today with so much progress being made. As some local leaders have said, we need to have a bit...
Added by Kevin Willer on June 12, 2011 at 10:43pm - 1 Comment
Willer @ the CEC: speed For a short week with Memorial Day on Monday, there sure was a lot going on last week. The speed with which everything is happening in Chicago's startup community right now is amazing - and it only seems to be accelerating!
On Wednesday, there was the Excelerate kick-off Open House event at their sweet new digs at 820 West Jackson. All of the new class were there and many of last year's class - I hung out with...
Added by Kevin Willer on June 5, 2011 at 10:47pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC - collaboration I took an extra day this weekend with Memorial Day to consider my blog post and when thinking about last week, the theme that kept coming to mind was collaboration. Organizations, universities, VC's, and entrepreneurs are collaborating to make Chicago the best place to start a company.
This started on Monday when I went over to see Nick and the Sandbox folks and saw all of the energy in their space - I ran into Fee...
Added by Kevin Willer on May 30, 2011 at 10:06pm - 1 Comment
Willer @ the CEC - a new mayor for Chicago and startup Illinois Last week began with a new Mayor taking office for the first time in 22 years and ended with our Governor making a big announcement. In between, there were a number of great events and some exciting national press.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office on Monday and a key part of his Growth Strategy for Chicago is to Promote Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In fact, his transition plan states the following: "Entrepreneurial firms are key drivers of job growth. From 1992 -2008, 3.6...
Added by Kevin Willer on May 22, 2011 at 11:03pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC - graduation There are lots of graduation ceremonies happening right now - young leaders accepting their diplomas on stage in front of family and friends, off to the next great challenge. Hopefully some of these graduates will be entrepreneurs in Chicago and help create an amazing new business. It got me thinking that if we could get the local Universities to all work together in the support of the Chicago startup community, that could be very powerful. A strong entrepreneurial community benefits all...
Added by Kevin Willer on May 15, 2011 at 10:33pm - 3 Comments
Willer @ the CEC - the next generation of entrepreneurs The highlight of last week was the Future Founders Citywide Business Plan Competition held at the Hard Rock Cafe on Wednesday morning. Obviously I'm a bit biased as this is a CEC program, but I was still blown away by the energy in the room. This was the 6th year of this amazing event and the competition was fierce between some of the best young entrepreneurs I have ever seen. Over 200 Chicago high-school students participated in the Future Founders program during this school year and...
Added by Kevin Willer on May 8, 2011 at 8:23pm - No Comments
Willer @ the CEC - unpluggd, feedback, and libraries Wow - what an awesome response to my blog post last weekend - so much enthusiasm and energy in our entrepreneurial community! Thanks for the comments and support. Now if I can only follow that up with something interesting...
Another amazing week last week. The highlight of the week was the "Entrepreneurs Unpluggd" event on Tuesday night - kudos to Stella and Tim for pulling this cool event together in a unique setting (at the hip Chopin Theater in Wicker Park) where...
Added by Kevin Willer on May 1, 2011 at 7:37pm - 2 Comments
Willer @ the CEC, 3 weeks in... I previously worked at a place where I wasn't really at liberty to blog, tweet, update, etc. too much....but in my new role at the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, I can be vocal - so here goes. I'm planning to write a blog post every weekend on what I'm seeing with our Chicago startup community. I'm not a great writer so please bear with me and my run-on sentences - hyphens - and other grammatical errors. I'm just hoping to add some value through my observations.
Added by Kevin Willer on April 24, 2011 at 2:44pm - 26 Comments
Willer @ the CEC, 3 weeks in...Posted by Kevin Willer on April 24, 2011 at 2:44pm View Blog I previously worked at a place where I wasn't really at liberty to blog, tweet, update, etc. too much....but in my new role at the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, I can be vocal - so here goes. I'm planning to write a blog post every weekend on what I'm seeing with our Chicago startup community. I'm not a great writer so please bear with me and my run-on sentences - hyphens - and other grammatical errors. I'm just hoping to add some value through my observations.
If there has been any theme since I've started at the CEC - it is that the Chicago entrepreneurial community is exploding and everyone is excited about it! We've received supportive notes from every sector: entrepreneurs, universities, venture capitalists, angels, government folks, industry organizations, service providers - everyone wants to help build a great community here! Because of all this enthusiasm, the time is now to come together and become the best place to launch a business in the country/world. We have all of the pieces, we just need to work together and connect the dots around town so we're all working in the same direction. I am so pumped about the role the CEC can play in all of this.
Three weeks into being part of the CEC, I've spent most of the time listening to folks about what we're doing well and what we could do better. Here's a sampling of folks I talked with last week: Brian Gorbett from Microsoft doing great things for startups with their BizSpark program, Stuart Larkins discussing the independent angel community, Amy Francetic about the exciting work CET is doing, Kapil and the latest on the I2A fund, Shawn Carpenter of YCharts on their growth and what they'd like to see in the community, Fred at ITA about how we can partner, Steve Chamberlain at PNC Bank about our excellent partnership, Stella from Entrepreneurs Unplugged (and FeeFighters sitting at Sandbox) about their awesome events, a bunch of Ravenswood corridor startups about the cool work going on in that neighborhood, and many more! I'm taking a lot of notes and this is all helping me to understand where the CEC can provide the most value to the entrepreneurs in our community going forward.
One thing that has become abundantly clear is that we have incredible people in Chicago's startup community and everyone wants to help! It is in that spirit that I'd like to announce the formation of the CEC Community Board of Advisors. This is a group of leaders in the community that will give input on the CEC's strategy so that we're providing the most value to entrepreneurs. Watch out for a tweet-a-week (@chicagolandec) announcing new additions to this vibrant group.
Thanks for reading my first (of hopefully many) posts - please give me feedback! We have an opportunity right now to build the next generation of great Chicago companies, I'm looking forward to working with you to get it done.
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Comment by Bob Geras on June 8, 2011 at 9:03am Hi Kevin,
After decades of angel investing, mentoring, and helping entrepreneurs in an environment which was largely risk averse, it is absolutely amazing and so exciting to finally see the tremendous groundswell of interest in early stage businesses formations from every quarter all around the Chicago area. Kevin, I look forward to spending some quality time with you to discuss how we can best keep the momentum going for many years to come.
Comment by Len Bland on May 1, 2011 at 9:20pm Kevin, I'm looking forward to seeing the growth you will bring to CEC. I would love to explore how we can work together. I run the BNC VC Group. http://conceptequity.com/BNCVCGroup.htm Each month we have pitches for a community of investors, entrepreneurs, students, and service providers. My company, Concept Equity Group, prepares entrepreneurs for investment by working with them on their people, partners, strategy, and investor communications. We screen entrepreneurs for investors.
Let me know when you would like to talk.
Comment by Jeff Judge on April 28, 2011 at 6:08pm It's a very exciting time for all of us in Chicago...super excited for you to take lead at the CEC Comment by Richard Alvarez on April 28, 2011 at 10:19am Congratulations Kevin! The Chicago community is excited and geared for big things in the coming weeks. Glad to hear your voice and read about the input you're receiving - keep it up!
Comment by Jill Salzman on April 27, 2011 at 12:23pm Really, really excited to have you spearheading the CEC...looking forward to all the developments to come! Comment by Chiara Piccinotti on April 26, 2011 at 2:04pm So excited to be an entrepreneur in Chicago at this point in time! Great post, Kevin. Comment by Joe Born on April 26, 2011 at 2:02pm Congratulations! Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. Comment by David Marren on April 26, 2011 at 12:46pm Kevin, my former colleague Adam Robinson tweeted about your new blog and position. I look forward to hearing more about the Chicago entrepeneurial community through you. Good luck in your new gig at the CEC and collaborating with the Board of Advisors. Comment by Kirsten Goede on April 26, 2011 at 12:41pm Excited to read what you're up to every week! Comment by Raman Chadha on April 26, 2011 at 10:59am Kevin, best wishes to you and your team. We're looking
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Comment by Steven Collens on April 26, 2011 at 10:38am Kevin, looking forward to your missives and more great things from the CEC! Comment by Ellen Rudnick on April 26, 2011 at 10:18am Kevin --- we at the Polsky Center and Chicago Booth are thrilled to have you in a leadership role at the CEC and the entrepreneurial community in Chicago. Looking forward to working with you on further building the momentum and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago. Comment by Luke Tanen on April 26, 2011 at 9:45am Kevin, we're thrilled and proud to join you in this effort! Comment by Jaime Brugueras on April 26, 2011 at 9:37am I've heard great things about you and the CEC. I am proud to have my first CAP meeting this coming Thursday, April 28 at 3:30pm. If you are around, I would like to meet you. Looking forward to working with you and the CEC. Comment by Dan Kuthy on April 26, 2011 at 9:19am Kevin, great work, looking forward to all of the opportunity in Chicago! Comment by Robert Jordan on April 26, 2011 at 9:18am Kevin, I second Craig Wortmann's comment - it is wonderful that you are leading the CEC - thanks for charging forward! Comment by Alicia Cannon Mullen on April 26, 2011 at 8:44am Kevin, congratulations on your new role.. I am excited to see your plans for the evolution of the CEC!! Comment by Betsy Westhoff on April 26, 2011 at 8:34am Kevin, Congratulations and best wishes in your new role. Comment by Ira Weiss on April 26, 2011 at 8:23am We are so excited that you are leading the CEC, and all of us at Hyde Park Angels and Chicago Booth look forward to continuing to work with you in building the chicagoland entreprenuerial eco-system. Let us know how we can help, and we will certainly pester you with ideas.
Comment by Tim Jahn on April 26, 2011 at 8:19am Sounds good to me! Couldn't agree with you
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Comment by Linda Darragh on April 26, 2011 at 7:40am You are on a whirlwind tour of Chicago and it was a pleasure to be included in one of your brainstorming sessions yesterday. We love your energy and enthusiam - so keep blogging! Comment by Joe Abraham on April 26, 2011 at 7:30am Not a bad week at the office at all Mr. Willer. Here's wishing you an even better one this week! Thanks for the commitment to keep the community updated on an ongoing basis. Comment by Craig Wortmann on April 26, 2011 at 7:27am Kevin - I think it's fair to say that everyone I've talked to is DELIGHTED that you are at the CEC leading our entrepreneurial efforts. Thanks for doing what you do. - Craig Wortmann
Comment by Brad Farris on April 26, 2011 at 7:26am An advisory board seems like just the thing! You and the CEC people can't be everywhere all the time, but there is a lot happening. I've been working with some local companies to establish their advisory boards and it has been nothing but upside for them.
The key to success for an advisory board (or any role) is clear expectations, and frequent feedback. Looks like you are on that path already.
Comment by Dan Ratner on April 24, 2011 at 4:28pm "The best place to launch a business in the country/world." I like it. Comment by Troy Henikoff on April 24, 2011 at 3:24pm Kevin, love to see you out in the community and am excited about where the CEC is going - keep it up!
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