Wisconsin-based Venture Investors Finding Opportunity in a Tough Market

Shannon Beeman
March 21, 2012

Venture Investors Managing Director Jim Adox has been involved with the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) in a variety of roles since the mid-1990s. His first exposure to the forum came when he was a University of Michigan Ross School of Business student enrolled in a VC class taught by MGCS founder, Professor David J. Brophy. Today, Adox is a partner in Venture Investors, aMidwest venture capital firm that invests in early stage, technology and life sciences companies. Over the years, he has served as an MGCS advisor, company selection judge, coach and panel participant. His firm has been a symposium sponsor for the past seven years.

“The Growth Capital Symposium is a very important event for venture capital and entrepreneurship in the whole region, not just the state ofMichigan,” said Adox. “We feel it’s important that we support it, because it is such an important event that brings together the leaders in the Midwest and also attracts a lot of great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from across the country and even fromCanada.”

Venture Investors is based in Madison, Wisconsinand has a second office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The 28-year-old company specializes in university spinoffs and works closely with the two largest public research universities in the country — University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin. The MGCS provides an opportunity for Venture Investors to market itself to entrepreneurs.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get out and network and make sure that our customers are familiar with who we are and what we do,” said Venture Investors Managing Director Scott Button, “but equally as important, it’s an opportunity to identify that next group of companies that could be potential members of our portfolio.”

Button and Adox concede that the VC environment has changed for investors and entrepreneurs. The life sciences industry is being impacted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) uncertainty over how it will regulate future innovations in medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, there has been a reduction in the number of overall VC investments, resulting in less money to spend on start-up companies.

“The general climate for our industry has been difficult, and that has been affected by the broader economic slowdown our nation has faced, which ultimately makes it tough for venture capitalists to raise the funds that they need to invest in start-up companies,” explained Button. “Right now, for a lot of high risk companies it is a necessary part of their finance strategy to raise venture capital. So, ultimately to have a robust, start-up community and economy, you need a strong venture capital industry.”

On the positive side, Adox points to the re-emergence of technology investing since the bubble ten years ago. Today, enterprising technology companies can be created and grown at a much lower cost. Venture Investors is looking forward to the 2012 MGCS, because the forum always attracts high quality entrepreneurs.

“It’s exciting stuff. You hear really smart, energized entrepreneurs with their new ideas, inventions and innovations, and how they plan to change the world in a big or small way,” said Adox.