Adding Value to Startups, the M25 Way
We’re frequently asked by entrepreneurs about what things we do to bring value to the table beyond our capital. The vast majority of the time this is refreshing and well-received, as we want to work with founders who are smart and strategic enough to be selective and intentional about who they partner with.
As I mentioned in a previous post, M25 is still very much like a startup itself. Led by some of the youngest fund managers in our industry, we’re looking to disrupt early-stage VC. With that comes a plethora of opportunities to create new value for ourselves, our investors and our portfolio companies. We recently brought in about half of our portfolio from around the Midwest to ‘beta test’ our first run at something we called the M25 Summit.
Initial feedback = minor glitches, big success.
“The M25 Summit was one of my favorite events particularly because of the people in the room. Every attendee there was in a similar position and often times had faced similar issues or roadblocks. It was almost therapeutic. Being a founder/CEO can often lend itself to being surprisingly lonely. So having a group around you that’s going through all the same things was a great atmosphere to be around.” — Sterling Douglass, Co-Founder & CEO of Chowly
Really, the event was simple. We got about 20 or so founders across about a dozen companies in a room together, created a safe place for meaningful interaction to take place… and got out of their way.
“M25’s gathering was truly helpful: beyond getting great insight from smart investors, we learned a ton from fellow founders of M25 portfolio companies. It’s a rare and valuable opportunity to connect with so many founders at similar stages of their company’s growth across industries. The solidarity was buoying!” — Jenn Brandel, Co-Founder & CEO of Hearken.
“The discussions that took place, both structured and unstructured, were helpful in providing perspective and reference points for our own endeavor at PrintWithMe. This event is just one example of how the M25 team works hard to add value in creative ways.” — Jon Treble, Founder & CEO of PrintWithMe
We did also share some other resources with them, had an investor panel comprising some of the best Series A firms in Chicago, and wrapped up the evening putting them alone in a room with about 20 more investors (the beer and wine was probably a good call as well). Really though, the best thing we did, and will consistently do, was help founders lock arms with one another as they bravely look ahead to punch holes in their respective markets.
“I really enjoyed the chance to meet other Midwest founders — it is always valuable to expand your CEO network and peer group. We had a great discussion on everything from what to name your “post-seed” round to the best communication tools to manage growing teams.” — Jenn Fried, Co-founder & CEO of ExplORer Surgical
Now, I’m not implying that we’re the first people to realize that getting people together is a great way to create and feed opportunities, but I am saying that we get excited about creating meaningful value add for our portfolio. Just a few weeks ago our friend Paul wrote about how to unlock more capital in the Midwest, and forcing more collisions was one of his key factors. Whether you’re a founder looking to raise capital from us or another investor, it’s by far in your best interest to partner with someone who’s both excited about and has “referenceable work” of finding meaningful ways to add value to your vision.
About the Author
Mike Asem is a director of M25 Group. M25 Group focuses on seed-stage Midwestern startups in most industries. Mike is a proud alum of Purdue University, where he championed The Anvil coworking space and incubator, led business development for a nanotech startup, and mentored and worked with startups as a director of the Purdue Foundry.
Mike lives in downtown Chicago and loves staying active, exploring great food, and rooting for Chicago sports. He also enjoys making fruit wines, with awards for both his strawberry and blueberry wines. If you really want to get his attention, your best bet will be to help him find some great sushi or make a new batch of wine.
M25 Group is one of the most active venture capital firms focused solely on early-stage investments in the Midwest. Their objective, analytical approach has helped support their thesis and craft what is known as an ‘index fund of Midwest startups.’ M25 has already invested in over thirty companies since their inception in 2015, and continues to invest in over twenty companies each year. Their collaborative, forward-thinking approach and diverse array of investments across industries and business models throughout the region has quickly established them as a key node in the Midwest startup ecosystem.