Kevin Willer to lead new $40M tech fund
Former Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center leader Kevin Willer isn’t joining the i2A venture capital fund after all. He’s leading a new fund four times bigger than i2A but with many of the same investors.
The new $40 million venture capital fund, called Chicago Ventures, has been operating as i2A Fund II, but decided to use the Chi-city-friendly name because most of the investors hail from the Windy City and because many of the investments will be made in Chicago-based companies.
Willer and Internet entrepreneur Stuart Larkins will serve as partners of Chicago Ventures, the fund is announcing Monday.
The lead investors of Chicago Ventures are J.B. Pritzker, Pat Ryan Jr. and The Duchossois Group. Pritzker and The Duchossois Group were also lead investors in the i2A fund. The name i2A is shorthand for Illinois Innovation Accelerator Fund.
Willer says the Chicago Ventures fund has the resources to be a lead investor in technology-based startup companies that show they can solve business problems.
“We’ll sit on the board and help entrepreneurs and startups get to the next level,” says Willer, who co-founded Google’s office in Chicago in December 2000.
Says Bob Fealy, president of the Duchossois Group and chairman of the fund, “Chicago Ventures brings together an experienced operating team and investor group, each with impressive histories of success, who provide not only their capital but also their connections and mentorship to our portfolio companies to help them succeed.”
Chicago Ventures has invested 20 percent of the total fund in 15 companies, including Realtor document-sharing firm Cartavi, electricity saving site Power2Switch, data-driven weight-loss startup Retrofit and service-industry networking site Shiftgig.
Willer will remain a member of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center’s board of directors and its executive committee. The center’s board has hired an executive search firm to identify CEO candidates.
Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center runs 1871, a 50,000-square-foot collaborative workspace in the Merchandise Mart that houses 220 startup companies and has attracted visits from British Prime Minister David Cameron and the leaders of Twitter, AOL and Sun Microsystems since it opened on May 2, 2012.
Larkins was on a management team that started Performics, a marketing services company that was one of the first clients of Google’s Chicago office. Performics was acquired by Doubleclick in 2004, and Doubleclick became part of Google in 2008.
Sun-Times Media photo of Kevin Willer