Rochester native launches $100 million venture fund
A longtime venture capitalist with deep roots in Rochester and Mayo Clinic recently launched a $100 million fund to invest in enterprise technology firms.
Charles Beeler, who grew up in Rochester, and partner Jeff Hinck announced Wednesday that their firm Icon Venture Partners has fully activated their new fund, Icon Venture Partners I.
While the firm's headquarters is in Menlo Park, Calif., it's very closely connected to Minnesota. Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota are among investors in the fund. Co-founder and partner Hinck is based in Minnetonka.
"There has been a massive change in the past five years as early-stage enterprise technology companies can get to market faster and require significantly less capital to do so. This shifts more of the risk to the go-to-market phase" said Beeler, co-founder at Icon Venture Partners. "What has not changed is that entrepreneurs want to work with investors who understand the go-to-market challenges, will commit time and resources to help their company succeed and have the capital necessary to support the business as it scales. We formed Icon to meet this specific need."
While Beeler's firm has not invested in any local start-ups at the moment, it has offices in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center.
"It's great not to get Mayo Clinic as just as an investor, but to also get to work with them," says Beeler. "We're there at least once a month. We've been looking at opportunities."
Beeler has presented educational sessions at the Mayo Clinic Accelerator to help teach entrepreneurs what is needed to take a start-up from original concept to success. He remains engaged with the Accelerator in sort of a business mentor role.
In addition to the institutional investors in the Icon fund, the founders brought together a group of more than 80 enterprise technology professionals who each invested in the fund and form the Icon Technology Partners group. This group includes senior business leaders, entrepreneurs and technology experts who help Icon identify and evaluate investment opportunities and work with the Icon team to help these companies succeed.
"I've known the team at Icon for years and am excited to be included in the network of successful entrepreneurs and senior executives they brought together to form the Icon Technology Partners fund," said Ben Fried, CIO of Google.
Hinck stresses that these partners greatly enhance Icon's "hands-on" aspect.
"With the Icon Technology Partners we've put together an incredible group of industry experts who help ensure we truly add value to our portfolio companies" he said.
To date, the Icon Venture Partners I fund has invested in five companies:
• Appboy, the leading platform for mobile relationship management
• Bugcrowd, a security platform enabling enterprises to connect with security researchers worldwide
• 9Lenses, a SaaS solution that enables the collection and analysis of organizational intelligence
• Sport NGIN, a Minnesota provider of web and mobile software solutions for sports organizations
• Swiftstack, a provider of private cloud storage solutions powered by OpenStack Swift
Beeler says the typical investment ranges between $1.5 million to $3 million, though the fund is flexible enough to make smaller or larger investments.
"It's all about helping start-up companies in enterprise tech space scale their businesses, he says.