Concept for regional fund to back Great Lakes VC investors faces key hurdles

The idea sounds simple: Create a $150 million to $200 million fund supported by foundations and university endowments to back venture capital investors in the Great Lakes states.

Actually pulling off such an ambitious idea likely would prove difficult, given the complexities involved and the kind of collaboration required in starting the fund, the need for which was outlined in a recent Brookings Institution paper.

Dale Grogan, a managing director at Michigan Accelerator Fund I, took a more optimistic track.

“I love the idea,” Grogan said. “It’s long overdue.”

“But being able to find some folks that are willing to lead that charge I think is the nice next step. First you have the theory, then you have the application,” Grogan said. “If we can move this into something tangible, that’d be great.”

The fundamental question of who could actually move the concept forward poses the first barrier.

While a Great Lakes regional fund of funds “makes lots and lots of sense,” Grogan said, “there are a limited number of folks that could do that effectively.”

Grogan also sees a need for public participation in a Great Lakes fund. Venture capital professionals in Michigan often credit the state’s 21st Century Jobs Fund with helping to grow the industry by investing in funds, yet lament that Lansing has been unwilling to continue that support with another fund of funds. Read more at MiBiz

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