Plymouth Growth Partners Snags MIRA Award for Investor of the Year

A few years ago, when Ann Arbor, MI-based Plymouth Growth Partners was searching for new places to invest the $61 million in its third venture fund, the firm decided to look outside the Great Lakes State.

“We were pretty heavily invested in Chicago and Michigan already,” recalls Jeff Barry, a partner at the firm formerly known as Plymouth Ventures. “We needed new markets in the Midwest, so we went poking around in places like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis.”

Barry liked what he saw in Indianapolis: capital-efficient startups led by experienced entrepreneurs, often in the software sector, that were largely being overlooked by the country’s venture investors.

“What we found in Indiana was kind of like where Michigan was five years ago,” Barry says. “There were very strong angel groups, but no real institutional capital.”

So the firm got to work meeting startups in Indianapolis. Barry and Plymouth Growth Partners have made enough of an impact on the local venture community to earn a MIRA award for Investor of the Year. The annual MIRA Awards, overseen by TechPoint, celebrate the best of Indiana’s tech ecosystem. Investor of the Year is awarded to “an angel investor or investment firm principal who brings money plus exceptional connections, advice, and attention to Indiana companies.”

Barry and Plymouth are being recognized mainly for two investments: ClearObject (formerly CloudOne) and Kinney Group. In 2014, Plymouth led ClearObject’s $4.5 million Series D round. Barry joined the fast-growing cloud software company’s board as part of the deal.

“They’re one of the leading tech companies in Indiana,” Barry says when explaining why Plymouth wanted to back ClearObject. “They’ve gone from $2 million in annual revenues to $20 million in two-and-a-half years.”

Through his relationship with ClearObject, Barry was introduced to other tech startups around town, and that’s how he got to know Kinney Group, a firm that designs, builds, and integrates IT infrastructure, enabling the adoption of new cloud-based technologies, for government agencies and corporate clients. Plymouth led Kinney Group’s “multi-million-dollar growth round” in November. (Specifics of the deal were not disclosed.)

“Kinney Group is not a conventional tech company, but because they’re working on leading-edge innovations, we wanted to do the deal,” Barry says.

Although Plymouth goes wherever the deals are, the firm “never leaves the Great Lakes region,” Barry says. It considers Michigan its bread and butter, he adds, but would like to eventually be known in Indiana as one of the go-to investors. He was blown away by the enthusiastic reception Plymouth got from the tech community after the ClearObject investment.

“We want to add more value to our portfolio companies than just capital, and awards like the MIRA validate our business model,” Barry says. “It’s a recognition that you brought value to the community.”

Barry says he’s looking forward to getting to know Indiana’s tech startups even better. “In reality, there’s one VC firm in Indianapolis”—Allos Ventures—“and it’s a $40 million fund. That means Indiana companies need outside capital. I think we’re positioned well; it’s a nice market to be in.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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