Arboretum Ventures’ Petersen on VC in MI, What the Future Holds
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realize that we need strong entrepreneurs. People recognize that the days of not needing an education to work at the plant are sort of gone.”
Another issue that Petersen plans to focus on during his tenure as board chair is Michigan’s reputation, and getting the word out about the state’s successes and “what’s really going on here.” He loves the story of Flagship Ventures, a Boston-based VC firm, which came in as part of a syndicate investing in Accuri. One of Flagship’s partners was so impressed with the VCs here—as good as anybody in Boston, he told Petersen—that he decided to open a Flagship office in Ann Arbor. “That’s a very telling example,” Peterson notes. “That’s a fund that invests everywhere, sits in Boston, and they’re putting genuine effort into looking for opportunities here with a big return.”
In addition to spreading the work about Michigan’s VC successes, Petersen says he also expects conversations to begin soon on creating a third Venture Michigan Fund. The state government-created Venture Michigan Fund and Venture Michigan Fund II, with more than $200 million combined capital under management, have long been a talking point for politicians who point to the value of the state increasing access to capital to spur the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “We need those fund of funds to keep things moving,” Petersen adds. “My honest guess is that the next Venture Michigan Fund won’t be legislated, and raising money for it is what we need to work on.”
As for the meeting, this year 200 people attended—quite an increase from 10 years ago, when Petersen says people questioned if there even needed to be a Michigan organization dedicated to venture capital. Cytopherx, an Ann Arbor medical device company focused on inflammation-based diseases, was honored with the Venture Financing of the Year for raising $34 million from a large syndicate of investors toward finishing its clinical trial. Mophie, which began as a startup housed in a garage in Kalamazoo, MI, and grew to be a provider of electronic accessories for mobile phones with offices in Michigan, California, and China, was honored with the 100 Award for earning $100 million in revenue. Don Walker, founding partner of Arbor Partners, was honored for his continued support of Michigan’s venture community.