Xconomist of the Week Chris Rizik: Who Says A VC Has No Soul?

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up to the idea before he advanced the official proposition—which Rizik quickly accepted.

“It was pretty exciting,” Rizik says. “We were doing something very entrepreneurial, which we didn’t do well in Michigan in 1998.”

Avalon grew to be a $100 million fund and the recipient of three consecutive Deal of the Year awards from the Michigan Venture Capital Association. “We were turning technology into companies, and we had some real success,” Rizik adds. “We really felt good about what we were doing.”

In 2000, Rizik and Snyder teamed up again to form Ardesta, a nanotechnology holding company that Rizik describes as being “pretty pioneering in the small tech space.”  Ardesta became a global leader in commercializing technology licensed from universities.

“Chris has an uncanny talent for observing people and keeping perspective even in chaotic situations,” Snyder said in an email. “He can break down complicated items into manageable, understandable pieces and work with a broad cross-section of people to get things done.”

Despite his runaway success as a venture capitalist, Rizik never fully put down music or writing. He says he’d find himself writing articles about forgotten soul music legends on long plane rides. The Internet gave him an outlet to publish his pieces, and it wasn’t long before he caught the attention of radio. He did a couple of shows for XM, but that only helped him realize that what he truly wanted to do was write.

“In 2003, I went on Ebay and paid $50 for a program that teaches you how to create a website,” Rizik says. “It was the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen, but I built it.”

Rizik says the site, the aforementioned SoulTracks.com, was picked up in search engines within six months of launching and saw “significant” traffic numbers. Record labels began contacting him when they had artists to promote. SoulTracks kept growing organically and, in the process, Rizik discovered a new generation of soul artists he loved but who where completely underground: Eric Roberson; Frank McComb; Angela Johnson.

He had a vision: “What if I could build a website that served as a parallel universe for soul music, where you could get news, critical reviews, and sneak previews about … Next Page »

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

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