They say we operate with a certain mentality here in the Midwest. Slow and steady; safe and certain. In business and in life, the Midwest has a reputation for hard work, accountability, dependability, and low risk-taking.
But as Chicago tech continues to assert itself as one of the leading innovation hubs in the world, does that description really fit?
According to recent reports by both Compass and Silicon Valley Bank, venture capital investments in the city are growing. As successful tech trailblazers like Groupon, GrubHub, and Coyote Logistics (as well as newcomers Raise and Avant) continue to solidify the city as an alluring home to build a business, that trend is likely to continue.
In honor of the venture capital firms fueling Chicago's explosive growth, we've rounded up the top names that have helped build the city into what it is today.
MATH Venture Partners is an early to growth-stage fund managed by a team of hands-on investors and operators. They look for companies that have customer acquisition as part of their core DNA. It is this maniacal focus, deep appreciation for process and exceptional talent that makes them stand out. The fund is managed by seasoned entrepreneurs Mark Achler and Troy Henikoff.
Investing in seed-stage tech companies in Chicago and across the Midwest, Chicago Ventures looks to invest anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million in its companies. Chicago Ventures is located in 1871, which puts it at the heart of the city’s innovative tech scene.
Exits: 4 acquisitions
Energy Foundry is dedicated to building successful energy technology companies, and their financial investments are coupled with support tailored to the needs of a growing energy business, including an advisor network advice on government funding or foundational partnerships.
Notable portfolio companies: Digital H2O
Hyde Park Angels is a syndicate of angel investors made up of former executives, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists looking to invest in seed and early stage businesses in the Midwest. In addition to funding, HPA also provides strategy, coaching, and domain expertise to its portfolio companies. HPA was founded in Chicago in 2006 by a group of Booth School of Business alumni and invests in business and financial services, consumer products and services, digital media and technology, and healthcare. Hyde Park Angels works closely with Hyde Park Venture Capital, another leading firm in the city.
Exits: 6 acquisitions
Jump Capital, a Chicago-based firm that focuses on expansion stage and growth capital investments, has invested in some of Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming startups. Investing in both newly-minted startups and and more established businesses, Jump Capital provides a package deal of advocacy, organizational support, and resources for entrepreneurs.
Headquartered in Chicago, Pritzker Group Venture Capital has helped many entrepreneurs build their technology companies through every stage of growth. Founded in 1996, the firm has worked with more than 100 companies and brings to the table tremendous flexibility and size.
Exits: 1 IPO and 14 acquisitions
Founded by ContextMedia co-founders Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal, Jumpstart Ventures is a venture fund that primarily invests in seed and early-growth technology companies in the Midwest. Founded in 2011, Jumpstart Ventures has invested in many of Chicago’s most promising tech startups.
Exits: 4 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: WeDeliver, Dose, SwipeSense
Related: The Coolest Tech Offices in Chicago
Exits: 11 acquisitions
A global private equity investment management firm, Adams Street Partners has over four decades of experience with six offices in five countries that management investments in companies in over 30 countries across the globe.
Exits: 10 IPOs and 21 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Craftsy, Smule, Scytl
Origin Ventures specializes in providing early-stage companies with the financial and organizational resources they need to scale successfully. The firm focuses on three sectors: e-commerce, digital media and ad technology, and software as a service.
Exits: 1 IPO and 2 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: GrubHub, Ahalogy, Doggyloot
Founded in 2003, Sandbox Industries is a Chicago-based venture capital firm that wants to connect entrepreneurial talent and drive with corporate resources. With three main business lines (venture funds, accelerator programs, and an innovation consulting business), Sandbox does everything from seed and early stage venture to private equity investments.
Exits: 5 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: NaviHealth, Lumiata Health, FanGo Software Systems
OCA Ventures focuses on equity investments in tech companies with significant potential to grow. They’re particularly interested in companies that do innovative work with technology, services, mobile commerce, and web 3.0. They invest across a number of industries but prefer financial services and for-profit education.
Exits: 5 acquisitions
Run by a cohort of local founders with stellar track records of launching and growing digital tech startups, FireStarter Fund is a seed stage investment fund based in Chicago. The fund’s purpose is to spur innovation by connecting up-and-coming tech companies with the wisdom, resources, and advice of seasoned entrepreneurs who currently run their own businesses and know what it takes to succeed in the space.
Exits: 1 acquisition
IllinoisVentures focuses on seed and early-stage technology companies, specifically those that are research-derived in the IT, physical sciences, life sciences, and clean technology industries. IllinoisVentures was born on the campus of the University of Illinois and helps connect the world’s leading researchers with entrepreneurs in order to build truly innovative ideas and companies.
Exits: 3 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Rithmio, Revenew, Persio
Baird Capital's Venture Capital team invests in early and expansion stage technology-enabled services and healthcare companies.
Notable portfolio companies: Apervita, NowSecure, Synap
With offices in both Chicago and Los Angeles, MK Capital offers multi-stage growth equity and venture capital to companies in a variety of sectors, including digital media, data center automation, software, and edtech. In addition to funding, MK Capital collaborates on strategy, operations, and technology.
Exits: 1 IPO and 6 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Machinima, SimpleReach, Wellspring
Ceres Venture Fund helps fund promising, high-growth companies in the Midwest during their early growth stages. This women-run fund seeks primarily to partner with entrepreneurs with a proven track record in order to help fuel their success with the resources they need most.
Notable portfolio companies: Coverity, Eved
Duchossois Capital Management, the investing branch of Duchossois Technology Partners (DTEC), is an Elmhurst-based venture capital firm that focuses on information technology, communications, semiconductors, and software. The fund, which was founded in 1998 and receives all of its capital from the Duchossois family, hopes to create long term growth in value.
Exits: 2 IPOs and 5 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Echo360, Smart Signal, Brivo
At First Analysis, research is the cornerstone of all of the firm’s investments. Their 40-person team of investment professionals has more than 15 years of investment and industry experience on average, many of whom focus specifically on researching specific industry sectors.
Exits: 1 IPO and 6 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Freeosk, Chrome River Technologies, UniversityNow, Yello
Hopewell ventures is bringing equity capital, expertise, and over a century of experience to high-growth businesses in the Midwest, averaging between $2 and $7 million in initial funding. Hopewell’s investments span a variety of industries, including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and medical devices.
Exits: 2 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: InStadium, Inc., Mersive Technologies, SageQuest Inc.
Specializing in software, IT, and communications markets, JK&B Capital is a Chicago-based venture capital firm with over $1.1 billion of capital under management. Founded in 1996, JK&B boasts an impressive track record and offers operational and technology expertise in addition to sheer funding.
Exits: 1 IPO and 15 acquisitions
Notable portfolio companies: Actiance, EarlySense, Viewfinity
KGC Ventures invests primarily in early stage clean technology companies. KGC Ventures says it looks for highly motivated and entrepreneurial management teams who are committed to building the next generation of clean technology companies.
Exits: 1 IPO and 1 acquisition
Notable portfolio companies: AdYapper, Whittl, Shiftgig
Related: Best Startups to Work for in Chicago
Editors note: This list does not represent 100 percent of all venture capital firms in Chicago. The list was written at the author's discretion, based on factors like recent activity, investments size, and notability in Chicago.