Paul Lee's new startup incubator Roniin explodes out of stealth with $3M seed round

July 9, 2015

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On Wednesday, Paul Lee finally took his latest project out for a spin.

In doing so, he’s caught the attention of the Chicago startup community, many of whom are eager to learn exactly what it is he’s spinning. As it turns out, it’s companies.

Meet Roniin, Lee’s new platform for creating and spinning off startups. The nine-month-old company wants to marry the informed opinions of serial entrepreneurs—who don’t always have the time or desire to fully realize their next great idea—to the optimism, enthusiasm, and ambition of younger entrepreneurs who in turn may be lacking in experience or capital.  

The idea is to arm new startups with mentors, seed capital, and operational resources they need to get the ball rolling, and rolling fast. The CEOs are given the largest stake in the company, and in return, Roniin takes an equitable position in the companies.

Effectively, Roniin wants to streamline the rugged process it takes to turn a great idea into a successful, revenue-generating company.

“Every early stage startup struggles with things like resource constraint and capital constraint,” said Roniin co-founder Arman Ghosh. “With Roniin, we match talented entrepreneurs with experienced mentors and high profile investors, as well as provide actionable services that will help our companies grow—without most of the limitations most startups face.”

After identifying the vertical they want to target, the 17-strong team behind Roniin (which includes its other two co-founders, Ryan Jeffery and Kathryn Saluke) handpicks founders to head the company and work alongside the Roniin team. The chosen CEOs will have access to Roniin’s pool of mentors, the likes of which include Fieldglass’ Jai Shekhawat and Raise’s George Bousis.

“It’s really taking an idea and building it into a company that’s scalable and efficient,” said Jeffery. “If you look at things like administration or human resources—things that entrepreneurs don't realize take so much time and oftentimes doom a company—we take that off of their plates.

“Beyond that,” he added, “we focus on and have experience in building companies that truly understand sales, that know marketing, that have great product and technology.”

They’ve already helmed 5 startups—three of which are based in Chicago, the others in New York and Los Angeles.

Only two of those five currently operate outside of stealth: Chicago-based OfficeLuv, a tech-enabled, office cleaning and management startup that raised $800,000, and New York City’s bereavement service cancellation manager, Attendant, which raised $700,000.

“We’re not focusing on one particular vertical or space, but rather looking at it holistically. We’re defining the problems that people have and then finding a tech-enabled solution in a much more efficient and effective way,” Jeffery said.

Roniin itself is no stranger to securing funding. It just announced that it had raised $3 million seed round, led by Formation 8, a venture fund based in San Francisco, and was joined by the who’s who of Chicago investors—which included Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Dom Capital, 500 Startups, and Launch Capital, among other angel investors.

“What we really found attractive was building a better ecosystem for creating businesses,” Ghosh said. “And that’s the core tenant to it—not only from an incoming founder perspective, or an investor’s perspective, but for the individuals who are actually out there running the business.”

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