Ann Arbor-based Renaissance Venture Capital Fund raises $50 million
The Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, run by Ann Arbor venture capitalist Chris Rizik, announced today that it had officially raised about $50 million from private corporations to help spark more venture capital investments in Michigan.
RVCF, which funds other venture capital firms, also said it had already invested about $5.8 million in six VC firms. Those firms, in turn, have distributed about $23 million to 12 Michigan companies, which have hired about 200 new workers, according to RVCF's figures.
Rizik said efforts like RVCF are important to revitalizing Michigan's economy.
"Folks around the country have recognized that venture capital is a really great long-term driver of economic growth, the creation of new industries and new technologies for the last 30 years have relied very heavily on new venture capital as one of the means of bringing them forward," he told AnnArbor.com.
Rizik said RVCF was unusual because it had raised its funds exclusively from private corporations without governmental money. That makes it Michigan's largest private "fund of funds," groups that invest money in other firms that turn around and make direct investments in companies.
In contrast, the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s $95 million Venture Michigan Fund, $110 million 21st Century Investment Fund and $150 million InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund used government money.
"There's no government involvement in what we've done," Rizik said. "It's all private companies that have invested. Our goal in doing this was this has to be profitable for our investors to do this. This has to make sense."
Rizik said he's hopeful that the private companies that have invested in RVCF could eventually strike business relationships with the startup companies that benefit from RVCF's funding.
"If you have a startup company in the alternative energy area, what better way to help it begin to grow than to connect it with a DTE or something like that," he said.
RVCF was formed by an economic development group called Detroit Renaissance, which has since morphed into Business Leaders for Michigan. Rizik said RCVF is still "affiliated" with Business Leaders for Michigan but maintains an independent board of directors.
Rizik said RVCF doesn't "put restrictions" on how its money can be invested, which means that venture capital firms that receive RVCF money aren't officially obligated to invest in Michigan companies.
And RVCF is not limited to investing in Michigan-based VC funds. In May, the group said it would invest $3 million in Houston-based DFJ Mercury, which said it would seek out Michigan investment opportunities in return.
"In order for them to get our investment, they have to present to us a strategy for Michigan for that fund, a strategy that shows here's our network in Michigan, here's the type of companies we're looking at in Michigan," Rizik said. "Our history tells us if they look hard in Michigan, they're going to find good opportunities here."