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J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center and Illinois Institute of Technology among Early Investors of Illinois' Most Innovative Seed-Stage Fund.
Today, the Illinois Innovation
Accelerator (i2A) Fund, a $10 million seed-stage, for-profit investment
fund, was launched with $6.4 million in capital commitment in its first
closing. Seed-stage investing has decreased since the start of the new
millennium as investors have moved "up-market," leaving a "capital gap" in
their wake. The i2A steps up to the plate as the state's most innovative
for-profit, early-stage investment fund.
Structured as a member-managed fund with individual and institutional
investors, the i2A Fund ( http://www.i2Afund.com ) will be administered by
the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC), a non-profit affiliate of the
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, with a strong track record in early-stage
financing. Notable venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, of New World Ventures,
as well as the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
(DCEO) played an active role as the early catalysts in the formation of the
"The i2A Fund in and of itself is an entrepreneurial initiative. It was
created and funded by several of Illinois' most successful entrepreneurs to
invest in the future of our local economies and the next generation of
pioneering entrepreneurs," said David Weinstein, president of the
Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. "Illinois' entrepreneurs stand to
benefit not only from the funding, but also the invaluable knowledge and
resources that each investment and advisory committee member brings to the
table -- such as guidance and connections to target customers, partners and
key members of the management team."
The fund wasn't created solely for technology companies, but rather to
drive invention across multiple industries. The fund will also invest in
consumer product and retail enterprises, new-media start-ups, as well as
companies in biotechnology, nanotechnology, cleantechnology and life
"This fund is truly unique and I hope that when other venture
capitalists and private equity firms see the success of it, they will begin
sowing the same seeds and similar funds will be popping up all over the
place," noted Michael Ferro, a well known Chicago entrepreneur, who was
founder of Click Commerce and is also an investor in the i2A Fund.
The i2A Fund will create a vehicle to support an innovation-based
economy. The primary goal of the fund is to provide the first external
capital raised by companies headquartered in Illinois, allowing them to
expand, as well as provide fund members the opportunity to capitalize on
these high-growth opportunities.
"The challenge we have in Illinois is that we have not yet developed a
strong enough culture of seed-stage support for start-up companies," said
J.B. Pritzker, founder and partner of New World Ventures and chairman of
the i2A Investment Committee. "Many start-ups in Illinois fail because they
are unable to find the early capital necessary to succeed at that vital
embryonic stage. The i2A Fund is an effort to give entrepreneurs a jump
start. Through the fund and the support of business leaders, we are giving
them a place to go; kind of a helping hand for these motivated
Each year, the i2A Investment and Advisory Committees expect to
evaluate between 150-200 investment opportunities and invest in four to six
companies that are headquartered in Illinois and the surrounding region.
"Illinois Institute of Technology is dedicated to innovation beyond the
classroom. The i2A Fund supports this initiative, and serves as our
strategic investment partner," commented Lewis Collens, president of IIT.
"University Technology Park on our campus is designed to serve start-up and
high-growth companies, and will also function as a resource for portfolio
companies of the fund."
The state's investment comes from DCEO's Illinois Seed/Angel Fund,
which is investing in other seed stage venture funds across Illinois. Gov.
Rod R. Blagojevich has invested almost $2.7 million from this fund in four
Illinois-based venture funds, which are already investing in emerging
companies throughout Illinois. These investments not only work to help
small businesses expand and create jobs, but will also help to keep these
high-growth companies in the state.
"Since entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, nothing is more
essential for them to develop successful new companies than early stage
capital. By investing in the i2A Fund, Gov. Blagojevich and I are helping
to address a critical shortage of this type of financing and continuing to
build a business environment that encourages innovation. This is going to
turn promising ideas into promising companies and create new, high-paying,
Illinois jobs," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
The CEC has a great deal of experience in financial transactions, deal
syndication (with its CEC Venture Forum) and post-deal development. The
organization has assisted entrepreneurs in raising more than $40 million in
debt and equity in the past four years with a focus on assisting clients in
raising equity capital in amounts ranging from $100,000 to $3 million.
The first close of the i2A Fund included individual investors Michael
Ferro, Jr., Bob Geras (chairman of the advisory committee), James Gray,
Jules Knapp, Larry Levy, J.B. Pritzker (chairman of investment committee)
and Ralph Wanger. Contributing institutions include: Cardinal Growth Corp.,
Duchossois Technology Partners, the Illinois Department of Commerce and
Economic Opportunitiy, Illinois Institute of Technology, Merrick Ventures,
Mesirow Financial, National City Equity Partners and Wexford Science and
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