Midwest Growth Capital Symposium to Feature VC University Seminar

Later next month, the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) will kick off its 38th annual two-day event dedicated to showcasingthe region’s high-growth companies to a cadre of local and out-of-town investors.

During the symposium, 32 companies actively seeking funding will pitch to an audience of more than 500 attendees. There will also be a tech transfer pitch track, featuring presenters from the University of Minnesota, Purdue Research Foundation, Indiana University Ventures, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan.

New to the symposium this year is the inaugural VC University Live Seminar, hosted by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), University of California-Berkeley, and U-M’s Ross School of Business. The agenda includes panels and workshops for entrepreneurs, angel investors, VCs, fund managers, attorneys, and other finance industry professionals seeking to learn more about venture capital.

Maryam Haque, the NVCA’s senior vice president of industry advancement, says VC University was created to democratize access to venture finance education. It has both an online certificate component, which teaches people the fundamentals of how the venture industry works, as well as live seminars like the one being held in Michigan next month. The online program’s first cohort began classes on April 1, and registration is open for a second session in September.

Haque says it was important to hold the first live VC University event in the Midwest for a few reasons: the region is home to burgeoning startup ecosystems, it has strong academic institutions, and it’s in close proximity to a large portion of the country’s population.

“We’re seeing a lot of venture capital growth in new hotspots, so we wanted to provide education that was easy-to-access and affordable,” Haque explains. “There’s a growing amount of VC activity in the Midwest and so many notable companies, like Duo Security, coming out of Michigan. The ecosystem has spoken for itself.”

Haque says the goal is to host two in-person events each year in emerging ecosystems. A second live VC University seminar will be held at Tulane University in New Orleans later this year. Democratization of the venture industry is important, she adds, because 80 percent of VC dollars go to three states: Massachusetts, California, and New York.

“It’s concerning that all of this capital is concentrated in those three states,” Haque continues, pointing out that the presence of unicorn startups—those valued at $1 billion or more—on the coasts are probably skewing the data somewhat. “It’s eye-opening to see pockets of growing activity happening more under the radar. We want to shed light on these ecosystems and at the same time, we realize that [VC] educational opportunities are happening on the West Coast and in larger cities that are not always accessible. We want to make it easier to find and more affordable.”

David Brophy, a U-M professor who started the symposium 38 years ago, says it was a natural fit for the MGCS to partner with VC University. He says universities across the region are realizing that students are leaning more toward entrepreneurship than corporate activity.

“Even if a student startup doesn’t go anywhere, they end up with a bone bruise they never get rid of,” Brophy says, referring to the urge to start companies and captain one’s own ship after being exposed to entrepreneurial culture. At some point, those students will end up investing or otherwise participating in the startup ecosystem, he maintains.

VC University’s three-day seminar will kick off on May 15 at the MGCS’s closing keynote speech, featuring Scott Kupor, managing partner of Andreessen Horowitz, and Jan Garfinkle, founder and managing partner of Arboretum Ventures. (Garfinkle recently joined the NVCA’s board.)

Those who want to attend MGCS can register online through May 10, with on-site registration opening at 10:30 a.m. on May 14. The symposium will be held May 14-15 at the Marriott Resort in Ypsilanti, MI. Check out the MGCS agenda for more on this year’s presenting companies.

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