Chicago VC Launches Virtual Networking Event to Help Connect the Dots for Investors and Founders
Sandalphon Capital has announced the “midwest.tech/connect” virtual summit – a three-day event that aims to facilitate one-on-one meetings between founders, venture capital (VC) firms, and angel investors.
The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is partnering with midwest.tech/connect to provide educational programming and other support to the community. The event will take place on September 8-10, 2020, and is free for founders. Applications are due by midnight on Monday, August 10. No late submissions will be permitted after Friday, August 14.
“If you get enough founders together, then investors will show up, and vice versa… We’ve seen it work again and again around the region, so we wanted to try it out on a pan-regional scale,” said Sandalphon Capital’s managing director, Jonathan Ellis, speaking to launching the new event. “You need a bit of luck in this game, so we’re doing what we can to help people get lucky – to hear the right thing or meet the right people at the right time.”
The Midwest, specifically, has historically struggled to raise venture capital, as the majority of this funding – both in terms of the number of funds and total available capital to deploy – is not here, Ellis noted. “I do believe that we have critical mass as a region in terms of angel investors and early-stage funds,” he added, “but it’s been hard to connect the dots across the Midwest.”
Though there are is not a lack of early-stage companies, not all of them, Ellis explained, are appropriate for venture capital funding. For VC firms, it can be difficult to find, screen, and support these smaller companies, while for founders, it can be difficult to get the attention of non-local investors.
Said Ellis, “There is also a preference for warm introductions which serve as a filter, which creates some network bias in terms of who does and does not get funded.”
These challenges also have evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, as there is reduced travel, canceled events – fewer opportunities for “serendipity,” said Ellis. “Investors and founders have had to get comfortable meeting each other virtually,” he added. “Geographic barriers have been eradicated, but it’s also harder to get people’s attention, and takes longer to build a relationship.”
Looking forward, Ellis thinks the impact of COVID-19 will be with us for another 12 months, at least, and while some startups have benefited from accelerated adoption of certain technologies, such as those that enable telehealth – it has been difficult for others, notably, those in hospitality and leisure. Any “return to normal” will thus depend on the idiosyncrasies for any given startup or investor, said Ellis, who expects physical/virtual hybrid communications are here to stay. “It will still make sense in many cases,” he added, “so I think the world has shrunk permanently.”