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Chicago to host first Venture Capital Summit

Matt Moog will chair the summit during Chicago Ideas Week

Melissa Harris

Chicago Confidential

April 13, 2014

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Chicago will host its first Venture Capital Summit on Oct. 15-16 during Chicago Ideas Week, a source close to ChicagoNext, World Business Chicago's tech council, told the Tribune.

Entrepreneur Matt Moog, CEO of Viewpoints.com, will lead the two-day summit, the source said. ChicagoNext is chaired by billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker; billionaire Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky; Pat Ryan Jr., CEO of Incisent Labs Group; and Jeffrey Aronin, CEO of Paragon Pharmaceuticals.

The event will feature early-stage and growth-stage startups, all focused on the Web and mobile technology.

Community leaders are hoping to draw dozens of participants from venture capital firms outside Chicago. They expect 200 to 300 people to attend the invitation-only event.

The significance of the event is that it will draw monied tech investors to Chicago from elsewhere, including Silicon Valley.

While Chicago has made big strides in becoming a hub for startups, it's still lacking in the crucial area of later-stage backing. That's the point at which a growing company with a proven idea is seeking an investment of such a large size that its founders often must turn to sources of money outside Chicago.

Although these investors come to Chicago from time to time and place big bets on local companies, there hasn't been an organized effort to woo them like this one.

New CEO for Impact Engine

Jessica Droste Yagan, the former director of sustainable supply for McDonald's USA, will succeed Chuck Templeton as chief executive officer of Impact Engine, the city's accelerator for social enterprises — companies that make money by doing good in the world, such as cutting electricity use or providing cleaner water.

The transition will occur June 1, both Templeton and Yagan said in Friday interviews. Templeton, the founder of OpenTable and former chairman of online food delivery service GrubHub, will become the chairman of the accelerator's board to devote more time to environmental work.

Also joining the accelerator is Tasha Seitz, a partner at venture firm JK&B Capital, started in 1996 with money from billionaire George Soros and Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates. Seitz will become a part-time chief investment officer at Impact Engine while remaining at JK&B.

"Tasha is really going to try to make sure there is a good investor pool around impact investing," Templeton said. "It's certainly a growing segment, but it's not as organized as it could be yet.

"A lot of overhead goes into getting each deal done. A company with five or six angel investors — rather than all five or six doing their own due diligence — we hope Tasha will help coordinate those investments, so there are lower transaction costs on both sides."

Impact Engine provides seed funding and guidance to the founders of eight socially minded for-profit startups during an annual 16-week boot camp. It is based in 1871, the co-working space for tech startups in the Merchandise Mart, and was co-founded by Jamie Jones and Linda Darragh, faculty members of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Yagan is the wife of Sam Yagan, CEO of Match Inc., the parent company of Match.com, and a co-founder of the city's first tech accelerator, TechStars Chicago.

Impact Engine has graduated 16 companies, which collectively have raised $9.1 million in funding, though Templeton said about $4 million has yet to be announced publicly. Templeton said this year's class will follow the same format as the others, but he expects changes in 2015.

"We're at a turning point in terms of an organization, going from being a startup to figuring out how to make a sustainable impact," Yagan said. She added that coaching eight companies a year may not be the only way the organization helps social entrepreneurs in the future.

Applications for the program open May 15.

Obama Foundation director named

Robbin Cohen has been named the acting executive director of The Barack Obama Foundation, which will oversee the development of the president's library.

Cohen is the former president of Pritzker Realty Group. Her election by the foundation was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. The information also was included in the foundation's request for qualifications from bidders interested in hosting the library. The RFQ was released last month.

Melissa Harris can be reached at mmharris@tribune.com or 312-222-4582. Twitter @chiconfidential. Newsletter at tinyletter.com/MelissaHarris.