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Driving Innovation and Growth
​September 28, 2020

By George Vukotich, FinTank

The Global Midwest Alliance held its 5th Midwest Corporate Venturing Program, Corporate Venturing: Leading Innovation for Tomorrow, on Wednesday, September 23. It was the first time the program was held virtually, which allowed for a larger audience, as well as speakers from around the world. Some of the highlights included insights from Michael Frierichs, the Treasurer for the State of Illinois, on the importance and process for establishing relationships to support start-ups. A number of sessions brought unique insights from a number of diverse perspectives.

The first was a fireside chat with Shez Bandukwala, Managing Director, Investment Banking, KPMG with guests Wayne Boulais from Tensility Venture Partners and Tarik Galijasevic from Allstate Strategic Ventures. The session addressed issues related to not only investing in startups but going to a deeper level in partnering and sharing resources to increase the odds of success. All mention the importance of having a strategic fit and common values. 

The second session was moderated by Anthony Nasharr a Shareholder at program sponsor, Polsinelli.  The panel gave six start-ups the opportunity to tell their stories on how they started their businesses.  More importantly, they shared their go-to-market strategy and what has made them successful. The companies that participated were from a number of industries and from countries around the world. Key success factors included having an understanding of the market you're in and being able to build partnerships and alliances. The companies featured included: 

  • 120Water Audit, a U.S. company that has created a platform that water professionals across the country use to streamline, manage and execute water programs at scale while saving operational resources.
  • Guardhat Inc. is a leading IoT industrial safety technology developer in the U.S. specializing in developing wearables, infrastructure and software platforms to provide a safer and more productive work environment in order to revolutionize the industry standard for workforce safety and connectivity.
  • Nextek Power Systems, Inc is a U.S. company that designs and manufactures low-voltage power distribution products, delivering whole turn-key systems that run on direct current which it either makes from a grid AC input, onsite DC sources like solar PV and Batteries, or any combination of the three.
  • Rimot is a Canadian company providing organizations with continuous insight into their remote, business-critical infrastructure by providing turnkey remote monitoring as a service to maximize reliability of critical equipment in the field and minimize its downtime, disruption and maintenance cost.  
  • Solace Power is a Canadian company that is a leading developer of intelligent, wireless power-based hardware and software solutions that enables its customer’s products to become truly mobile or autonomous by eliminating physical connections and powering products though air, walls or windows.
  • SwipeGuide, a company based in the Netherlands, simplifies work with an effortless digital and visual instructions platform that facilitates the continuous improvement of processes through on-the-job training and bottom-up knowledge sharing.

All of the panelists answered a number of questions from the audience and offered to follow up with anyone that still had questions they'd like answered. 

The third session, sponsored by 50 South Capital, looked at things from a venture perspective. The session was moderated by Trey Hart, Senior Vice President at 50 South Capital,  and included panelists Gareth Asten, Mangaging Partner at Acre Venture Partners, Liza Benson, a Partner at Moderne Ventures, and Richard Tait, a Partner at Valor Equity Partners. The panel addressed everything from how they raise funds to the type investments they look for.  They also shared insights into how to get the interest of a VC. They also disspelled the myth that you need to be on the coasts and that more corporate venturing is taking place in the Midwest. 

Closing remarks were conducted by Jason Blumberg, CEO and Managing Director of the Energy Foundry. Jason has been involved with the Global Midwest Alliance since its inception.  He shared his insights on the impressive growth of the organization and how members have benefitted. 

The program was well received and feedback from panelists and participants alike was positive.  The program organizers indicated that the Alliance has already fielded a number of inquires and ideas for next year's program. If you would like to be part of the corporate venturing program, please contact Gail Longmore at

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