Corporate investing trend takes root in Wisconsin

By Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council

DollarSign_unsplash_webA few years ago, when Brian Kaas attended some of the nation’s leading conferences for venture capitalists, the audience was predominantly investors from stand-alone venture funds.

Today, when the managing director of Madison-based CMFG Ventures takes part in such gatherings, the makeup includes many more “in-house” funds within larger corporations.

“The mix is basically reversed from what it was about five years ago,” said Kaas, who leads the fund created by CUNA Mutual Group to invest in financial and insurance innovation.

Corporate venture funds aren’t new, but the growth in such funds has been robust in recent years. A January 2017 report in Financier Worldwide noted there were 181 corporate venture funds worldwide in 2004 and more than 1,500 by 2015. About half of all Fortune 100 companies now have in-house funds. The deal flow has also seen “astonishing growth,” reported Financier Worldwide, rising from 698 announced deals in 2011 to 1,790 deals in 2015.

Wisconsin has not been bypassed by that trend. American Family Insurance in Madison is a prominent example with its AmFam Ventures fund, which launched in 2013 as a $50 million fund and has grown over time to become one of the nation’s leading “fin-tech” and “insure-tech” funds. Read more …

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