Ep. 133 – Drive Capital’s Chris Olsen on Investment Innovation in the Midwest

Ep. 133 – Drive Capital’s Chris Olsen on Investment Innovation in the Midwest

If you don’t like disruption, you are going to HATE irrelevance. 

Chris Olsen of Drive Capital talks about investing in world-class companies located in the Midwest. Drive Capital, a venture firm based in Columbus, OH, developed a $550 million fund with this aim. Chris believes the Midwest will see more billion-dollar companies in the next five years, and based on GDP, the Midwest is the 4th largest economy in the world. If there are more Venture Firms in the Midwest, we’ll see faster growth with LPs making more money in Midwest Venture funds than in Silicon Valley companies.

Chris Olsen, Drive CapitalWhy is today the right time? The Midwest is typically cheaper than the coasts, and with cloud computing, you can rent all the engineering and computing power you need. The access to technical specialty is now unlocking other geographies, like China and Europe. We are melding knowledge and tech and making advances in areas such as car insurance, healthcare, taxi rides, etc. There’s also an imbalance of venture capital invested in the Midwest. Dive Capital is spending time in the Artificial Intelligence, Insurance, Robotics, and Ed-tech markets.

When developing the fund, Drive Capital made the mistake of replicating a Silicon Valley approach. You can’t build companies in the Midwest and assume capital is unlimited. They learned to determine when products are working or not. Stop earlier if they aren’t hitting milestones. They also thought they’d have to import talent from the coasts, but have had a much better success rate in using employees from existing businesses, and retraining them in a startup. There is an engine of talent that doesn’t want to go to coasts. E.g., Root Insurance. Taking advantage of Nationwide Insurance experiences to help startups succeed.

Chris hasn’t seen a lot of change in existing businesses. He believes it’s just time before some of these companies will wake up and deal with irrelevance. What should companies do? Stop trying to be venture capitalists. Companies can innovate and work with startups, but should invest in Venture Capital firms. VCs will share their best innovation with the companies. Big companies have different skills than startups.

For more information or to connect, email Chris Olsen at chris@drivecapital.com or see www.drivecapital.com

If you liked this episode, you might also enjoy: Ep 105– Randy Komisar with Kleiner Perkins and Straight Talk for Startups Author; Ep 91– Paul Singh @ I/O Innovation Summit; Ep 65– Jason Calacanis, Angel Investor and Author of “Angel”; and Ep 52– Ann Winblad w/ Hummer Winblad VP

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Episode 133

Ep. 133 – Drive Capital...