Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Tom Walker, CEO Rev1 Ventures
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different ?
Rev1 Ventures is an investor startup studio that combines capital and strategic services to help startups scale and corporates innovate. Rev1 has helped generate $2 billion in economic impact to the Columbus region from capital attracted, revenue generated, and exits from clients. As a life-cycle investor, Rev1 provides a continuum of capital from diverse sources including large corporations, innovation partners, and individual investors, as well as community partners and Ohio Third Frontier. We deliver strategic services and capital focused on shortening the path to profitability and reducing risk, customized to our client’s individual needs. Our investment work endows our non-profit, which furthers the development of entrepreneurship and inclusion across our community. Having invested in more than 100 startups in the past six years, Rev1 is now the most active seed investor in Ohio and top five in the country (PitchBook).
Where did your firm’s name come from?
We get involved early and help companies with many of their “firsts”—the first revolution of their products, their first team, and their first capital.
What defines your portfolio?
Rev1 invests in high-growth potential companies as identified by compound growth rates for sales and employment. Our portfolio is made up of diverse leaders, with fifty percent of the investments we made last year, and 38 percent of the capital, in companies with a woman or minority founder or inventor. About 60 percent of our portfolio is in enterprise information technology and data analytics and healthcare and bioscience. We also invest in other tech-enabled industries, including advanced materials and manufacturing; alternative energy and sustainability; food and agtech; insurtech and fintech; brand, media, and IOT and connected devices.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
Rev1 Ventures has propelled from funding a handful of companies in 2013 to funding more than 100 high-growth startups. We are experiencing the culmination of a five-year strategy that has produced a fundamental shift from the way traditional VCs have been funding early-stage startups. In a city that sets the standard for collaboration, Rev1 Ventures is a catalyst for innovation, helping Columbus become a magnet for connecting diverse high-growth startups with industry leaders. We formed strategic innovations funds with world-acclaimed research institutions, partnerships which have produced investments in 37 spinouts, with two $100 million+ exits. We have deepened our engagement with corporate partners, resulting in multiple corporate innovation funds and in corporations becoming startups’ investors and customers. Rev1 Labs’ 68,000 square foot innovation space houses more than 50 companies.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
We believe strongly in collaboration and cooperation across the industry. NVCA membership gives us a view into industry data and trends, best practices, and notable exits. We benefit from NVCA reporting and research. Our vision is that Columbus—and the broader Midwest— becomes a recognized magnet for creating diverse, high-growth startups, and NVCA is a path to relationships with other like-minded venture investors to further syndication.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
Columbus is becoming a vital hub in the United States for innovation and startup growth, known for its growing startup economy and diverse corporate base. More than 50 public and private sector partners—including Ohio Third Frontier—help fund and drive our nonprofit mission. The region leads in the collaboration between research institutions, corporations, and traditional sources of angel investment and venture capital to create startups more likely to scale. While sources of capital investment have increased over the last few years, the early-stage capital gap is widening as more startups gain momentum. Growing companies need more follow-on investment. We estimate that our IT-focused companies alone will need $100 million in new capital over the next five years.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2019?
We will continue to provide venture support to our portfolio companies as we further expand our continuum of capital. We are developing unique expertise in connecting startups with corporate partners—both as customers and as investors. While we have made significant progress is fostering diversity across the companies we support, there is still much to do to achieve our goal of client leadership teams that are 50 percent or more diverse.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.