Heartland Ventures brings South Bend can-do, Silicon Valley know-how to Columbus

Katy Smith
Max Brickman, Heartland Ventures

A new venture capital fund has arrived in Columbus with hopes to connect Midwestern manufacturing families with Silicon Valley innovation. Heartland Ventures was launched by Milwaukee native Max Brickman, who leveraged money earned from a landscaping business into a 450-unit multifamily real estate enterprise before he graduated from high school.

Brickman, 27, is an entrepreneur multiple times over. The real estate venture propelled him into founding a general contracting company operating in the Midwest, doing projects for big-box retailers. Then, as an Indiana University student in Bloomington, Indiana, his startup CleanSlate designed a special paper to prevent cheating on standardized tests, such as those administered by Scantron. Brickman launched Heartland Ventures Fund I three years ago in Fort Wayne and South Bend, Indiana, where he and Mayor Pete Buttigieg engaged Silicon Valley investors with the city as they made their “Comeback Cities Tour.”

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Heartland’s strategy is a bit counterintuitive, and it’s worked. It invests in Silicon Valley startups that can benefit from doing business with deep-rooted Midwestern corporations, such as manufacturing companies. The idea is that the established companies can use the startups’ new technology, while the Silicon Valley set can tap their partners’ opportunity and expertise. The fund has raised $15 million and invested in seven companies.

Making Columbus home base for the launch of its second fund, Heartland has a handful of employees in an office in the Short North. It also has announced plans to expand to Indianapolis.

Katy Smith is the editor of Columbus CEO.