Columbus VC scene is still tiny, but it's on the map: A primer to funds based here

Cynthia Bent Findlay
For Columbus CEO
Last year, Ohio tech companies were able to raise a record amount of venture capital—$1.5 billion, according to PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.

Since Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen left vaunted Silicon Valley VC firm Sequoia Capital and formed Drive Capital in 2013, Columbus’ venture capital landscape has grown up.

Successes like Root Insurance have turned heads from the coasts, and local venture funds have formed.

Last year, Ohio tech companies were able to raise a record amount of venture capital—$1.5 billion, according to PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.

Profiles:6 emerging Columbus companies to know—and what they do, in simple terms

In some ways Columbus’ venture scene could be seen as stagnant. According to that same data, the state’s proportion of venture dollars hasn’t moved above 1 percent of U.S. venture capital investment in the past five years.

But consider where things stood not long ago. Industry insiders say the region is attracting the attention of coastal investors, and raising money for startups is much easier today than five years ago. For example, Ohio Innovation Fund’s Bill Baumel says while it was a struggle to find investors to pitch to a few years ago, today they’re finding competing offers for Series B raises.

More:Primer on venture capital funding

And as successful exits like CoverMyMeds, Root and Stirling Ultracold multiply, so will Columbus’ venture scene—and investors attracted to it from around the globe.

While much of the region's deal flow is coming from the outside — mainly the coasts — here's a guide to funds based here.

Heartland Ventures

Specialty: Heartland Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in high-growth technology startups that it connects with large corporations as customers in the Heartland. This gives its corporate partners early access to technologies being developed around the world and its founders access to early-adopter customers in the Midwest. Since 2016, it has invested in 11 portfolio companies and created over $220 million in revenue.

Leadership: Max Brickman, managing director

Partners: 3

Founded: 2016

Assets under management: $70 million

Portfolio highlights: SPIDR (acquired by Versaterm Public Safety in July); Grabango (closed $39M Series B round in June); Third Wave Automation (announced a strategic partnership with Toyota Industries to produce next generation autonomous material handling vehicles); StrongArm Tech, Soil Connect, Workstream, Parkade

Want to add a fund to this list? Email Jess Deyo at

Drive Capital

629 N. High St.

Columbus 43215

Specialty: Investing in market-defining technology companies outside of Silicon Valley.

Leadership: Co-founded by Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen

Partners: 12

Founded: 2013

Assets under management: $1.2 billion

Portfolio highlights: Investor in more than 50 technology startups outside of Silicon Valley. Investments include Olive, Duolingo, Root Insurance, Path Robotics and Branch

Ohio Innovation Fund

629 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215

Specialty: Early-stage Ohio startups in med tech (Stirling Ultracold, ScriptDrop, Enable Injections) and tech (Aware, Immuta, eFuse). The fund was launched by Ohio State University, Ohio University and Kent State University.

Leadership: Bill Baumel, managing director; Faith Voinovich, principal

Partners: Two general partners, three additional venture partners

Founded: 2016

Amount invested each year since 2016: $10-$15 million

Portfolio highlights: Seven early-stage companies have achieved exits or fundraises at nine-figure valuations, and overall have partnered with Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce, Sanofi, Genentech, ESPN, UPS, and Cardinal Health among other

Loud Capital

375 N. Front St., Suite 125, Columbus 43215

Specialty: Alternative investments, specifically early-stage venture and revenue-based financing. Industry agnostic.

Leadership: Co-founders Navin Goyal, MD (CEO) and Darshan Vyas (chief growth officer)

Partners: 7

Founded: 2015

Assets under management: About $50 million

Vision: Loud is driven by the ethos of “Venture for People.” It believes venture capital can create a positive impact on society; in pursuing investments in diverse and underrepresented communities; and in a responsibility to educate and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to embrace this mindset.

Portfolio highlights: Hyperion Motors (hydrogen-powered vehicles), Raydiant Oximetry (innovative medical devices), Offor Health (mobile healthcare providing accessible, affordable care)

Rev1 Ventures

1590 N. High St., Suite 200, Columbus 43201

Specialty: Rev1 was formed with a mission to help develop and grow the Columbus innovation economy.

Leadership: Tom Walker, CEO

Partners: 47 corporate funding partners/investors

Founded: 2013

Rev1 funding to startups since 2016: $54.2 million

Company exits since 2016: 13 exits with a combined value of $4.11 billion

Total assets under management: $130 million

Portfolio highlights: Mobikit, Ubihere, Updox, 3Bar Biologics. Boasts $2.9 billion all-time startup impact including revenue, capital and exits.

Ohio Capital Fund

303 Broadway, Suite 1200, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Specialty: Ohio Capital Fund is a “fund of funds” investing in venture capital funds that have targeted Ohio early-stage companies as part of their investment strategy. The fund was established by the state of Ohio.

Leadership: Stephen Baker, managing director and Tarik Adam, senior investment manager

Partners: 2

Founded: 2005

Assets under management: $138 million

Portfolio highlights: OCF has invested $138 million into 30 venture capital funds, 26 funds with an office in Ohio. The underlying funds have invested $340 million into 107 early-stage Ohio-based companies. A total of $1.3 billion has been invested into those 107 companies. Nearly 3,000 jobs have been created and retained in the 107 Ohio companies since inception.

Ikove Capital’s Sun Fund

1330 Kinnear Road, Suite 100, Columbus 43212

Specialty: Ikove pursues early-stage investments with an emphasis on technology commercialization. Through its startup nursery, in partnership with multiple U.S. research institutions, Ikove identifies and validates developing high-impact technologies.

Leadership: Flavio Lobato and Rodolfo Bellesi, co-founders and principals, John D’Orazio, co-founder and managing partner, David Moritz and Robert Lee, partners

Founded: 2014

Portfolio highlights: Ikove Startup Nursery has launched 24 companies since it was founded in 2014.

Invested as of 2019: $70 million

Pride Fund

Specialty: Pride Fund specializes in early-stage startups led by members of the LGBTQ+ community

Leadership:Densil Porteous (CEO), Michael Smithson (Chief Growth Officer), Timothy Wolf Starr (Managing Partner), and Chase Petrie (Operating Partner); it is a joint venture between LOUD Capital and Atlas Venture Partners

Founded: 2020

Size of fund: $10 million fund

Portfolio highlights: Revry, a global LGBTQ+ content streaming network, and Optic Surg, a medical device company.

Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer.