Northwestern University VentureCat Competition - A fantastic spring competition at the Kellogg School at NU

A cross-disciplinary approach to endeavors constitutes a core value of Northwestern University, my alma mater.  The mixing of ideas and resulting tensions creates a perfect wavelength for new approaches.  On May 23rd, I had the great pleasure to be a semi-finals judge and meet an enthusiastic support team for the Entrepreneurship program at the Northwestern VentureCat competition.  

All of the various schools have contributed teams to the mix. The Garage at Northwestern serves as a central meeting place for cross-campus entrepreneurial activity.   Yesterday, the magnificent new Global Hub for the Kellogg School of Management served as the scene for the annual Northwestern VentureCat competition.  

Numix, a materials science company treating heavy metals in wastewater, scored top honors.  Brew Bike, a nimble cold-brew coffee company won second place, and Rheos, a medical device play focusing on shunt maintenance secured third place.

As to be expected from the top-tier corporate and media experience of the Kellogg students, and the domain expertise of the various students from other schools, the presentations were  polished, with novel approaches to a wide range of opportunities.  

Yesterday's competition was the 11th such event for NU, with an ever-expanding list of alumni helping the cause.

Northwestern looked its best with fresh gardens, budding trees and the mesmerizing Lake Michigan in the background.  I'm biased, but it's hard to imagine a more beautiful and optimistic environment from which to make an entrepreneurial launch - in the springtime anyway!

As a music major, I had to spend some time at the incredible Bienen School of Music and the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, marveling at the elegant and expansive architecture built to house the vigorous instruction and performances within.

Northwestern's cross-disciplinary has proven itself to be transformative from my experience, having built a community music school (CYM) while applying a multi-dimensional analysis to investments I've made along the way.

Thanks to everyone at NU who organized and participated in a fantastic competition.  




Wombat Security - it was only a matter of time!

Proofpoint enters into definitive agreement to acquire Wombat Security Technologies for $225 million in cash.

I have always been a big fan of Joe Ferrara, CEO of  Wombat Security Technologies since making our first investment in the company in 2012.  The upcoming acquisition of Wombat by publicly-traded Proofpoint (NASDAQ:PFPT) achieves a long-hoped for goal of a local start-up growing revenues organically to the point of attracting an earnings-driven acquisition. Wombat's products evolved out of CMU-developed technology spearheaded by Dr. Norman Sadeh.

Mr. Ferrara has epitomized the leadership qualities one loves to see in a CEO.  He attracted great employees with a dynamic company culture.  He partnered with supportive investors and kept constituents aligned with the clear goal of growing shareholder value. He communicated regularly and often with his shareholders, and each subsequent funding round exemplified transparency and respect to the rights of prior investors.

Those of us lucky enough to have invested in Wombat have much to be grateful for from the relationship, but first and foremost, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Wombat's intrepid leader.  Thank you, Joe!