Archive for Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bioscience Authority to spend $50 million in hopes of sparking further investment in state

Move aims to increase venture capital in Kansas

October 8, 2009


KBA investments

• $10 million in Burrill & Company, San Francisco, when the company raises $40 million.

• $10 million in MPM Capital, Boston, when the company raises $40 million.

• $5 million in IN Partners and MidPoint Food & Ag, Carmel, Ind. The company has already raised $27.8 million in current funds.

• $5 million in Meadowlark Venture Partners, Chicago, when the company raises $25 million.

• $5 million in Midwest Venture Fund, Chicago, when the company raises $25 million.

• $5 million in Open Prairie Ventures, Olathe. The company has already raised $25.8 million.

• $5 million in Prolog Ventures, St. Louis. The company has already raised $29 million in current funds.

• $5 million in Triathlon Medical Ventures, Cincinnati, when the company raises $25 million.

— The Kansas Bioscience Authority is committing $50 million to eight private venture capital firms.

It’s a move that the authority hopes will attract more investment money for budding bioscience companies in the state and provide the KBA with a greater rate of return on its investments.

In an agreement the KBA board adopted Thursday, the authority would invest $5 million to $10 million per firm once each of the firms had raised between $25 million and $40 million of its own capital.

The venture capital firms must “make good faith efforts” to invest amounts in Kansas-based bioscience companies that are equal to what the KBA contributed, according to KBA spokesman Chad Bettes. But the firms aren’t required to invest in Kansas bioscience businesses if they can’t find opportunities that would meet their investment targets.

Instead, they can look for opportunities outside Kansas that would bring in stronger financial returns. The authority’s profits from those investments would then be reinvested into bioscience programs and companies in Kansas.

Overall, the authority believes the investment will attract more venture capital to the state.

“Venture investors bring with them nationally points of connectivity to other investors to strategic partners in the industry that can be critically important,” KBA president Tom Thornton said.

In his remarks to the board, Thornton called capital “the lifeblood” of the bioscience industry. Today, there is just one venture capital fund in Kansas.

“The lack of early-stage private venture capital is a barrier to our highest priority,” Thornton said. “And, our highest priority is to foster the formation of and growth of bioscience companies.”

Since February, the authority has been evaluating the venture capital firms. It wanted to match the funds with the state’s bioscience strengths in animal health, bioenergy, biomaterials, plant biology and human health.

As part of the agreement with the KBA, the companies will be required to open offices in the state once the KBA makes the investment.

“We think it fundamentally remakes the venture capital map. Kansas only has one venture fund located in the state. We will soon have seven more. That is nothing but good news for us,” Thornton said.

The state created the authority as part of the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004. The act allows the state to invest an anticipated $581 million over 15 years into creating bioscience jobs, expanding bioscience research and industry, and attracting bioscience investments.


nobody1793 8 years, 8 months ago

So Thornton gets a paycheck for letting the VC firms do all the real work?

KU_cynic 8 years, 8 months ago

On one hand, I don't want to dismiss sincere efforts to promote deeper and broader economic development in Kansas. And $50 million is chump change compared to long-term structural budget problems for Kansas such as the KPERS funding deficit.

But, what the heck.

There are very good reasons why there are few VCs in the Midwest (and only one in Kansas) -- lack of critical mass and agglomeration economies of entrepreneurial firms in high-tech sectors, lack of skilled and experienced management personnel, etc. Throwing some money around will not overcome these adverse fundamentals.

The KBA should put up a thermometer-like gauge on its website, tracking the amount and rapidity with which VCs commit their required half-billion to Kansas firms. I expect the needle wouldn't budge for a long while, and not by much, and whatever gets funded may result in some singles and doubles (and a lot of strikeouts), but no home runs for Kansas economic development.

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