Think Big Partners opens venture fund, invests in Kansas City startup

Think Big Partners, a Kansas City, Mo. early-stage technology startup incubator founded in 2009, today announced its venture fund, Think Big Ventures, and its first investment – $250,000 in Kansas City, Mo. startup EyeVerify. Herb Sih, a manager …

Think Big Partners, a Kansas City, Mo. early-stage technology startup incubator founded in 2009, today announced its venture fund, Think Big Ventures, and its first investment – $250,000 in Kansas City, Mo. startup EyeVerify.

Herb Sih, a manager of Think Big Ventures, said the fund has closed its first seven-figure round – Sih declined to give a specific figure – and that its continuing to seek capital with the intention to raise up to $35 million for Think Big Ventures Fund I, which focuses on early-stage, technology-focused web services, apps, software and related opportunities.

“We have hopefully solved a problem here in the Midwest,” Sih (far left) said in a phone interview today in reference to his observation of a lack of Midwest-based venture capital for early stage tech startups.

“We have an understanding of technology-based early stage companies and investment opportunities, and we’re not afraid to look at them intelligently and try to make some investments accordingly.”

With that in mind, Think Big Ventures made its first investment in EyeVerify, a startup it was able to familiarize itself with through its activities with Think Big Partners, an accelerator, coworking space, event producer and startup resource provider co-founded by Sih and Tyler Prochnow (above, right), a Think Big Ventures manager.

“This has been within the blueprint of what we’ve been doing,” Sih said. “You know, when we started building (Think Big Partners) almost three years ago, this was the final piece of the pie.”

Sih and Prochnow are managing the fund and utilizing a committee to determine investment decisions. Sih said the fund’s investors up to this point are all based in the Midwest but that in the coming months he and Prochnow will be following up on interest expressed elsewhere. Investments will have a Midwest bias, leveraging the relationships and expertise they’ve gained though Think Big Partners, which was the case of its first investment, a startup it got to know better through its Think Big Field Trip to Silicon Valley earlier this year.

“We met with Toby (Rush, EyeVerify founder), and I gave an investment decision four hours later,” Sih said. “We were familiar with the concept; we took him out to Silicon Valley.”

In a press release today, Rush said that the Think Big Ventures investment was one with smart, experienced individuals involved. “This fund will allow us to network and connect with others on a much higher level,” Rush said, “Think Big Ventures has extra impact behind it simply because of the people involved, their expertise and experience as founders.”

Sih, who said he has 14 years of experience in the investment space, has high expectations for the Midwest and experienced founders like Rush.

“I think the Midwest is going to surprise a lot of people – especially on both coasts – here in the coming years,” Sih said.

Also in today’s interview, Sih clarified that Think Big Ventures is separate from Think Big Partners. “While there’s going to be overlap from time to time they’re not dependent on each other for success,” Sih said, “they’re very fire-walled off from each other because they do very different things, but they do work nicely together when they do work in tandem.”


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