New venture capital group SwiftWing Ventures will be guided by two philosophies-doing the right thing and being entrepreneur-centric.
“We are advocates for the entrepreneur,” CEO Ben Brown said. “If this is good for the entrepreneur, this is the right thing to do. Doing the right thing is a strategy that will breed success.”
Four businessmen with varying backgrounds have come together to create the new group, which is aiming to invest between a quarter of a million to about $1 million in 10 to 15 high-growth companies.
John Foy-formerly vice chairman and chief financial officer with CBL, which manages malls such as Hamilton Place-and finance professional Todd Philips first started a private equity investment platform called Noon Management.
Paul Cummings, owner of e-learning business Woople, noticed what Foy and Philips were doing with Noon Management.
But Brown said that Cummings saw an opportunity to focus more on startups. Brown had been consulting with some area startups and had a similar vision.
So they all joined forces to create SwiftWing, which has been formally operating since about March, Brown said.
Currently, the team is operating out of Woople’s North Shore office, but they have acquired a building on 11th Street, which will eventually serve as home base for the company and its startups.
Leaders with SwiftWing Ventures have three focuses.
- DevLabs42 (in-house software development R&D)
- DevStudio42 (software development consulting)
- Creative Insomniacs (creative/video/design agency)
- FiveWOWs (Kansas City-based business and personal concierge service)
- TechTown (experiential learning center for youths and teens to learn and pursue interests in programming, design, videography, 3-D printing and entrepreneurship)
- Dizzy Stripes (event planning)
First, they have a portfolio of stand-alone companies SwiftWing has invested in.
“Those businesses are up and running and can also be a resource for our startups,” Brown said.
Secondly, they are considering doing an accelerator program. The current beta test for the accelerator program is a company called ParkParrot.
“They are developing a parking app to optimize parking space management,” Brown said.
Leaders are still doing research to find out whether there is a compelling reason and a market need for another accelerator program.
“We don’t want to do one just to do one,” he said. “We’ve been looking at the concept and seem to be getting a good response. It wouldn’t be what CO.LAB does; it would be the next step.”
So the accelerator would be for companies that have vetted ideas and early proof that their business is scalable. And SwiftWing would help the companies figure out how to market themselves or how to sell at a larger scale.
The third-and, increasingly, the main-focus is the traditional venture capital arm of the company.
Leaders are close to closing a deal with a company based in Knoxville, which Brown couldn’t provide more information on because the deal isn’t complete yet.
So far, Foy and Cummings have contributed individual capital that the company is using. But they are also in the midst of a fundraising process.
The group isn’t limiting their investments to Chattanooga-based companies, because the main focus is to find companies that will have a good return on investment.
“We have an economic concern, first and foremost,” Brown said. “We want to find the highest-quality opportunities. We are going to do what it takes to deliver a good return to investors.”
Updated @ 8:55 a.m. on 7/7/14 to add another company to the box of SwiftWing investments.