With the launch of Lightbank, Lefkofsky and Keywell are contributing their resources and expertise to foster a vibrant, active community of Midwest technology entrepreneurs who are short on capital, but flush with innovative ideas.
“Chicago is full of untapped entrepreneurial talent that just needs a little support,” said Lefkofsky. “Lightbank will be a driving force behind break-through ideas and help establish this city as a technology hub.”
In addition to investing capital, Lightbank takes an active role in guiding and nurturing companies through all stages of growth, from effectively scaling technology and finding the optimal business model to securing further growth investment and ultimately exiting the business.
Lefkofsky and Keywell, who met at the University of Michigan, have a history of starting new ventures that have shaken up industries with long-standing business models.
In 2001, Lefkofsky founded InnerWorkings, a print and procurement company that was taken public in 2006. In 2005, Lefkofsky and Keywell started Echo Global Logistics, a transportation and logistics management company that went public in 2009. In 2006, they co-founded MediaBank, a data-driven media-buying platform that now processes nearly 20 percent of the media purchased annually in the United States. In 2007, they co-founded Groupon, a collective buying site and their first foray into a consumer-facing business. Groupon now operates in 88 U.S. cities and 22 countries. At just 17 months old in April 2010, Groupon boasted a $1.35 billion valuation when it raised $135 million. With 250 salespeople and 70 writers working out of its 600 W. Chicago offices, the company is on track to pass $500 million in revenue in 2010 according to a Morgan Stanley report.
“Our success with Groupon has created a tremendous amount of interest from consumer-facing Internet-based start-ups in search of funding and support,” said Keywell. “Our formula for high-growth, high-return firms in business services has translated very well to the consumer market, and we believe there are many opportunities to further build on our skills and resources.”
Lightbank focuses on venture investments in early-stage companies in a number of industries. “So far we’ve only scratched the surface of industries that follow antiquated business processes, where technology can be leveraged to realize cost-savings and create value,” said Lefkofsky. “Lightbank will allow us to identify and invest in promising business model innovations and quickly take them to market.”
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