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July 8th, 2021

ELEVATE PERSPECTIVE

Investing in the Success of our Portfolio Companies

By Elevate Ventures Team

Since 2011, Elevate has invested more than $117 million in over 400 companies through our various funds. When it comes to our investment philosophy, businesses that fit the Elevate Ventures model have a few things in common: based in Indiana; in verticals such as advanced manufacturing, technology, life sciences or medical devices; in ideation, early or growth stage of development. We believe it’s vital to support entrepreneurs at the earliest stages, providing a needed boost to kickstart their business. 

Our portfolio is made up of high-potential startups that help fuel economic growth, leading to more opportunities for Indiana to grow and be competitive with other states. An example of success in our portfolio is Greenlight Guru, which received an investment of over $120 million from JMI Equity in June 2021. Keep reading to learn more about our engagement with Greenlight. 

How it Started

Greenlight, an Indianapolis-based company offering quality management software for the medical device industry, launched in 2013. That year, former Elevate Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) Kelly Schwedland met Nick Tippmann, Greenlight’s vice president of marketing, at several events and began cultivating a relationship. A few years later Schwedland asked if the company needed assistance with funding, leading to ongoing discussions about the company’s entrepreneurial needs. Greenlight had only received funding from angel investors and the team wasn’t sure if it was open to institutional partners yet. While angel and institutional investors (or venture capitalists) are common sources of capital for startups, there are differences—each with advantages depending on the company’s goal.  

Elevate’s Mentoring and Coaching

Elevate supports portfolio companies beyond funding. As a venture development organization, Elevate assists entrepreneurs as they build and grow their businesses. In fact, we spend an average of four months with a company before we invest. Mentoring and coaching includes support from our EIRs. Startup founders are often so busy working on their business that they may not have time for development. EIRs are experienced in launching, scaling and exiting businesses, and use their knowledge to point founders in the right direction. 

When Elevate first worked with Greenlight, a major goal was preparing the company to be ready for an institutional investor partner. Many processes, from pitching to reporting, become more complex when a startup receives venture capital funding. Schwedland recommended a few ways to help. Schwedland assisted CEO David DeRam and the Greenlight team with reporting company projections, annual recurring revenue, and walking through their pitch deck. 

It’s also important for startups to look ahead and plan for what comes after Elevate. Schwedland said that in his EIR work, he consistently researched the types of startups funded by investors in Series C, D and E rounds. The insights gave him the chance to find ways for Elevate portfolio companies like Greenlight to stand out to investors and partners.  

Why Did Elevate Invest in Greenlight Guru?

Elevate’s funding of Greenlight in 2019 made Elevate the first and only institutional investor backing the company. So, what did Elevate see in Greenlight that made it an investable company? 

  • A common trait of many successful Elevate portfolio companies is the right company culture. From day one, DeRam’s leadership and vision stood out and were reflected throughout the company. The entire team was driven and laser focused on solving the problems of its customers.  
  • Elevate saw market opportunity. Elevate research determined the market was ready for emerging technology leaders like Greenlight to provide solutions in the industry.  
  • Greenlight already had reasonable customer adoption and traction, and Elevate’s investment could provide growth capital to boost sales and marketing, and drive growth.  
Advisors and Board Appointment

One perk of becoming an Elevate portfolio company is access to Elevate Advisors. Elevate Advisors are leaders with in-depth experience in a variety of functions and industries. They point entrepreneurs toward the best people and resources to help their company grow. 

How do Advisors connect to companies? Because the Advisor appointment is meant to be a mutually beneficial relationship, the Elevate team will conduct due diligence to find Advisors with experience that will be valuable to the company. Elevate will begin a conversation with the portfolio company to discuss the potential of adding an Elevate Advisor and how it could be a value-add to the company’s board. Candidates are introduced to the company to have one-on-one discussions, and then the portfolio company can decide who would be a good fit. 

With an extensive background in growing SAAS companies, Elevate Advisor Tim Maginn started working with Greenlight in early 2019 and joined the board that June. An outside perspective was a relatively new dynamic for the Greenlight management team. However, Maginn says the team’s trust and open communication allowed them to use the board to make big decisions. 

Maginn was able to guide the company in several areas, including helping with specific measurements such as retention measures, analysis of market share by sub-vertical, and specific sales forecasting metrics. As a result, Greenlight Guru developed a better understanding of its target market and improved its customer retention rate. By engaging the board, Greenlight Guru was also able to focus on bringing in the right talent for the right roles within its leadership team.

What’s the Future of Greenlight?

Over the years, Greenlight has seen significant milestones: growing its team, expanding operations and being named one of Inc.’s Best Workplaces. The success is no surprise to the Elevate team. 

Greenlight’s high potential was apparent from the beginning. Strong customer focus and a highly motivated team were key to the company’s development. Additionally, DeRam did not wait until the company needed capital to make strategic connections with stakeholders—or even competitors—all of whom could be potential partners or acquirers. Establishing relationships is crucial for any company, regardless of whether the company is actively seeking investors.  

We’re confident that Greenlight Guru’s momentum will build into more success throughout the years ahead. 

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