Cincinnati Business Courier reporter, Andy Brownfield, interviewed Blair Garrou, a Partner at Mercury Fund, about why they source deals from Cincinnati.
As a VC from out of town, what makes Cincinnati attractive to you?
Since we’re a thematic fund, being able to go to a city and find deals within one of our themes is very, very interesting. We have a theme around retail and brand technology, which provides better consumer targeting. There is no better city from a corporate ecosystem perspective to personify this than Cincinnati. That is why we continue to come back.
Should Cincinnati aim to be the next Silicon Valley or something else?
I think they should be aiming for something different. We as a fund are very vocal about this. There is only one Silicon Valley. There is only one New York. There is only one Route 128 in Boston. What is a strength of a city? In and around the industrial ecosystem. We believe that is where cities should double and triple down in their resources, because that is where they can win. To me Cincinnati from a software perspective can be the No. 1 or one of the best hubs for retail and brand technology platforms or marketing technology because of the retail and brand footprint it has. That should be the goal.
What needs to happen to get us to that level?
Union Hall (the new headquarters that will house Cintrifuse, the Brandery and CincyTech) to me isn’t the end-all and be-all for the community. I think the accelerators like Ocean and UpTech are doing a fantastic job within their communities. Cincinnati has so many things going on in its ecosystem that we think it’s going to emerge as the next Chicago or the next breakout city in the U.S. A lot of VCs are really focused on the Midwest for a variety of reasons, and Chicago has done a great job. Cincinnati needs a couple of wins in its portfolio to continue the momentum and success, but our time and our money is betting it will be the next emerging tech ecosystem.