We began our Journey with Keiretsu Forum in the Midwest in March of 2016. The fact that I would be living in Cincinnati and running a Keiretsu Forum Chapter are as unlikely events as any in my life. Yet I am a firm believer that when God opens a door, you have to walk through it and not ask any questions. I moved to Cincinnati primarily to offer my young children a quality of life that would have been far more challenging on the east coast. O.k., and because my mother-in-law lived here. I left behind a partnership in a Big 4 Firm and a significant salary because I thought there was something else waiting around the corner that would allow me to do everything I enjoyed doing professionally without compromising the upbringing of my children. I just had no idea what it would be. And my friends from the east coast, with whom I had spent the better part of the last 20 years, were dumbfounded that I would leave coastal waters for the joys of middle America.
Once we moved to Cincinnati, I withdrew from my partnership and began the search for what would come next. My business partner in Silicon Valley; confidant, brother, best man at my wedding, call him what you may, was aching for us to do another start-up. I was busy landscaping and creating an organic vegetable garden in my back yard to take anything really seriously. I was also extremely busy changing diapers. It dawned on me one day, after perhaps changing one too many diapers, that the best way for my partner and I to do another start-up, since we were both liquid at this point, was to invest in a couple of companies and move the needle through progressive investments. My partner was a member of Keiretsu Forum in Silicon Valley. We assumed he would look at deal flow on the west coast and I would look at deal flow in the Midwest and compare notes. We quickly realized there wasn’t a chapter in the Midwest, so I flew out to San Francisco to observe Keiretsu Forum in action in the Bay Area and returned home a member.
The encouragements for us to do something at home were plenty, but I was also plenty nervous. I was an outsider in a town where people ask you what school you went to, and they don’t mean what college you went to. None-the-less, as a trained strategist and practitioner, I did what most would do in my shoes and I began to assess the ecosystem in town and the surrounding region. I began my due diligence.
My reaction was euphoric: So much activity around us in the Tri-State area; be it angel investing, institutional and VC activity, numerous family offices with extensive deep pockets, as well as the excellent work of incubators, accelerators and overall ecosystem facilitators like Cintrifuse, the Brandery, Ocean, the Purdue Foundry, amongst many more in the region. Was this another Austin waiting to happen? I quickly realized that what Keiretsu Forum could bring to the table was desperately needed across the region: A no nonsense Silicon Valley mindset of collaborative thinking, and reach. Global reach. And the building up of an seasoned regional membership. For the angel community, Keiretsu Forum would bring a structured, rigorous, vetting of deals from around the world. For the entrepreneurs, access to an angel community of over 2500 angel investors around the world. And that’s not all. Keiretsu Forum would easily offer to the entrepreneurs an ability to syndicate their deals across the globe on a single term sheet and due diligence process, and facilitate and encourage the creation of markets and channel partners that no other organization could offer.
I gathered the courage to launch the Tri-State Chapter in March of 2016. We held our first informational meeting that month. The idea was that since I lived in Cincinnati, we would run our events in Cincinnati and attract members from the surrounding cities; Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Covington, Louisville, and Lexington. The commitment was that we would not look to expand until we had membership from all these cities, and we expected that would take 2 years. In August 2016, we had representation in Keiretsu Forum in Cincinnati from all the surrounding cities! We were poised for growth far sooner than I ever planned for or wanted. We set our sights on the surrounding region and in September expanded our chapter to include Missouri, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. We were officially renamed Keiretsu Forum Midwest. I have not looked back once since we opened our doors. Cincinnati has been extremely kind to me. And Keiretsu Forum Midwest is flourishing here.
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