Open Prairie strengthens ties with Michigan fund

Open Prairie strengthens ties with Michigan fund

EFFINGHAM — Effingham-based Open Prairie Ventures is increasing its ties with a venture fund based in southwest Michigan.

Under the new arrangement, Open Prairie Ventures will assume a management/advisory role for the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund.

Patrick Morand, managing director of the Michigan fund, will remain in that role and also become president of Open Prairie Ventures.

The two organizations have worked together for five years on several investments, including Vestaron, a Kalamazoo, Mich.-based company developing insecticides derived from peptides produced by spiders.

Jim Schultz, CEO and founder of Open Prairie Ventures, said he sees "great potential" in helping the Michigan fund realize its mission.

Ron Kitchens, general partner for the Michigan fund, said Open Prairie brings investment expertise and stronger syndication possibilities.

Open Prairie Ventures was founded in 1999 as a venture capital firm focused on early-stage, Midwest-based technology companies.

Its first investment fund, which raised $40 million, completed 15 investments with several successful exits, including TomoTherapy, iNest Realty, MedVenture Technology and Argus Systems Group, which has an office in Savoy.

A fifth company, Infoblox, became publicly traded this year. The fund continues to have an investment in Champaign-based EpiWorks.

Open Prairie's second fund, which raised $30 million, focuses on opportunities in the agricultural technology and medical device fields.

That fund has five investments to date, with one successful exit — Champaign-based iCyt Mission Technology — in December 2009.