As an investment firm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, we invest capital in startup companies, make loans to small business owners, and do micro-private-equity transactions.

We are backed by capital from the Mark Aardsma family office, and outside capital via our FLC II institutional fund. We have broad flexibility to offer a range of investment structures including convertible notes, venture equity, venture debt, partnership interests, revenue-based financing, bridge notes, term loans, or business lines of credit.

We love hardworking entrepreneurs, products that solve substantive problems, hard-to-imitate advantages, lean market validation, and realistic goals. To the companies we back, we offer quick decisions, simple and fair terms, credible introductions to our trusted network, strategic input from a winning founder, and all the encouragement we can send your way.


Mark Aardsma is founding investor and Managing Partner of First Leaf Capital. He previously founded three startups, and led them to success as CEO. He is an advisor to companies and their leaders, and his investments have consistently outperformed the market by wide margins. In 2016 his book Investing With Purpose was published.

Venus Walker handles accounting and administrative functions.

Submit Your Plan

If you are a business owner or entrepreneur seeking funding, you’re welcome to contact us at office@firstleafcapital.com. Feel free to attach existing pitch materials, if you have them, or simply send us a general message. We’ll reply letting you know our interest, and if applicable, what additional information we need.

If you have a business, private company stake, or other asset for sale, please contact us by phone or email.


Uncertain Times and Unique Opportunities

We are living in times of remarkable change and uncertainty. The health and economic problems facing the world are daunting. We are all affected to one degree or another during this time.

I am grateful that our fund has stable capital available to put to good use during these times. As usual I am looking for the triple win of boosting the businesses we invest in, bringing valuable products and services to customers who need them, and generating superior returns for investors. I am hopeful this time will present unique opportunities to do all three.

I am actively seeking investment opportunities, including in these categories:

  • Local Partnerships: Central-Illinois businesses of all sorts with good track records and good future prospects who need a financial partner to get through this difficult time.
  • Secondary: Existing stakes in startups held by angel investors or others who would like to sell them to raise liquidity and/or shift their risk exposure at this time.
  • Startups as Usual: Especially those with a extended cash runway post-raise and a reliable demand for their product or service in uncertain future conditions.

Please send opportunities to office@firstleafcapital.com. Thanks!

BoxCast Serves and Grows During Stay-At-Home

Sometimes in a storm you get a wind at your back. FLC portfolio company BoxCast provides in video streaming broadcasting for many houses of worship. Covid-19 has presented a huge opportunity for them to serve the needs of many new customers, and grow rapidly during this surge. We congratulate them on the technical foundation they built that has performed well during this remarkable growth in demand.

PhotoniCare Announces FDA Clearance

Congratulations to one of our portfolio companies, PhotoniCare, for achieving FDA Clearance! The company’s TOMi™ Scope has been granted a 510(k) clearance for its non-invasive imaging of the middle ear. The TOMi Scope helps to determine the presence or absence of fluid in the middle ear and to characterize the fluid type.

We are grateful for the steady leadership and diligent work by Ryan Shelton, Ryan Nolan, and the whole team to get to this point.