First Leaf Capital Invests in Eclipse Orthopaedics

Eclipse Orthopaedics is developing a handheld x-ray-guided orthopaedic drill to simplify a surgical procedure that is currently difficult for surgeons who are not trauma specialists. The device also offers lower x-ray radiation exposure for the surgical team and eliminates reliance on a C-arm and radiological technician.

Since getting to know David I am confident he has the relevant expertise, the connections to industry, and the personal character to succeed in this venture. I love that his creative innovation is grounded in practical application — starting with making one surgical procedure simpler and safer. I’m excited that Elevate Ventures and First Leaf Capital have partnered with David to move Eclipse forward.

Entrepreneurship at Fermilab

Today I co-presented with Joe Aguilar from the Illinois State Treasurer’s office to a group of scientist / entrepreneurs at the Fermi National Accelerator. Our topic was the intersection of scientific innovation and human collaboration in startups that seek to commercialize tech from research settings. Thanks to the folks at Fermilab for putting this together and to STO for their on-going support of entrepreneurship in Illinois.

First Leaf Capital Invests in DAtAnchor

DAtAnchor provides a unique, easy-to-use data security system that allows data to be stored anywhere in encrypted form, while the data owner retains real-time, dynamic control over who can access that data under what conditions. Organizations using DAtAnchor can more easily comply with cybersecurity regulations, and protect their data from breaches, ransomware/doxware, and internal misuse.

When I first heard about what DAtAnchor does, I thought “that’s unique, and useful”. After a bunch of phone calls with CEO Emre and his team, I still think so. Along the way I came to really like this group of technologists and marketers. I’m excited to be on board.

BoxCast Raises $20M Amid Growth Surge

First Leaf portfolio company BoxCast has raised $20M from UpData and Shure. TechCrunch broke the story.

It’s been a remarkable year at BoxCast, as streaming became the only way for audiences to engage with many events they used to attend in person. Many of BoxCast’s customers are houses of worship who faced major disruption during the pandemic.

I’m pleased that BoxCast has been able to serve such a vital role during this time. Big props to the tech team there for a building a system that withstood a tidal wave of increased usage and barely missed a beat.

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 extended cash runway post-raise and reliable demand for their product or service in uncertain future conditions.

Please send opportunities to 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 to grow rapidly during this surge. We congratulate them on the technical foundation they built that has performed well during this remarkable growth in demand.

First Leaf Capital Forms Institutional Fund

To date, First Leaf Capital has been solely backed by funding from the Mark & Jenn Aardsma family office. We are excited to announce that we are bringing outside capital into our firm to increase the scale and impact of our investments.

We have launched First Leaf Capital Fund II, an institutional-backed fund. The fund’s capital raise is fully committed, and the fund is closed to new investors. We will begin making investments from the fund right away.

We will continue the same local, early-stage, simple, fair, and flexibly-structured investment program we have been following. (Ok not quite as simple as before, but we will do our best.) We look forward to continuing to search for and support the most promising entrepreneurs in Champaign-Urbana and beyond.

FM Bank to be Acquired by Merchants Bancorp

Farmers-Merchants National Bank announced this week it will be acquired by Merchants Bancorp (Nasdaq: MBIN), subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

As a shareholder and director of FMNB since 2012, I’ve learned a lot about banking, bonds, credit, and compliance. I enjoyed relationships with bank president Tom McCabe and the rest of the board. I’m pleased that we as a management and board were proactive and successful in pursuing a strategic plan that brought an outstanding return for shareholders, no loss of jobs for employees of the bank, and continuity of banking services for the communities we serve.

Congratulations team on many years of faithful service leading up to this milestone achievement.

We’re Hiring: Business & Investment Analyst

We’re looking for one analytical thinker to join our mini-headquarters team. The mission of this team is to find, analyze, and make investments in public and private businesses, including startup companies locally and throughout the midwest. We also work to increase the success of businesses we own all or part of by providing strategic input, timely capital infusions, and connections to our network of resources.

As the analyst on our team you’ll screen potential investments, gather and analyze information about them, develop theories and models about factors that will influence their failure or success, and participate closely in decisions about them. You’ll also get to go beyond abstract analysis, and look at real-world data in our business holdings to find opportunities for management to improve their strategies and results.

We’re a small team, so you’ll get a chance to apply your skills to the variety of projects we are working on, some outside the scope of typical analyst work.

You’ll need strong logical and mathematical reasoning skills. You’ll need a propensity to absorb volumes of information, distill the important parts, creatively generate theories about the key factors, and put those into spreadsheet models that clarify the situation and provide predictive, actionable insight. You don’t need prior experience in the financial industry.

Paid time off.
Flexible work schedule and the option to work remotely some days.
A stipend for health insurance in lieu of a group insurance plan.

We celebrate diversity and we are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. We encourage all interested candidates to apply.

[Thank you to the 100+ candidates who applied for this position. As of May 1, 2018 we have filled the position.]


ATS Rentals Acquired By

I am excited to announce that ATS Rentals has been acquired by Lensrentals.

I started ATS Rentals to make gear rentals easy, affordable, and available to everyone. I couldn’t be more pleased to announce this sale to Lensrentals, an industry leader who shares those values.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Lensrentals will absorb the customers and operations from ATS Rentals into their Memphis facility. The ATS Rentals facility in Piper City, IL will close following a transition period.

I am deeply grateful to the many thousands of customers who made ATS Rentals a success. I am even more grateful to the staff and managers at ATS Rentals who did hard work, skilled work, and kind work — dedicating themselves to taking care of every customer.