Partners in the News:
Steering Young Firms to the Next Plateau
from Profits Journal, June 1999, by permission)
Lewis has experienced most sides of developing a business, with stints as
a high-tech executive and as a managing partner of a Twin Cities-area
venture capital fund. And his wisdom at this point tells him that,
while the Upper Midwest financial community generally has been supportive
of emerging enterprises, it could do better with start-ups.
is exactly where Lewis and Sherpa Partners LLC enter the picture.
Edina MN-based consulting firm launched last year to serve intermediaries
providing introductions between early stage business owners and the
venture capitalists who can finance their journey to the next level.
In addition to helping entrepreneurs polish their pitches for funding,
Sherpa also works with a number of area startups to fine tune business
strategies, expand operations and assemble the underpinnings that will
attract more investors in the future.
companies require and infrastructure-- money is only part of that,"
explains Lewis, whose experience includes nine years as CEO of
Plymouth-based Computer Network Technology Corp. (CMNT), which he
grew into a $80 million concern. "Starting a business means
building a team, focusing on an idea and learning what it takes to compete
in the marketplace. And as a (venture capitalist), if you're just
investing money and nothing else, all you eventually have is a house of
"venture catalyst" firms are popping up elsewhere in the region,
including Teutonic Partners LLC in St. Paul. Formed by Spence
Morley, another veteran venture capitalist who guided St. Paul Growth
Capital for several years-- Teutonic earlier this year coordinated a
$500,000 financing for Minnetonka MN-based TeeMaster, Inc., an
online golf reservation service. Morley also had a hand in a $1.1
million round for Lambsoft, Inc., a just-completed deal that drew a
$265,000 stake by the Gideon Hixon Fund, a Minneapolis venture
current clients include Cognicity, a Bloomington MN start-up
developing advanced technology to embed signals in software programs, and Worldtrak
Corp., also of Bloomington, which currently is seeking $5 million to
expand its line of customer relationship software.
meanwhile, is beginning work on capitalizing a modest seed capital fund,
which would allow its partners to participate in some of the deals they
facilitate. Lewis says he and his partners-- Philip Ankeny, Richard
Brimacomb and Steve Pederson-- intend to focus exclusively on
high-tech plays, adding that "the amount of money we can raise will
determine the type of investing we will do."
the end, Lewis envisions a wide network of successful Sherpa-backed
entrepreneurs reinvesting in the next generation of start-ups.
"That's how they're doing it in Silicon Valley."