IVCA Feature: New Member Profile of Exposition Ventures

August 8, 2023

As the new member participants in the Illinois Venture Capital Association (IVCA) keeps expanding, the current membership are given new opportunities for networking, in addition to optimizing support and partnerships, which leads to guidance and new ideas for Venture Capital, Private Equity and support industries.

The latest new member is Exposition Ventures, a firm that invests in entrepreneurs who are at the early stages of building/scaling hardware and software companies that enable the digital transformation of the infrastructure of doing business.

The following is a Q&A profile with Exposition Ventures, which explores the firm’s background and their expectations for interacting with the IVCA.

New Member: Exposition Ventures
Representative: Karen Kerr, Managing Director

IVCA: What is a brief history of and background on Exposition Ventures?

Exposition Ventures: I started thinking about Exposition Ventures as we began winding down operations at GE Ventures. I was one of the early investors in the digital transformation of industry when I launched the Advanced Manufacturing practice within GE Ventures. We had put together a very compelling portfolio of startups providing impactful solutions to vexing challenges manufacturers faced across their value chains, but I realized that we were still in the early innings. With Exposition, I kept the thesis-based approach to investing that I had at GE, but returned to my ARCH Venture Partner roots of investing in deep technology at the earliest stages.

IVCA: Why did the firm decide to join the Illinois Venture Capital Association?

Exposition Ventures: Joining IVCA was a no brainer. I had been a member when I was a Managing Director at ARCH Venture Partners and served on the board when I was the Executive Managing Director at GE Ventures. The IVCA is an important convener of the venture ecosystem in the region and an important policy voice. I re-engaged at GE because the IVCA Fellows program is helping to diversify the industry.

IVCA: Your firm invests in early stage ventures that enables the digital infrastructure transformation of business. What type of ventures are specific to achieving that end result, and how did the firm decide to focus on those types of ventures?

Exposition Ventures: I first became interested in the digital transformation of manufacturing enterprises when I was appointed to the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) Visiting Committee on Advanced Technologies (VCAT). And because I was a PhD chemist, they put me on the committee looking at the infrastructure needs to support advanced manufacturing in the United States. I served on the VCAT for six years with the CTOs and VPs of Research at major manufacturers such as Ford, Intel, Dupont, Rockwell Automation and Agilent, learning that they faced a similar set of challenges where advanced technologies could applied across a broad swath of industry to solve critical problems.  

I saw the same thing when I launched the Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Software practice at GE Ventures. GE in its heyday was in most industrial sectors, so I had a chance to work with the manufacturing and supply chain leadership across the various business units. They all needed solutions for enabling/up-skilling their workforce, developing and manufacturing next generation products, managing an increasingly complex and globalized supply chain, adopting new digital business models, and delighting customers via service in a way they’d become accustomed to via the cloud native platforms.  

IVCA: How did that process evolve?

Exposition Ventures: We began leaning into automation and robotics; artificial intelligence and machine learning; 3D printing and other digital manufacturing; supply chain and logistics tech; as well as novel communication and computing platforms. As a chemist, I also love advanced materials technologies as they are fundamentally enabling of new product functionality. The coda to the VCAT story is that my venture partner, Sujeet Chand, is the recently retired CTO of Rockwell Automation … with whom I served on NIST and VCAT.

IVCA: On your website, the firm lists nine types of enabling technologies that are related to digital infrastructure transformation. With digital tech evolving so rapidly, which of those nine does the firm believe are fast tracking at the present time and why?

Exposition Ventures: I’ll share two areas where, at the moment, I am particularly excited. I am bullish on the potential to apply AI to challenges across the manufacturing value chain. I’m particularly excited by no-code solution that can capture insights from subject matter experts without the need for scarce specialized AI data scientists. AI has also driven a resurgence in computing platforms. Quantum computing will be a game changer across this value chain. Quantum computing can solve a myriad of challenges in discovering new materials, optimization problems and securing communication across the supply.

IVCA: In the make-up of your firm’s team, there is an obvious practice of diversity, equity and inclusion. In the current investment community, how do you feel that gives Exposition Ventures an advantage?

Exposition Ventures: The data shows that diverse teams drive better returns. On a personal level, I am committed to DEI. At Exposition, we are tech investors, and I often get asked if we have a mandate around investing in DEI founders. Given my background … and that of the Principal and Venture partners at Exposition … we are participating in diverse ecosystems, which allows us to see opportunities emerging from diverse entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, I am also aware of the dismal numbers of African Americans and LatinX PhDs. So it’s not a specific mandate. I like to think that I don’t have the same un-conscience bias that prevent worth deep tech minority entrepreneurs from receiving funding.

IVCA: Your ‘attitude of gratitude’ is evident in your passionate expression. Who are you particularly grateful to in your journey?

Exposition Ventures: Shout out to ILGIF and 50 South. Trey Hart of 50 South and I are both Kauffman Fellows and he reached out to me after I left GE to discuss how ILGIF could enable getting Exposition launched. The early commitments of the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund and PNC Bank were catalytic to the launch of Exposition.

IVCA: What does Exposition Ventures hope to achieve in their interaction with the VC/PE community within the IVCA?

Exposition Ventures: Exposition is looking to share deal flow and talent referrals. That said, we are looking to support the overall ecosystem for funds and entrepreneurs. We talked about DEI earlier, and it is certainly my goal to ensure the Chicago entrepreneur ecosystem is diverse.

For the website of Exposition Ventures, click here.

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