breaking news

Clark County continue massive clean up of new park, gorge

Former JobsOhio head seeks investors for venture fund

Ohio State put $50M toward high-risk, high-reward investment.

Former JobsOhio president Mark Kvamme pitched his risky new venture capital fund to two of the state’s five public pension systems and convinced Ohio State University to invest $50 million.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System met with Kvamme in January to hear his sales pitch on Drive Capital Fund I but took a pass, a pension system spokeswoman said. OPERS has about $1 billion of its $80 billion portfolio invested in venture capital.

The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund met with Kvamme and his business partner Chris Olsen in July, said OP&F spokesman Dave Graham. “Investment staff has not completed any due diligence research on Drive Capital so it would be premature to comment on the possibility of a future commitment to this fund,” Graham said.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kvamme and Olsen have raised $181 million of $300 million for the new fund. The minimum investment is $1 million.

Venture capitalists pool cash from investors, put the money into a stable of start-up companies and then help guide the new businesses. If the businesses succeed, the profits for the venture capitalists can be fabulous. If the businesses fail, the investors lose their money.

“The winners are great and you hope the winners are better than the ones who don’t come through,” said John Taylor, head of research for the National Venture Capital Association. Historically, 14 percent of companies backed by venture capitalists go public and 10 percent are acquired, he said.

Taylor said it is a big plus for Ohio to have Kvamme starting a regional venture capital fund.

“He is an experienced investor and he sees opportunity there,” Taylor said. “And he is willing to put down roots and roll up his sleeves and get to work there.”

Kwamme is also close to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee. Ohio State has not responded to a public records request or questions about the Drive Capital investment decision, which came after Gee retired as president on July 1.

Kvamme could not be reached for comment.

OSU Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Geoff Chatas told the Columbus Dispatch that the Drive Capital investment was part of a broader strategy to increase jobs and improve Ohio’s financial future.

The investment will more than double the $22 million OSU had previously invested in venture capital funds, according to university investment reports. Ohio State’s overall investment portfolio is $3.1 billion.

Kvamme, a native of California, was a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital in Silicon Valley where he helped launch Linkedin, MarkLogic and He arrived in Ohio less than three years ago to serve as Kasich’s development director for $1 a year in pay. He later shifted to run JobsOhio, Kasich’s new private economic development agency, but resigned in November 2012 to start Drive Capital.

In his short time in Ohio, Kvamme has connected with powerful business and community leaders, bought property north of Columbus and spent $97,500 on three grand champion farm animals at the 2013 Ohio State Fair.

When Kvamme suffered serious injuries in a motocross accident, Gee and Kasich visited him in the hospital. When Gee was under fire for spending millions on travel, parties and housing, OSU asked Kvamme to defend him.

Taylor said successful venture capitalists are well connected to investors and have a strong pipeline of businesses seeking backing.

The Ohio Democratic Party, though, says Kvamme is cashing in on his relationship with Kasich to raise millions from public pension funds for “risky, untested investments.”

“The state entities that have entrusted tens of millions of dollars to the governor’s close friend Mark Kvamme should stop stonewalling questions and finally disclose all details about these deals to prove public dollars won’t be lost,” party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said. “Ohioans deserve better.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Dem Head David Pepper: Ohio ‘epicenter of hate group activity’
Dem Head David Pepper: Ohio ‘epicenter of hate group activity’

Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper is concerned the state is becoming a hotbed for hate.   His statement, reported by the Columbus Dispatch, came a week after the Charlottesville protests - where a white supremacist from Kentucky, now living near Toledo - ran over a woman killing her; and where several of those identified at the white...
$1.8M road diet discussed for busy north side Springfield corridor
$1.8M road diet discussed for busy north side Springfield corridor

Some Springfield and Clark County leaders believe a $1.8 million project on Derr Road will improve safety and quality of life in the area, while others said it will slow down traffic and affect businesses at the nearby shopping center. Scott Schmid from the Springfield-Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee and Steve Thieken, an engineer...
Clark County strays, lost dogs won’t go to Dayton shelter
Clark County strays, lost dogs won’t go to Dayton shelter

Clark County won’t send strays and runaway dogs to a shelter in Dayton, according to Clark County commissioners. The commissioners said in a news release that they’re seeking a new place for dogs picked up by the Clark County dog wardens. “The county is in the process of obtaining a facility suitable to house the county dogs,&rdquo...
Clark County council votes against merging 2 clerk of courts offices
Clark County council votes against merging 2 clerk of courts offices

The Clark County Criminal Justice Council voted to no longer examine consolidating two local clerk of courts offices, due at least in part due to the cost to combine computer systems. Council members also questioned the Chamber of Greater Springfield’s motivation for asking local government leaders to move forward with the consolidation. The...
Ohio lawmaker criticizes efforts to remove Confederate monuments
Ohio lawmaker criticizes efforts to remove Confederate monuments

Even as Republicans like John Kasich, Rob Portman and Mike Turner call on President Donald Trump to clearly denounce white supremacists, state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, took to Facebook this week to criticize efforts to remove Confederate monuments. “There is a statue of Bill Clinton in Arkansas. A man who obviously glorified adultery...
More Stories