Image courtesy Christian Miller
When CBInsights published its list of the most active venture capital firms in each U.S. state, Poplar Ventures came out on top for Kentucky. Louisville Future spoke to Christian Miller, a VC at Poplar Ventures to talk about the firm’s vision and what they’ve been up to.
What is Poplar Ventures?
Miller: Poplar Ventures is an early growth stage venture capital fund focused on making cloud software investments primarily in the B2B space within middle America. We look to get involved around the seed series A stage, which traditionally means north of a million dollars of annual occurring revenue.
How did you get started?
Miller: We were founded by John Willmoth who helped grow Nextel from about $10 million in revenue to $17 billion in revenue. Then he took the company public. After that, he came back to Kentucky where he’s originally from and began doing some angel investing, particularly in the cloud software space before SaaS was popular He launched Zirmed [a provider of web-based revenue cycle management solutions for the healthcare business]. That launched him into institutionalizing Poplar Ventures.
What’s the vision of Poplar Ventures?
Miller: Our premise is obviously centralized around finding good investment opportunities. We want to focus on geographic areas that have been underserved historically. We definitely love to support entrepreneurs in our own backyard, like Louisville and Lexington. We’re also seeing a lot in the Ohio and Indiana space as well.
How is venture funding changing?
Miller: There’s been a massive movement in capital over the last 18 months, with lots of ideas, startups, and entrepreneurs expanding in the direction of middle America. We’re a little unique in the fact that we are really hyper-focused on partnering with management teams.
Whereas a traditional venture capital firm of our size, in the $20 million to $30 million dollar range, would look to heavily diversify itself, maybe make 15-20 investments, we’re probably going to make less than 10 investments because we want to be hands-on investors. We’re adamant about partnering with entrepreneurs and trying to add as much value as possible.