“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” ― Wayne Gretzky
Investing in Louisville
Podcast: Achieving 100x growth
AI in health insurance
XLerateHealth's 2021 cohort
Space Tango's important work
GE's Kosher-compliant technology
Venture Connectors talks nontraditional funding
Midwest Venture Showcase
On Our Radar
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Know Your City!
Around the Region
March 2, 2021
A CHAT WITH AN INVESTOR
Businessman infuses startup community
Image courtesy Matt Thornton
Matt Thornton served as CEO and President of Thornton’s, a 200-unit convenience store chain in the Midwest and Southeast. In 2019, Matt and his team negotiated the sale of the business to a newly formed joint venture between BP and ArcLight Capital partners. The new venture retained the entire team and the Thorntons’ brand and it continues be headquartered in Louisville.
Louisville Future spoke with Matt about his fund Thornton Capital and how he learned about the startup ecosystem.
Tell us about your background.
Matt Thornton: I spent the last 25 years of my life running a gasoline and convenient store—Thornton’s. We sold that chain in February 2019. In the process, I was introduced to the VC and startup communities through the Endeavor network. David Jones Sr. asked me to serve on the board of the Louisville chapter of Endeavor Louisville. That was really my first exposure to this particular ecosystem.
I thought I was this old business guy who knew all the other old business guys and gals in town, but that experience opened my eyes to an entire startup community. I got to see the best of the best startups coming through the region.
"I thought I was this old business guy who knew all the other old business guys and gals in town, but that experience opened my eyes to an entire startup community."
— Matt Thornton
What is Thornton Capital?
Matt Thornton: It’s a family office. We don’t take outside money; we have a VC allocation. We are industry-agnostic but if you look at our portfolio, you’ll see that most of our investments are in tech-enabled companies. Our investment criteria runs from a half million to $5 million in series seed funding through series B.
Let’s back up a bit and talk about your experience with the Thornton’s stores.
Matt Thornton: I’m second generation in Thornton’s. I started out mopping floors and emptying trash cans. The extent of my entrepreneurial business is starting the family office.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Matt Thornton: There are all types of support and networking associations that can help them with whatever challenges they are having. Spend some time researching those organizations. Every startup has an issue and they’re all different.
Whether you're building a startup or an innovation ecosystem, you need to hear insights from Cleveland Foundation's Baiju Shah. The veteran executive, investor, and entrepreneur shares stories about his passion for growth, Cleveland, and the next generation of healthcare.
Figuring out how your health plan works isn’t always easy. As a result, consumers are more likely to delay or avoid care. Humana and IBM Watson Health are teaming up to address this issue with a collaboration that will leverage AI. The service will be available to all of Humana’s 1.3 million Employer Group medical members.
XLerateHealth's 2021 cohort
Applications are open for XLerateHealth’s 2021 cohort, which will run virtually this year. The deadline for applications for the Louisville bootcamp, which will run Aug. 11-Oct. 28, is May 28. You can find out more and apply here.
Space Tango's important work
As interest in space renews thanks to the Perseverance Rover, eyes turn to Space Tango, a Kentucky company that accelerates innovation in space with automated R&D and manufacturing to create a better future for humanity. Space Tango's latest goal is to leverage microgravity to improve upon layer-by-layer deposition to produce the first protein-based artificial retina.
At Venture Connectors' virtual lunch tomorrow, the topic is funding. Join in as SparkToro's founder talks about nontraditional funding. The program is from noon to 1pm, with networking afterward. Click here for more information.
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ON OUR RADAR
Where will your next opportunity come from?
Louisville Future created the Innovation Radar so you have a resource to track and connect to the most innovative companies and people in our region.
Discover local innovative companies and learn about the people behind them. You can also help build our innovation radar by adding companies here. Let's build our innovation ecosystem together!
Here are several helpful links to find local innovation at work:
With a blend of on-demand and live sessions, the virtual 2021 program is designed to provide you with the latest industry updates and flexibility to view content and company pitches according to your schedule. Co-produced by InvestMidwest and the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium. Register HERE.
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KNOW YOUR CITY
Have you checked your "Louis-Q" recently?
Here are the questions:
What children’s television show was broadcast on WHAS-11 from 1950 to 1970 and featured Randy Atcher “The Singing Cowboy” and his sidekick, Cactus?
Former University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino named a horse after this enthusiastic point guard, who was a key component of UofL’s championship season in 2013.
Churchill Downs played host to the largely unsuccessful HullabaLOU music festival in 2010. Prior to that event there was a concert in 2006 that brought 50,000 fans out in a downpour to see what famous band in the first full-blown rock concert held at the historic racetrack?