Rev1 Takes a Start-up Studio Approach

Rev1 takes a start-up studio approach

Although regional spinouts supported by Rev1 under his watch have increased from eight in 2013 to 122 in 2021, Rev1 CEO Tom Walker said it’s still early days for spinouts from local research institutions. Walker is a transplant from Oklahoma City, where he ran a similar seed fund program. He was recruited 10 years ago by local CEOs from Nationwide Insurance, Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, one of the country’s largest research hospitals, to create a start-up studio that turned into Rev1.

“[Nationwide Children’s Hospital] and Ohio State were both creating initiatives to put more emphasis on their [research] commercialization efforts, and the community was looking for ways to close the capital gap for seed-stage entrepreneurs,” he said. Walker describes Rev1 as a hybrid between a VC firm and a tech accelerator. In addition to capital, Rev1 provides studio services to entrepreneurs and innovators from local research institutions that advise them on how to go to market, design for customers first, recruit talent and raise capital.

As a VC itself, with over $120 million in assets, Rev1 has invested in more than 130 companies, about 80 of which remain active in its portfolio. “We are a significant follow-on investor, so we participate with our companies through multiple rounds,” Walker noted. Rev1’s Fund II, which closed for $20 million in June 2021, is investing in high-growth seed and early-stage companies in the digital health, healthcare IT, HR technology, fintech, insurance tech, data analytics and life sciences sectors. The firm has attracted more than 60 investment partners from the Great Lakes region, and it has doubled its total partner base from all regions since 2015.

Central to Rev1’s mission is “connecting assets in your backyard to help the start-up community thrive,” Walker said. Rev1 rolls returns from its funds back into subsequent funds and its start-up studio. “Our entrepreneurs love that it’s going right back to fund another company,” and advancing the local VC ecosystem, he added.

Rev1 has also been a critical partner to research institutions such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is also an LP for Rev1’s funding activity. NCH spun out 17 start-ups between 2012 and 2020, 14 of which received venture investment, said Matt McFarland, who heads the hospital’s office of technology and commercialization.

Read the full article ‘A Venture Mindset and Ecosystem Takes Hold in Columbus’ here on the Venture Capital Journal.