Serra Adds John Giuliani and Karin O'Connor as Venture Partners

In the first quarter of 2017, Serra announced two new additions to the team - John Giuliani and Karin O'Connor, 

John Giuliani joined the Serra team as a Venture Partner in February. In addition to taking the helm of Dotomi and building the company until it was sold for $295 million, John most recently led Conversant to significant growth and an exit to Alliance Data in December, 2014 for $2.3 Billion. John comes to Serra Ventures with over 30 years of experience helping and growing successful businesses. He is a Champaign County nativewho presently resides in Las Vegas, NV. 

Serra added Karin O’Connor to the team as a VenturePartner in March. Karin O’Connor is founder of Chicago-based Perimeter Advisors, an advisory firm that assists owners of promising mid-market companies with planning and execution of value enhancement strategies.  She is also an active investor in and advisor to early- and growth-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Serra partners have known and worked with Karin for over 10 years. With the addition of Karin, Serra is expanding its presence in the Chicago market where it has nine portfolio companies. 

“These three exceptional additions make Serra Ventures much stronger. Our reach is broadening and our strength is deepening,” commented Dennis Beard, Managing Partner. 

Spatial a Finalist at Google Demo Day; Aims for Silicon Valley

Spatial, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, was chosen as a finalist at Google Demo Day on March 30. This was the fourth annual Demo Day, which is a competition for up and coming tech companies in the US. Spatial combines machine-assisted analysis and human-driven data like social media content to provide a cultural map of cities.  Spatial's cultural overlays make maps more useful for many industries including automobile navigation, real estate, apartment search, vacation rental and many more.

Spatial was one among three finalists, and google will give one finalist the chance to visit Googleplex headquarters in Silicon Valley in California and meet with investors and mentors for a chance at funding.


Serra Invests in farmlead; Part of $6.5M Series A Round for company

Serra Capital III announced that it has invested in its 11th company, FarmLead. FarmLead is a digital marketplace that allows buyers and sellers to list, negotiate and finalize grain deals. Available online and as a mobile app,  FarmLead increases market reach, provides 24-7 access and reduces brokerage fees. The FarmLead Marketplace facilitates greater efficiency in grain marketing.  Farmers find more buyers and identify the best possible deal, while grain buyers easily identify the grain for sale in their desired location.

The investment is part of a $6.5M Series A round led by Monsanto, and also includes Canadian agtech venture capital firm Avrio Ventures and Canadian government-backed commercialization agent MaRS Innovation Accelerator Fund. With this round of funding, FarmLead is expanding to the US where 5% of its customer base are already based. It is opening a headquarters in Chicago and already starting to hire new personnel to fill it. The funding will also go towards building out new product capabilities such as enabling payments through the platform.


Serionix Awarded NASA Phase II Grant

Serionix, a Serra Capital I and III company, announced on March 14 that it has officially been awarded a NASA Phase II grant. Serionix, the startup fundamentally changing the way we look at air, received a $750,000 contract from NASA to fund continued development of filters to remove toxic gases from next-generation spacesuit life support systems. The same technology is on its way into consumer products expected to launch within the year. 

NASA has awarded funding to evaluate ColorfilTM technology for incorporation into the next generation of spacesuit and Personal Life Support System (PLSS), which is used during spacewalks to keep astronauts safe, healthy, and comfortable. Jim Langer, President of Serionix enthused, “We are excited for the opportunity to work with NASA to send our Colorfil technology into space!”   


OceanComm Brings Wifi to the deep ocean; Featured in ChicagoInno

OceanComm, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, was featured on on March 8. OceanComm, the UIUC startup, has created a wireless underwater modem that unleashes robots from its cables and eliminates dependency on support ships. OceanComm’s modem not only dramatically brings down that cost, but can communicate data with faster  speeds and more efficiency than ever seen before. 

In light of a recent announcement from NASA on the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a dwarf star that could potentially support life, OceanComm expresses the need to focus on our oceans which have been drastically unexplored. Oceans comprise nearly 77% of the earth's surface, presenting a tremendous opportunity for OceanComm's technology to reveal answers on a variety of issues.


Agrible's New App Makes Drones Easy, Partners WITH ADM

Agrible, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, has had a busy month as it has just launched a new drone app, which works as a useful tool to help the farming community by giving users the power of aerial insights. Agrible supplies actionable predictive analytics tools to growers all across the United States and provides global ag data and support in over 80 countries.

Agrible has partnered with Crop Copter by using their UAV technology in the app, allowing users to see quickly how much damage a field has following a weather event or pest stress. The app then works with Agrible's flagship software, Morning Farm Report which is a suite of predictive analytics tools that give growers field-level insights about everything from when they can take equipment into the fields to how much nitrogen each field needs.

In other news, ADM, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, has partnered with Agrible by offering their farmer customers a complimentary one-year subscription to Agrible’s Morning Farm Report.


Serra Colleagues and Clients Recognized at Innovation Celebration

March 3 marked the 12th annual Innovation Celebration, an annual awards ceremony that provides recognition for individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and provided leadership to ensure the continuing economic success of Champaign County. Serra had several colleagues and clients among the winners and nominees this year. 

Reconstruct, a Serra III portfolio company, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: New Venture Award. Sanjay Patel, an advisor with Serra Ventures, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: Management Award. Coattails, LLC, an investor with Serra, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: Paul Magelli Advocacy Award. Litania, a client of Serra Ventures, was the winner of the Innovation: Longevity Award. David Hodge, a Venture Partner with Serra, is also the Owner, President and CEO of Litania. 

Serra has been a long time sponsor of Innovation Celebration, and each of the Serra partners has been a recipient of an award at the event in years past. Tim Hoerr was the recipient of the Excellence in Management Award, Dennis Beard was the recipient of the Advocacy Award, and Rob Schultz was the recipient of the Economic Development Impact award.

See the link below for a full list of winners from this years Innovation Celebration.

Label Insight Signs Leading Brands for SmartLabel Transparency Initiative; Adds to Executive Team

Label Insight, a Serra Capital II company, has had a busy month as they have signed several leading food brands and added new individuals to its executive team. Label Insight, the leading provider of data solutions that power transparency between consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, retailers, and consumers, is pleased to announce several new clients including Albertsons, ConAgra, Reily Foods, and King's Hawaiian. 

Additionally in the month of February, Label Insight hired Dave Dave Aniol as its new CFO, along with Angie Kimes as senior vice president of sales, Josh Goldman as senior vice president of business development and Rich Coleman has been hired as vice president of client development.



HerdDogg's Drone Technology on Display at the 50th world Ag Expo

HerdDogg, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, recently displayed their drone technology at the opening ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the World Ag Expo on February 14. HerdDogg is a revolutionary Internet of Things technology for remote monitoring of animal herd genetics, health and key environmental data. HerdDogg collects data and creates a complete profile of the animal that can be viewed on a farmer's smartphone.

"You could collect more quickly," CEO Melissa Brandao said. "The animals were not affected in any way, so that we weren't really involved directly with the animals. And then from there (the rancher) can take that data and make decisions about whether or not he needs to pick out certain animals if they're not feeling well..."


Serra Ventures Publishes New White Paper

In a recently published piece by Steve Blank, an accomplished VC, entrepreneurial guru and best selling author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, he said "Venture Capitalists who are serious about turning their firms into more than one-fund wonders may want to have their associates actually start and run a company for a year."

At Serra, we couldn't agree more! Steve inspired us to author a new white paper in our continuing series on selected entrepreneurial topics entitled Made to Coach: Why the Best VCs are Former Startup CEOs. 

Label Insight Opens Up Data to Academic Researchers

Label Insight, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, announced on February 1 that it is now providing academic researchers complimentary access to its data set in consumer packaged goods. Label Insight is the leading provider of data solutions that powers transparency between CPG brands, retailers and consumers. The company has created the Open Data initiative, the industry's most complete solution to help brands meet consumer demand for transparency of food information.

Dagan Xavier, Co-Founder and VP of Customer Intelligence, remarked "We believe that if you want to change the world, that the first point of calls is to ensure the smartest people in your industry have the access and tools they need to be heard and either challenge or support the status quo."


Steve Beck Joins Serra Capital as General Partner

California native Steve Beck has been named a General Partner in Serra Ventures, LLC. After working informally with the Serra team for several years, Steve joined Serra Ventures as a Venture Partner in January of 2016. Now named a General Partner, Mr. Beck will emphasize developing Serra Capital’s reach and influence in selected West Coast geographies. 

Steve is a passionate entrepreneur and technology investor with over 25 years of experience both launching and guiding start-up companies. Throughout Steve’s entrepreneurial and technology investing career, he has participated in two IPOs: Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU) and Lifelock (Nasdaq:LOCK), and he has transacted five public and five private company sales.

Tim Hoerr, CEO and Managing Partner of Serra Ventures remarked, “Steve not only brings depth of expertise and unique real-world experience in the tech start-up space, but he does so with a rare sense of humility and grace. He is an exceptional person and a great cultural fit with the Serra team. We could not be more proud to name him a GP.”

Steve Beck commented, “At this juncture in my career, I only have interest in working with the best people on opportunities that add true value. Serra has formed an excellent team, strategy and ethos to produce exceptional value to its investors, portfolio companies and their customers by supporting the underserved markets of the Midwest and other key selected regions. I’m honored to be a part of the effort.”


Nanomedical Diagnostics Will Present at SLAS 2017

Nanomedical Diagnostics, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, is set to present field effect biosensing for fragment-based drug discovery at the 2017 Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8.

Nanomed has developed a breakthrough electronic assay based on Field Effect Biosensing (FEB) technology that provides real-time, label-free kinetic binding and affinity data. 

“Because Field Effect Biosensing measures electrical changes instead of mass, the technology can sense in solutions such as DMSO which cause a high level of background noise on optical sensors. We have detected in 10% DMSO with no effect,” says Nanomedical Diagnostics CEO, Ross Bundy. “This provides an excellent alternate methodology for researchers who struggle to measure in complex solvents that are necessary for their candidate compounds.”


Adarza Biosystems Closes On $17 Million Series C Financing

Adarza, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, has closed $17M in Series C Financing. The company which is leading next generation innovator in label-free, multiplex assays, announced the financing on January 17.

Proceeds from the financing will be used to further expand production capacity in its St. Peters, Mo. manufacturing facility and fund final development and commercialization of Adarza’s first immunoassay product consumable and instrument platform. 


Persio Acquired by Clutch

Persio, an intelligent mobile promotions platform, was acquired by Clutch on January 12, 2017. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Serra Capital II initially invested in Persio in December 2013.

Built to meet the needs of retailers, Persio works with with marketers’ existing data sources, technology solutions, deployment channels, and identity resolution services to establish a unified customer record so that marketers can deploy data-driven and personalized campaigns across web, email, SMS, mobile apps, and other sales channels. 

 “Marketers have been pressed into using sales platforms that were never the right tool for the job, and because of that, they’ve had to bolt on additional solutions to solve new needs as they arise,” said Clutch CEO Ned Moore. “With this acquisition, the Clutch platform is the first to support the marketer with a comprehensive view of customers across all buying and marketing channels. The addition of Persio’s intelligent mobile platform will allow us to deliver these experiences instantly and with greater context.”

 Rob Schultz, Managing Partner with Serra Ventures, says “we are excited about the unique breadth of the solution that Clutch will now be able bring to marketers.”

Wrapify CEO Named to 30 under 30 2017 List

James Heller, CEO of Serra II Company Wrapify, was recently named to the Forbes 2017 List of 30 Under 30 in the category of Marketing and Advertising. Wrapify is the world's first crowdsourced advertising platform that allows marketers and advertisers to create, manage and scale advertising campaigns on consumer vehicles.

Wrapify adds a new digital twist to vehicle advertising. The wrapify app notifies drivers to new ad campaigns and provides brands with a dashboard that tracks how many people in real-time are seeing the ads. Wrapify has 35,000 drivers in 27 cities, with Anheuser-Busch, Petco and eBay as clients.


Serra Capital III Invests In Its 10th Company

Serra Capital III announced on December 5 that it had made its 10th investment in Cincinnati based company Spatial. Spatial has raised $2.1 Million in seed funding, with Serra Ventures leading the round. They were joined by Connetic Ventures, M25 Group, Fulcrum, Caerus Investment Partners and several angel investors.

Spatial is a social intelligence company that allows its users to navigate a city like a local. Spatial’s artificial intelligence software aggregates unstructured social data across hundreds of cities in real time.

Rob Schultz, Managing Partner with Serra, enthused "Serra Ventures is thrilled to partner with the Spatial team. Billions of people interact with maps across multiple devices everyday. Bringing social context to maps using Spatial’s patent pending technology will improve map usability in many industries including travel, real estate and automotive."



Rodney Williams, CEO of Serra Capital II's LISNR, was featured in a piece by Forbes on December 1. Rodney leads LISNR, one of the most disruptive companies in mobile connectivity and the Internet of Things.

The article highlights how Williams arrived at his big idea, and his journey of deciding to leave a fortune 500 company to build his own company in the Midwest from the ground up. 


Nielsen and Label Insight Announce Strategic Alliance to Bring Label Transparency to Consumer Packaged Goods Companies and Retailers

Label Insight, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, announced on December 1 its partnership with Nielsen to bring better label transparency to consumers. This is a one-of-a-kind alliance, enabling CPG companies and retailers to make faster and more informed data-decisions to grow sales by understanding product trends and creating better personalization for the wellness consumer.

Nielsen is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers watch and buy. Label Insight is a cloud-based data refinery for product data that powers transparency between CPG brands, retailers and consumers.


Paystand Introduces First Ever Blockchain Certification of Payments

Paystand, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, is leveraging the blockchain in a completely new way for enterprise payments. PayStand customers can now certify and notarize payments (from request to receipt) on the blockchain, ensuring the history of payments is secure, independently verifiable, and free of tampering.

Paystand  is a next generation payment & eCommerce checkout system that enables any organization to receive money in their website, social network, or web application without transaction costs.

Jeremy Almond, CEO of PayStand, enthused "Since the founding of the company, PayStand has been a huge believer that blockchain has the ability to radically transform financial services. Our newest blockchain certification product demonstrates our continued commitment to help enterprises leverage the cutting-edge and digital native technology to improve their payment, invoice, and billing process."