Chris McGowan has 25 years of experience in venture capital and private equity and currently serves as the General Partner of CJM Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital and private equity investment firm.
After earning his undergraduate degree in theoretical mathematics from Columbia University’s College of Arts and Sciences and later a MBA from Harvard Business School— Chris has built and managed over his career a noteworthy and diverse portfolio that includes very large-scale private equity transactions and smaller company buyouts, as well as growth equity and venture capital investments. For more than a decade he has also supported business growth as an angel investor and currently sits on 20 different boards including public and private companies as well as civic entities.
An expert in his field—his success over the years has earned him a reputation as a sought-after mentor and educator for his ability to provide keen financial, strategic and investing expertise. McGowan also juggles a faculty appointment at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business two days per week. His portfolio is very active with several new deals and follow-on financings, along with selling a few current investments. He is constantly looking for new opportunities with an eye toward growing companies quickly, and always has activity around hiring senior executives that can deliver that quick growth.
VGV caught up with him to discuss his thoughts on his role with us and our startups.
VGV: What is your favorite part of your current role?
McGowan: “It may be cliché but ultimately every business comes down to people. I really enjoy meeting entrepreneurs and executives to understand the space they are operating in, how they identify opportunities and their thought process in how they work through challenges. Since there is no one-size-fits-all playbook in investing, I try to learn as much as I can from other people and that makes every day refreshingly different. On top of that, I love to bring those lessons into my classrooms.”
VGV: What were the drivers behind your investing in VGV and taking an active role?
McGowan: ”I’ve known Ernie for over 20 years and have always been interested in keeping up with his professional activities and comparing notes with what each of us is seeing in our respective ecosystems. Ernie has accumulated great experience and built a valuable network and as an entrepreneur, investor, and executive. Thus, I jumped at the chance to get involved early as a VGV limited partner, and eventually as a member of VGV’s limited partner advisory board. I was also impressed with the strategic partners Ernie brought together, as their combined efforts should be very beneficial for any VGV investments.”
VGV: Where do you see VGV in the future?
McGowan: “In the near and long term, I see VGV and its ecosystem stewarding great growth amongst its portfolio companies, and this growth leading to successor funds.”
VGV: What are you most excited about regarding VGV?
McGowan: “As an advisory board member, I enjoy more frequent updates from Ernie on the portfolio. I am very excited about the progress of some of VGV’s early investments. I am also excited about how the growth in VGV’s new investments will positively affect growth in Mahoning Valley and the entire State of Ohio.”