Youngstown native Jim Pelusi is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Axia Capital Partners, and the Founder and Managing Director of Valero Capital Partners. Both of these organizations specialize in investing in small to mid-market industrial technology industries.
A 1979 graduate of Chaney High School, Pelusi brings hometown spirit and a wealth of knowledge and experience in venture investment into his current role with VGV. After earning an Engineering Degree from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School—he would later serve as the VP and General Manager of the Factory Software Division of Brooks Automation where his efforts led to achieving revenue growth from $24 million to $130 million in just three years.
Pelusi’s entrepreneurial drive has helped him create a startup lane all of his own. After leaving GM he helped co-found an industrial automation software company in 1986—and eventually moved it to Boston in 1987 to be in a community with strong support for start-ups. He would grow this business to $20 million and eventually sell it to Brooks Automation in 1998.
VGV caught up with him to get insights on his current role and how he plans on leading efforts with new portfolio companies.
VGV: What are you currently working on?
Pelusi: “I currently have 4 portfolio firms—all in industrial technology, including: a fiberoptic light guide company, a contract electronics manufacturing firm, an industrial leak test systems organization, and a product engineering services business focused on leading-edge medical devices. I also manage and oversee a Private Equity (PE) fund out of the Boston area – Valero Capital Partners. In my PE role, I am an active investor, partnering with management to define and execute growth strategies. Our typical acquisitions are either companies that were founded by an engineer developed a unique product and grew a business but is now looking to retire" or "spin-outs” of divisions or product lines from larger corporations.
VGV: You made a leap from business operations to investing — what was that transition like?
Pelusi: “While I really enjoyed the software business I started and grew, I feel the PE business provides more variety and I get to learn more about different industries and business models. I miss the team environment of the software company – in the trenches with good people grinding-out growth and winning new customers. However—I don’t necessarily miss the grind of working late nights to deliver monthly and quarterly financial performance.”
VGV: What is your favorite part of your current role?
Pelusi: “My favorite aspect of my current role is being able to help management teams develop and execute growth strategies, learning new industries and markets, rolling up my sleeves to help portfolio companies grow and improve profitability.
VGV: Why did you choose to get involved with Valley Growth Ventures?
Pelusi: “I was familiar with the work at YBI and thought they were doing good stuff to help incubate companies in the Valley. I also understood that having a venture capital infrastructure is critical for successful start-ups (based on my own start-up venture and the decision to move to Boston). I am very keen on doing what I could to support YBI in building the venture capital infrastructure of the community.
VGV: What are you most excited about regarding VGV?
Pelusi: “VGV appears to be seeing a good stream of quality venture start-ups. Experienced management teams with good ideas. I am excited to be part of the positive progress to date as several of the portfolio companies have progressed to their next round of funding.”
VGV: Where do you see the Mahoning Valley in the future?
Pelusi: “I have not had as much opportunity to visit Youngstown in the past few years—I get a sense that there is a lot going on at the University and with YBI and VGV. I can imagine that growing technology companies that leverage the regions strong manufacturing history and skills could be a viable path to help build the local economy, including Additive Manufacturing as an example.”