New Enterprise Associates might not be a household name in Chicago, but the Silicon Valley-based firm is one of the country's most well-known venture capital investors and it has a long history in Chicago dating back to 1987. It's an investor in Groupon and a number of other local startups. And now it's opening an office in Chicago, adding to its locations in Silicon Valley, New York City, the Washington, D.C. area, China and India.
NEA's decision to open a Chicago office underscores the healthy growth that the local startup scene has experienced in the last several years. As a venture capital firm that works with early stage companies, NEA will benefit from closer geographical proximity to the local startups in its portfolio. And the firm wants to stay on top of new and emerging investment opportunities in the area, a task that is far easier to tackle with a local office. These opportunities include not just digital startups, but cutting-edge research coming out of the area's top-tier universities.
At a Wednesday press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects NEA's decision will spur other venture capital firms to open their own Chicago offices. Early-stage capital is a crucial ingredient in growing any entrepreneurial hub, and while the Chicago area has seen a recent influx in investment from local sources, the arrival of coastal heavyweights will certainly be welcome.
-- Wailin Wong