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Cleversafe's home run team batting again with Ocient

VCapital Team, October 28, 2020

Cleversafe’s exit, selling to IBM for $1.3 billion, took place in 2015, just as VCapital was starting up. A big idea intersected with practical need and market demand. Many new millionaires were minted as a result.

We are pleased to announce that the latest high potential venture addition to the VCapital portfolio will be another exciting opportunity from Cleversafe’s founder Chris Gladwin and much of his successful Cleversafe team. This new company is called Ocient

Ocient will enable much faster analysis and management of the world’s largest sets of data. It will do for Big Data analysis what Cleversafe has done for Big Data storage. With the explosion of data volume outpacing current analysis tools, organizations that can harness the untapped power of these massive datasets stand to gain tremendous advantages.

After selling his Chicago-based company, MusicNow, to Circuit City in 2004, Cleversafe’s founding Chairman and CEO Chris Gladwin had a new idea. It came to him while musing about how to store his extensive collection of photos on his personal computer. There just wasn’t enough storage on his computer to house all those pictures.  

Cleversafe was a portfolio company in VCapital founder and CEO Len Batterson’s earlier Batterson Venture Capital.

Storing those keepsakes online in the cloud might work. But Gladwin worried that, being outside of his control, they might be subject to loss or hacking. Not surprising since he’s an MIT graduate, Gladwin began reading books on encryption. A really big, new idea came to him that could alter the way data (including his and others’ pictures) were stored and secured.  

Gladwin Recognized the Challenge -- Especially in Fundraising

While his MusicNow was a nice little company, Gladwin realized that a truly high technology start-up with this big of an idea would be a much more challenging undertaking. He realized that executing his idea depended upon, not just that big idea and assembling the required talent but also on his ability to attract the necessary funding -- first from friends and family, then from local venture capitalists, and then from the wider world of risk capital.

Happily, Chris Gladwin is a friendly guy, with a lot of friends. Some of these friends were individual accredited investors, and a few were certified venture capital investors. Once he ran out of friends, he turned to local professional high tech venture capital investors. There were not many of these in Chicago at that time, so Gladwin recognized that it would be a tough slog raising the additional $1 million he needed. 

Fortunately, Jim Dugan of OCA Ventures knew Chris well and decided to back his idea, even though many other professional VC investors had already turned Gladwin down. Gladwin then went out on the road to find additional capital to join with Dugan and OCA. He ran into VCapital founder and CEO Len Batterson with his actively-investing firm, Batterson Venture Capital (BVC).  That firm, along with OCA, recognized that with the rise of big data and big data storage, security was soon to be a big deal. 

A Long, Hard Road Lay Ahead

The road to a successful exit took longer than we expected, nine years following BVC’s initial Cleversafe investment in 2006. Ultimately Cleversafe raised $100 million in investments over time, including $4 million from BVC.  

Once the commercial potential of the company’s disruptive new technology was confirmed, Cleversafe’s Board (including its founder Chris Gladwin) recognized the need to find a new CEO to build a more aggressive sales and marketing culture. The search was led on the company side by Cleversafe’s then-Chairman and former Motorola CEO Christopher Galvin (who was also a major investor). John Morris, then with Jupiter Networks in Silicon Valley, was tapped and brought him to Chicago as CEO. 

Morris had earlier been an IBM executive and knew the IBM culture and many of its executives as well. Importantly, the new CEO had to fit into the Cleversafe culture, get along with the founder/former CEO and the Board of Directors, all while building the business for a major successful exit. Within about two years, Morris had rapidly expanded Cleversafe sales, leading to its sale to IBM. 

“Fairy Tales Can Come True, They Can Happen to You . . .”

It was worth the wait. When Cleversafe was sold to IBM in late 2015 for $1.3 billion, there were a lot of smiling faces. Eighty millionaires were minted among friends, family, and Cleversafe employees, and numerous already accredited investors suddenly became a lot wealthier. 

Gladwin’s big idea, and its intersection with practical need, resulted in market demand. Brilliant execution resulted in a home run win for the entrepreneurial Gladwin, the company’s employees, and its venture capital investors. Our investors got back 10 times their investment. Our very earliest BVC investors made a multiple of 38 times their investment.  

Would you like to learn more about how venture capital adds the potential of alpha to your investment portfolio?

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