Kelly Williams is one of the most influential people in Michigan's emerging venture capital industry.
She is the global head of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group
, which manages a number of large VC funds in the state such as the InvestMichigan! Program
and Venture Michigan Fund
I & II. Williams was also recently recognized as a "Woman of Power and Influence" by the National Organization for Women's New York chapter.
Williams also served as the keynote speaker at this week's Michigan Growth Capital Symposium
in Ann Arbor, which is arguably the top investment conference in the Midwest. She sat down with members of the local media for a Q&A session after her speech to talk about the local VC industry and the Michigan's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
On why she is optimistic about Michigan's venture capital future:
"All of the stakeholders in the state are excited about what's going on here. Most of those people are doing this (investing) for a fiduciary reason. They're doing this because they can make money. They're not doing this so they can participate in economic development. That the most sophisticated investors in the state think they can make money in their own state is the most exciting part of the story."
On how comprehensive Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem has become:
"Michigan is one of the few states that presents opportunities across the (investment) spectrum. There are a lot of states where the population is quite small or the research and development doesn't exist. They can't invest at the early stage even if they had people who could do it."
On why out-of-state VCs might be more inclined to keep Michigan start-ups in-state after investment:
"It used to be that if the Silicon Valley guys invested they wanted it to be within a 20-minute drive. ... Now it's about do they have a VC partner that can provide the adult supervision for the company in the region. It's very disruptive to pull the company out to the coasts. It makes it a lot more expensive for the company and harder for the company to be competitive."
On the integration of women into Michigan's investment community:
"I actually think Michigan leads when it comes to women VCs. Venture capital funds in Michigan are the most diverse that I come into contact with. ... In Michigan we see the most gender diversity. ... I hold Michigan up as an example. I think it's a very egalitarian state. Some of the most successful VCs in the state are women."
Source: Kelly Williams, global head of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.