A Chicago-based venture capital firm is playing matchmaker in the wake of Covid-19. It’s organizing a virtual event that will pair Midwest startups one-on-one with investors.

Sandalphon Capital, founded in 2016 and led by Jonathan Ellis, is hosting midwest.tech/connect, a new event, to help fill a void left by the global pandemic. More than ever, it said, there’s a need for early stage funding in the Midwest, but fundraising and due diligence are taking longer than usual – since it’s more difficult for investors to source deals due to reduced travel, fewer events and less networking.

“So we thought we’d do something about it,” a site dedicated to the event said. “We always try to connect startups with investors in our network, regardless of whether or not they’re a fit for us. This event allows us to make those connections, at scale, efficiently. This format also helps get around the need for a ‘warm intro’ and reduces some of the barriers that many founders face to get in front of investors.”

The three-day summit, scheduled for Sept. 8-10, will feature one-on-one meetings between startups and investors via Zoom. It’s open to founders – pre-seed, seed and Series A – located across the Midwest in industries like agtech, biotech, consumer packaged goods, edtech, enterprise tech, fintech, foodtech, healthcare, insurtech, life sciences, logistics/supply chain, manufacturing, medtech, real estate/proptech, retail and more – as well as angel investors and VCs.

Founders will be matched with as many investors as possible, based on mutual interest and availability. Investors can indicate interest in meeting up to 50 startups.

Sandalphon said the event is primarily focused on Midwest-based states, which it defines as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin – plus Pittsburgh/western Pennsylvania and Kentucky. However, it will allow for startups based elsewhere or with strong Midwest or addressing industry ties.

Both startups and investors must apply to attend; as of last week, over 100 investors had committed. The summit is free for founders, but Sandalphon is charging $50 per investor attendee in order to cover staffing, advertising and software costs associated with organizing the event. At least 10 percent of the proceeds, it said, will go to Feeding America, a national domestic hunger-relief organization.

Applications opened July 21 and will be accepted until Friday, Aug. 7. The remaining schedule is as follows:

  • 7/21 – Startup and investor applications open
  • 8/7 – Startup and investor applications close
  • 8/10 – Startups sent to investors for screening/selection
  • 8/21 – Investor deadline for startup selection
  • 8/24 – List of interested investors sent to startups
  • 8/28 – Startup deadline for investor opt-outs
  • 8/31-9/4 – Matching
  • 9/4 – Schedules confirmed
  • 9/8-9/10 – One-on-ones (25 minutes each, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. CST)

Even with the challenges of Covid-19, Sandalphon said the outlook in the Midwest remains positive. It surveyed 197 startup CEOs in the region in May. Among its major findings, over 60 percent have been positively-to-slightly negatively impacted by Covid-19, with 19 percent very or extremely negatively impacted. Of the 59 startups positively impacted, 49 percent report revenue has increased. Two-thirds of startup CEOs are a little-to-very optimistic despite the current environment.