Invest Midwest Forum: Forming the Future of Medical care


By Julia M. Johnson

Each year, venture capital funders and innovative startups converge on the state of Missouri to ensure the “next generation” of technological innovation receives a suitable launching pad.

The annual Invest Midwest Forum (IMF) alternates between St. Louis and Kansas City each year, giving funders the chance to see first-hand what the midwest’s best new life science, technology and food/agriculture/bioenergy companies are developing. The idea is to ensure that key midwestern entrepreneurs don’t have to migrate to the east or west coasts to secure the investors they need. Since it was founded 17 years ago, IMF has helped generate more than $1 billion in funding for participating startups.

IMF 2016 was held March 23 and 24 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. More than 300 attendees participated in startup presentations, networking, and social gatherings. Former Express Scripts Inc. chief executive George Paz offered a breakfast keynote address, and the luncheon speaker was Dennis Lower, chief executive of the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis.

Forty-five companies from 15 states gave one eight-minute presentation each, explaining their technologies to venture investors in an effort to garner funding. Life science presenters included companies developing new drug therapies, human and animal cancer treatments, vaccines, medical devices, and mobile applications for disease management, among others. Startups attending IMF generally are seeking between $1 million and $20 million in funding.

One of the life science presenters at the 2016 event was Craig Shimasaki Ph.D., MBA, president and chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Moleculera Labs Inc. His company develops testing to identify human neurologic and psychiatric conditions caused by autoimmune disorders.

“Invest Midwest is consistently able to attract quality angel and venture capital investors, and some of the best life science technology companies in the region,” Shimasaki says. “As I like to share with younger entrepreneurs, you may have the best idea or technology that could cure Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or cancer, but if you cannot continuously fund your progress by attracting strategic investors, it will not matter to anyone.”

“The majority of companies that present at InvestMidwest are seeking their first round of venture investment,” notes Chris Walsh, IMF executive director. “It provides them the opportunity to meet and network with a large number of investors, and start the process of connecting with the venture community. They learn what information is important to the venture investor.”

Invest Midwest Forum 2017 is scheduled for March 28 and 29 at the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center Hotel.

Interested in applying to present at IMF 2017? The application period is October 3, 2016 – January 13, 2017. Your company must be located in the central U.S.; project $20 million in revenue within five years; and seek a minimum of $1 million in funding. Visit for more information.

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