ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund has invested in ContentOro, a digital content firm based in Ann Arbor.
The $50,000 investment from the Zell Lurie Fund, part of a larger bridge round, will help ContentOro grow its content offerings and customer base.
In June 2015, the company closed a $450,000 seed funding round with Michigan Angel Fund, Lis Ventures and InvestMichigan, all of which have joined the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund as part of the current bridge round.
ContentOro plans to raise its Series A round in 2017.
The Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund is a student-led fund focused on investments supporting the commercialization of technologies generated within the university community and the surrounding area in healthcare, technology, consumer and cleantech. It is a program of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at UM’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
With the ContentOro investment, the Zell Lurie Fund (and its predecessor, the Frankel Commercialization Fund) has 10 active investments.
“The students working on the fund are a passionate and energetic group of talented people, and it’s a joy to see them grow through hands-on, experienced-based learning,” said Mike Johnson, faculty managing director of the Zell Lurie Fund. “I’ve been able to see them grow throughout the year, and the ContentOro investment process is an example of their outstanding work. As a student-run fund, the ZLCF is a unique chance to learn about investing and entrepreneurship.”
A team of five graduate students – Andrew Brecher, MBA ’17, Matt Ross, MBA ’16, Udai Mody, MBA ’17, Aditya Pradhan, MBA ’17 and Graham Garvin, MBA ’16 – conducted in-depth due diligence on the company. The fund’s rigorous diligence process began after an initial introductory meeting between Ross and ContentOro CEO and founder Bob Chunn. This process included meetings with the company’s key executives and examination of the technology, market, business model and potential return opportunities.
ContentOro works with book publishers to license the content of books for use online. Then, ContentOro transforms the books into kits of ready-made content, on virtually any subject, which are quickly and easily accessible for use by marketers. ContentOro staff helps customers identify the perfect pieces of content for customers to use. The new content is quickly and easily integrated with customers’ websites and marketing materials — at a fraction of what it would cost to employ freelance writers or hire a dedicated marketing content expert.
The team determined ContentOro would be a strong investment for the Fund because of its unique value proposition, its proximity to the University of Michigan and its knowledgeable and experienced management team.
“We were very impressed by the creative way ContentOro was going after solving a real problem in an enormous and growing market and feel they are the right team with unique backgrounds to be able to pull it off,” Ross said. “We’re not the only ones excited by them, given the caliber of their customers, including Sur la Table, General RV and Pet Supplies Plus. We’re excited to work with Bob and his team to help them bring the business to the next level, and we look forward to a successful relationship going forward.”
“One of the most valuable lessons I’ve gained from this process is that venture capital isn’t just about the numbers. It’s also about investing in the right team and the right people,” said Brecher. “We know that ContentOro has a product that will sell in the red-hot online content industry, but we also know that they’ll succeed because they have a whip-smart, passionate team that knows how to evolve and pivot to make a company truly successful.”
More about the Zell Lurie Fund at www.zli.bus.umich.edu/wvf/zlcf_fund.asp.