New investment firm starts up in Birmingham
Birmingham — A new private investment firm is coming to Metro Detroit with a familiar name behind it.
Investor Mark Alhermizi has begun looking for partners in building his newest company, IZI Ventures (pronounced “easy ventures”).
Alhermizi is best known for being one of the founders of Birmingham-based Gas Station TV. He sold the company a year ago and is ready to put that money to good use investing in the next big thing.
What he’s creating is more of a venture builder than a business incubator, he says.
“The word incubator implies it’s for other people,” he said. “We’re building our ideas, using our capital and our team.”
There are no pitch competitions or funds to fight for. Venture builders work within their own network to develop many projects at the same time. Then they build separate companies and invest resources into the ones most likely to succeed.
Venture building is a growing model in the venture capital world and one that is not too common in Michigan, said David Brophy with the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“The process is pretty well established,” said Brophy. “It’s just the spirit of entrepreneurial zing that is coming to Detroit. The innovators are innovating.
Alhermizi says they already have 11 people that have brought in ideas and joined the team and they want to recruit another 10 to 12 partners.
Before founding Gas Station TV, Alhermizi, 48, headed up the worldwide mergers and acquisitions and corporate development practice for New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson.
IZI Ventures is mostly looking toward three areas, with quite a bit of variability within them. The first is making real estate investments. The second is through media ventures, such as e-sports and gaming. The third is working with startups.
To boost the startup companies in media and other fields, IZI Ventures is offering in-house app development at the Birmingham office.
The office itself was a venture for Alhermizi. He invested $100,000 to renovate the suite in the Surnow Building, formerly the downtown Birmingham Post Office.
“I’m an aggressive investor. I make high-risk, high reward investments,” he said. “In this case, it means very early stage or even just an idea.”
Ian Bund has spent the last 13 years building companies out of Plymouth Ventures in Ann Arbor. He says this kind of business requires plenty of money and resilience.
“One thing for sure, you have to figure out how to have the stamina and the capital to stay with these businesses until they come to fruition,” said Bund. “Along the way, it’s amazing the struggles and the trials and the challenges you need to go through just staying the course.”
Alhermizi says he is ready to take a shot at it and he’s hoping his team can create the next big thing to boost Metro Detroit.
“One of our missions is that these companies can generate jobs, because that’s where the young people want to work,” he said. “We want people returning to Detroit, realizing Detroit has great companies where they can work and make great money but also have a huge success and make a mark beyond the auto industry.”