Venture Builder Studio 11.2 Ventures Acquires Assets of K8 Ventures to Accelerate Growth of AI-Based Portfolio Companies

Acquisition strengthens position of pioneering venture builder studio, brings new companies under its LIFECYCLE planning approach


CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–11.2 Ventures ( www.11-2ventures.comone of only a handful of venture builder studios (VBS) in the U.S., has recently acquired the assets of Chicago-based K8 Ventures for $9.65 million. This acquisition enables 11.2 Ventures to apply K8’s assets across multiple portfolio companies, speeding those companies’ development and validating 11.2 Ventures’ unique LIFECYCLE approach.

“Early stage venture is increasingly undercapitalized. Flight from early stage venture is not only a missed opportunity for investors, but it hinders a vital driver of our country’s economic growth,” said Kurt Johnson, 11.2 Co-founder, CEO and Managing Partner. “Thriving in this space is more than a thesis. Success requires world-class leaders and operators aligning their respective vision, experience, and capabilities around building, scaling, and exiting meaningful early stage businesses.”


Greg Williamson, 11.2 executive board member and Head of Strategy at Pluribus Labs added, “the laddered LIFECYCLE drives diversification while improving cash flow management and portfolio company investment decisions. It’s one of the most exciting recent developments in venture capital risk management, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”


The recent acquisition comprises four companies created by K8, including a first-of-its-kind AI-driven business model forecasting tool for executives. Other acquired assets include three additional companies, two joint ventures, and numerous investments in strategic enterprises. Both K8’s and 11.2’s ventures are largely driven by AI, specifically AI focused on natural language processing/understanding and computer vision. This technology is designed from the outset to be scalable and applicable across various portfolio ventures. This guiding principle, as well the fact that 11.2 is not a stakeholder in its portfolio ventures but rather their operator, means that it can use platforms developed for agriculture, energy, fintech, life sciences, and smart manufacturing to enhance or inform its other portfolio companies. As with its optimization of investor returns through its LIFECYCLE strategy, this version of the venture builder studio maximizes the value of a technological breakthrough by extending or retraining it for multiple applications.


As an operating company that seeds and grows its own technologies, a venture builder studio requires a diversified team with expertise and success in various industries. It is critical that this team have on-the-ground operator experience as well. According to Richard Rice, CEO of March Capital Corporation, “11.2 Ventures is led by a management team with deep industry and functional experience as well as diversified expertise, particularly in data science and general business management. This leadership is part of the reason I signed on to be an executive board member.” In addition to Greg Williamson and Richard Rice, Muhammad Azfar, CEO and Managing Partner of Auctus Capital Partners, has also joined the executive board of 11.2 Ventures to assist in growing and guiding the venture.

Insight News

11.2 Ventures Brings On New Industry Sector Heads To Create, Build, And Launch AI-Powered Companies In Their Fields

Chicago, IL —11.2 Ventures is pleased to announce that Rohit Khanna, President and CEO of 3D Infotech, William Blair Managing Director Shay Brokemond, and Kat Van Fossen, Founder of The Aspire Agency, will be bringing their diverse expertise and entrepreneurial energies to the Chicago-based venture builder studio (VBS). Highly successful leaders in their fields, Khanna, Brokemond, and Van Fossen will be identifying the gaps they see in their respective industries—and providing the ideas and vision for new AI-driven companies that can meet those gaps.


“I already get to exercise my management and leadership skills in my role at 3D Infotech,” said Rohit Khanna, the new Head of Smart Manufacturing at 11.2 Ventures. “But the opportunity at 11.2 means I also get to flex my entrepreneurial imagination. I am so eager to get back to the unique thrill of developing a company from scratch.” About what Khanna will be contributing to the team, 11.2 Ventures Co-founder Kurt Johnson remarked, “We could not be more excited that Rohit is bringing his vast computer vision expertise and judgment to ideate and guide our ventures in that area.”   


Shay Brokemond will be taking on the role of 11.2’s Head of Agricultural Technology. Recently named one of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, Brokemond has a deep background in engineering as well as over 15 years’ banking experience. Having worked with several Fortune 500 companies before becoming Managing Director at the Global Investment Banking and Asset Management giant William Blair, Brokemond understands the vision, financial justification, and business milestones necessary for an early-stage company to thrive. “What appeals to me so strongly about the venture builder studio model is that I can apply both the engineering and financial insights I’ve gained over my career—at a time in a company’s life where those insights are most critical,” said Brokemond. 11.2 Ventures Co-founder Gary Scheier commented, “Getting Shay as one of our first industry sector leaders is a huge coup. She has her finger on the pulse of agriculture and is so perceptive about the capabilities that would directly help that industry. We are enormously lucky to have her on our team.”


Founder of the behavioral science-informed marketing consultancy The Aspire Agency, Kat Van Fossen is the new Head of Marketing both for 11.2 Ventures and for its portfolio companies. According to Johnson, “Kat is the whole package: she’s talented, enthusiastic, and artistic—but she can also explain in detail the data supporting a specific creative strategy. She has established brand identity and amplified brand awareness for a wide range of companies, and we are extremely fortunate to have her come on board.” According to Van Fossen, “Coming from a consultancy background, the diversity of 11.2’s portfolio companies is a real draw. I’m also convinced that the structure and AI focus of our VBS program will help early-stage tech companies overcome the challenges they face.”


In the VBS model, the role of an industry sector head is quite different than similar-sounding roles at entities like accelerators or incubators. In those other models, executives are asked to mentor or assist the outside entrepreneurs responsible for supplying the idea for the startup. Ultimately, then, an accelerator or incubator’s success depends on the creativity, acumen, and decision-making of those entrepreneurs; in-house experts are there to serve mainly as helpers or guides. In the VBS model, industry sector heads are the entrepreneurs. Drawing on deep knowledge of their respective industries, they collaborate with other sector heads and the studio’s executive team to create the companies they know their industries need. In addition to the team’s diversified expertise, they have at their fingertips the resources being developed across the studio’s other portfolio companies. In the case of 11.2 Ventures, this means access to powerful, flexible artificial intelligence applications.


Industry sector heads are crucial to the VBS model, which was developed precisely to eliminate the risk introduced by working with untested entrepreneurs. Instead of minimizing that risk by withholding resources from early-stage companies—an approach favored by venture capital funds—venture builder studios confront both the unacceptable technology startup failure rate and the resulting capital flight from early-stage ventures by seeding, growing, and launching their own companies. As 11.2 Ventures Co-founder Dmitry Valbe put it, “We are an operating company whose ‘widgets’ are companies—a fund whose portfolio consists entirely of internally created ventures—and a tightly managed portfolio that focuses on AI implementations of computer vision, econometrics, and natural language understanding. In the end, though, our overarching mission is to build and launch viable businesses—and that is something our sector heads make possible.”


About 11.2 Ventures
Building a diversified group of Artificial Intelligence-based companies internally, 11.2 Ventures maintains control and consistency throughout the companies’ growth process and exits them opportunistically. 11.2 Ventures has spent over four years developing an innovative methodology designed to increase the probability that these early-stage ventures will be viable. Borrowing heavily from corporate processes and financial services risk management approaches, 11.2 Ventures has found the formula for consistent and repeatable success.  


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