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Former CEO says InvestMidwest helped pave the way to $100 million deal

Confluence Life Sciences Inc., a St. Louis startup that develops new drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases, was recently purchased in a deal potentially valued at $100 million.

investmidwestlogoAnd, Walter Smith, former Confluence CEO, credits InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum, a venture capital conference, for helping his company achieve its needed fast-growth funding, leading to its recent acquisition by Aclaris Therapeutics of Philadelphia.

“We were encouraged by some folks at BioGenerator in St. Louis to apply to InvestMidwest,” Smith said. “We applied and were accepted to present our business case to venture capitalists and other investors at the 2012 InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum. After we made our pitch, we met with several investors who saw a fit with our company. Later that year, one of those investors became our company’s lead investor for closing our Series A funding. All this, of course, resulted in this year’s acquisition by Aclaris.”

Officials at BioGenerator, the investment arm of BioSTL say they invested in Confluence from its beginning and will use proceeds from the acquisition to invest in new St. Louis companies.

Smith was among many other St. Louis area entrepreneurs and investors who attended the 2018 InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum’s kick-off reception to launch the new InvestMidwest year.

Christine Walsh, InvestMidwest executive director, said the recent reception at SqWires Restaurant in St Louis’s historic Lafayette Square celebrated InvestMidwest sponsors and people in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem who support the venture capital forum.

“InvestMidwest never stops functioning after its annual spring conference,” she said. “It requires an ongoing process to select and present some of the Midwest’s top, fast-growth companies to the venture capitalists, private and corporate investors and business professionals who attend that event.”

InvestMidwest now is accepting applications through Jan. 12, 2018, from companies interested in presenting their business cases to prospective investors at the 2018 forum, she added.

“Companies that apply to present at our 19th annual InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum should be seeking substantial investment,” she said. “These applications should be from fast-growth companies looking for at least $1 million to help vault them to the next level.”

Applications will be screened and presenting companies identified by a Selection Committee comprised of business executives, venture capitalists and other business leaders.

The 2018 InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum, which will be at The Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark on March 28-29, will include three separate industry tracks presenting simultaneously: a life sciences track, an information technology track, and an agriculture/food/bioenergy track. Up to 45 emerging companies will present across the three tracks.

In addition to industry track venues for formal presentations, the forum also provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet privately with attending venture capitalists, corporate investors, private investors, and business, financial and legal professionals.

Companies that have presented at InvestMidwest’s previous 18 events have raised well over $1 billion in equity investment.

Former Confluence CEO Smith says he’s grateful to InvestMidwest and the Midwest’s entrepreneurial environment.

“The platform of InvestMidwest proved invaluable to Confluence by bringing together the startups and investors,” he said. “That led directly to our acquisition.”

For more information about InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum or to apply to present at the March 28-29 event, visit

 — The Illinois Business Journal

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