Late in 1985, a Richmond entrepreneur was scrambling for sources of venture capital and all he managed to drill were "dry holes." He met an accountant and a securities lawyer that were sympathetic to his plight and together, after reading about the concept of venture capital clubs in Inc. magazine, they concluded that Richmond needed one. They were not totally sure of the demand for such an organization, so they decided to hold a fact finding meeting with their contemporaries (a trial balloon if you will) prior to any official club meetings. Enticed by free drinks and hors d'oeuvres, about twenty people attended the meeting and agreed to work at various tasks to ensure the success of the club's charter meeting. With little regard for the accountants in the group, or anyone that might owe income tax, the first meeting was scheduled for April 15, 1986. Each of the charter organizers agreed to sell tickets to the first meeting in order to give the hotel a guarantee on the room. On June 2, 1986, the Richmond Venture Capital Club, Inc. was formed as a 501(c) (6) organization.
The former John Marshall Hotel was the only place in town that would guarantee our meeting without a deposit. Needless to say, they won our business. Subsequently, meetings were held there for the first 18 months of the club's existence.
For our first meeting we invited the Chairman of the International Association of Venture Capital Clubs, Mr. Carroll Greathouse, as our featured speaker. We also had brief presentations from five local entrepreneurs who were seeking capital. Over 125 people attended the first meeting. The local press has been very kind to the club. Early on, both the Richmond Times Dispatch and the MetroBusiness wrote feature stories about the club. Much credit should be given for our early success to Steve Row, who was Editor of the MetroBusiness.
Many entertaining entrepreneurs, as well as those with some interesting, sometimes even "off the wall" business plans, have made presentations at club meetings. A taxi driver once read the meeting notice posted on the John Marshall marquee and joined the meeting in progress. Following the luncheon he asked to make a presentation at the next meeting. He was seeking capital for a bluejean manufacturing business. When the time came for his presentation during the five minute forum, he stood up and simply said that he was going to have his "jeans" do his talking for him. About this time five or six models entered the back of the room displaying his blue jeans. We were delighted to announce at the next club luncheon that he had raised his capital as a result of our meeting!
Over the years, many presentations have been made representing a variety of industries. On the more unique side was a corpse delivery business that, believe it or not, generated interested investors. One man traveled from Rochester, New York to make a presentation. He had invented an electronic kitty litter box. Much to our amazement, he demonstrated it before the disbelieving audience.
Our guest speakers have also added a great deal to the overall success of the club. They have included presidents of national venture capital firms like Mr. Walter L. Green, major corporate CEOs like Mr. Richard Sharp from Circuit City, political leaders like former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder and former Governor George Allen, and even speakers with an international flair, such as Dr. Valeria Schmidt, president of the Counsel for Hungarian National Association of Entrepreneurs. The late J. Smith Ferebee, one of Virginia's great business and civic leaders, then in his 80's, gave his last public address to the members of our club. It was an inspiring day for everyone in attendance.
The board of the RVCC spent the summer of 1998 looking at the future needs of the club, as well as past successes and traditions. They refined the mission statement, and focused on bringing entrepreneurs and investors together. To reflect this renewed vision, the name was changed to The Venture Forum, believing this name more clearly reflects the bringing together of ideas and capital, which is crucial to the success of entrepreneurship in Richmond. Our work in 2005 focused on making The Venture Forum more responsive to the changing face of business in Central Virginia: new location, more interactive format, and more online communication. We encourage you to join us in this exciting endeavor.