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Five minutes with Andy Jones, managing director of the Maryland Venture Fund

Andy Jones says he wants to make the Maryland Venture Fund the state's "smart money" for startups.

Andy Jones has seen the business of venture capital-backed startups from all angles.

He started at regional investing firms Grotech Ventures and Boulder Ventures, backing entrepreneurs during the dot-com boom years of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

When the economy slowed and it became harder to pool investors' money, he launched his own startup, High Street Partners, which helped companies manage outsourced work.

And after selling that company for more than $100 million, he moved on to gain the perspective of a big public company shopping for acquisitions on behalf of Kingspan Group, a publicly traded outfit in Europe focused on energy-efficient building technologies.

Now he is applying those lessons to build Maryland businesses into the state's next major employers, from his new position at the helm of the Maryland Venture Fund, a state-run venture capital investor.

"I really want to create a culture where the entrepreneur is the hero at the end of the day," said Jones, who joined the fund in November.

The fund has long been a tool of state economic development officials, used to help attract funding from private investors by offering relatively small amounts of money to companies at early stages of growth. While state government created the program, the money it invests comes largely from its returns on past ventures.

It is now undergoing a transition from the state Department of Commerce (formerly the Department of Business and Economic Development) to the Maryland Technology Development Corp., a quasi-public agency known as TEDCO that also invests in promising young companies.

Jones said he wants to use that arrangement to build what he likened to baseball's minor league system, grooming companies through TEDCO programs to go on to investment from the venture fund and private sources, and eventually, sales or stock offerings.

The fund has about $100 million under management, about 80 percent of it tied up in 84 companies — a large portfolio to manage, Jones said.

He foresees a focus on larger deals of as much as $2.5 million to "build things that are sustainable," he said. "That's how you create real economic development."

And like private investors who demand a lot of say in the companies, the state venture fund will do more to advise and direct its portfolio companies under him, Jones said.

"I do think with this platform we can become the smart early-stage money in the state of Maryland," he said.

Andy Jones

Title: Managing director, Maryland Venture Fund

Age: 52

Hometown: Baltimore

Residence: Phoenix, Baltimore County

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Cornell University, MBA from the University of Chicago

Hobbies: "Swimming competitively, raising my kids with my lovely wife, Cathy."

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