A Conversation with Gary Stevenson, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at MB Venture Partners, LLC
Let’s start by having you give a brief background on who you are, what MB Ventures is and why you started MNVC.
My name is Gary Stevenson and I am co-founder and managing partner of MB Venture Partners in Memphis. We started in 2001 and raised our first fund in 2002. In our first 15 years, we have focused a disproportionate amount of our investment capital on the musculoskeletal niche where we have domain expertise and relationships that have resulted in high-quality investment opportunities. Over the years, our start-ups have been acquired by Wright Medical, Medtronic, Smith & Nephew, and Zimmer Biomet.
One of our venture partners, with the help of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, started in the MNVC in 2003, so this will be our 14th annual event. The goal then was to feature the relative strengths of Memphis in the musculoskeletal industry. MB Venture Partners has been Conference Host and the largest sponsor every year since then. Our goal is to bring together the 20-25 most exciting new start-ups so they can engage with investors (both venture capitalists and angels) and strategic partners (Medtronic, Smith & Nephew, Wright Medical, and may others).
MNVC being October 18-19th, it falls right in the middle of the busy season for orthopedic industry meetings, yet many of us industry “junkies” consider MNVC to be a “Can’t Miss” meeting. Why do you think that is?
I appreciate the compliment – I do think MNVC is the “can’t miss” event of the year for musculoskeletal start-ups and the people who love them. We don’t aim to be the largest event of the year, but we do want to be the best. As one example, we give presenters plenty of time at the podium to tell their story – 30-minute time slots. This is less superficial than other events and allows the depth that industry insiders are looking for. I think insiders want more than a 6-minute or 10-minute presentation can give them and that’s one reason why we all come to the MNVC. That and the barbecue.
What kind of companies typically present at MNVC?
We strive for balance when we curate the presenter list. It’s by invitation only and we’re looking for a mix of spine and orthopedics. We’re also looking for a mix of early and later-stage opportunities. We have been told many times that the MNVC is the one place where start-ups like to “break stealth”, that moment in time when management thinks they’re ready to tell the industry more about what they’re up to. We’re flattered to hear that, obviously.
Tell our readers about the beneficiary of the meeting proceeds and your passion about giving back to your community.
As returning attendees already know, MB Venture Partners doesn’t host the MNVC with an eye towards making a profit. If we were, we would be selling presentation slots (they’re free) and we’d be dividing the hour into 6 10-minute slots or even worse, 10 6-minute slots. Also, we don’t hire an outside firm to manage the conference for us. Truth is, MB Venture Partners donates all of its time putting the event on every year and pays for the privilege – we’ve written the largest sponsorship check every year. We do all that because we’re trying to keep costs low. A portion of each year’s proceeds is donated each year to the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (“MASE”), Tennessee’s first charter school. MASE helps inner-city students achieve their dream of a job in the technology and medical device fields. MASE was founded by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and it warms our heart to know that more than $120,000 has been donated from the MNVC to benefit the teachers and students of MASE.