Innovation Works Names New President & CEO
Innovation Works Names Ven Raju New President CEO
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Oct. 6, 2022) — Ven Raju has been named President & Chief Executive Officer of Innovation Works (IW), one of the most active pre- and seed-stage investors in the country and the most active early-stage investor for tech startups in southwestern Pennsylvania. Ven will succeed Rich Lunak, who announced his retirement in February after 17 years of leading Innovation Works and drawing global attention to the Pittsburgh region as a world-class technology hub with a dynamic ecosystem for startups. Mr. Raju was selected from among more than 135 candidates nationwide after a competitive and inclusive search initiated by IW’s Board of Directors and led by Korn Ferry, a global executive research and recruitment firm. He will begin Oct. 6th.
“Pittsburgh’s transformation from an industrial powerhouse to a 21st century technology hub is a testament to the region’s incredible talent, world renowned research institutions and a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Ven said. “Rich and the team have brought to bear the necessary resources to support regional startups and have been a seminal force in developing that entrepreneurial ecosystem and advancing the regional innovation economy.”
Ven continued, “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead IW, particularly at a time when the region is experiencing unprecedented growth. IW’s commitment to supporting companies and entrepreneurs at all stages of the business and development lifecycle is unwavering. I look forward to continuing to strengthen our support and help take our entrepreneurial ecosystem to the next level.”
Ven has served as Innovation Works’ Chief Investment Officer since July 2021, leading the organization’s investment decision process for new investments, helping portfolio companies achieve their fundraising strategies, and managing relations with angel investors, venture capitalists, and strategic corporate and other investors interested in potential deals with companies in southwestern Pennsylvania. He also served as Managing Director of Riverfront Ventures, the for-profit investment fund managed by Innovation Works.
“The board is confident that Ven’s combination of skills and experience will continue to drive the IW legacy of nurturing and growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem built over the last 40 years,” said Catherine Mott, chair of Innovation Work’s board of directors. “Ven has worked with investors and startups all around the world and knows firsthand the incredible opportunities we have to offer in the Pittsburgh region. He also inherently understands the entrepreneur’s personal journey — the challenges of building a concept to a thriving business.” Mott continued, “Ven is going to be a tremendous advocate for our portfolio companies and our regional partners who are committed to supporting our thriving startup ecosystem.”
Ven brings a wealth of experience to support the region’s entrepreneurs and attract investments in tech startups. He has nearly 25 years in venture capital and private equity investing, having led or co-led all facets of the investment process including: origination, due diligence, transaction structuring and portfolio management. He has provided strategic and operational oversight via board of director and executive-level participation. Ven also has deep experience supporting entrepreneurs to help them grow and gain traction. He has worked side-by-side with numerous, successful founders and startups, helping them launch products, scale operations, and build successful businesses.
Before coming to Innovation Works, Ven was Vice President and Managing Director of Northwell Ventures, the corporate venture group of New York’s largest health-care provider, Northwell Health. He was also a partner at Choate Capital Partners and Chestnut Ventures
“Innovation Works is among the nation’s premier seed stage investors for tech startups and entrepreneurs at the earliest, riskiest stage,” said Rich Lunak, outgoing president & CEO of Innovation Works. “Ven has vast investment experience and connections as well as a hands-on background working with startups and entrepreneurs at every level of development. Not every worthwhile company will go on to attain follow-on funding – and that’s ok. Ven has the right experience, empathy and knowhow to support our entire portfolio. I cannot be more excited about what the future holds for Ven and his vision for IW.”
Ven has an extensive background in both technology and finance. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He also received an MSc from University of Oxford, St. Hugh’s College, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, with honors, from The George Washington University. Ven also serves as adjunct faculty member at the Lebow School of Business of Drexel University and guest lecturer at The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Ven also serves on a number of for profit and nonprofit boards and, with his family, volunteers and supports children’s hospitals regionally.
Ven sums up having the IW baton pass to him, “It is a privilege to lead an organization that is so integral to the community. I am excited to collaborate with our regional partners and get started.”
For more information, visit www.innovationworks.org.
About Innovation Works
Innovation Works provides investment and assistance to the Pittsburgh region’s most promising technology startups and is the only regional investment fund focused solely on this region, investing more than $117M in over 600 companies since formation in 1999. This activity makes Innovation Works the most active seed-stage investor in the region and one of the country’s most active overall. Part of the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Innovation Works is one of four centers in the network to help build PA’s innovative companies, diversify the state’s economic drivers and capitalize on the world-class research conducted at the renowned universities throughout the state. Innovation Works is partially funded by the Commonwealth’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. Providing investment, expert guidance, and access to networks, Innovation Works helps software, hardware and life sciences companies get to their next stage of economic growth.
Terri Glueck, Vice President, Communications