Manifold brings advisory, venture capital, and incubation under one roof

03 February 2021 2 min. read
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Manifold, a Chicago-based venture holding company, has combined advisory, venture investing, and incubation businesses under one roof.

In 2010, Joe Dwyer, Sean Johnson, and Matt Anarde – three experts in strategy, VC, and entrepreneurship – founded Digital Intent. The company started as an advisory firm to help non-technical founders get their companies off the ground with design and software engineering services. Eventually, Digital Intent expanded into holistic, strategic growth advisory services.

The trio also founded a venture fund – Manifold Group – to provide cash and access to a team of seasoned operators, delivered through a no-fee management structure. The group has invested in or created 26 companies and had three exits.

According to Johnson, in late 2019 they started to examine ways to create better synergies between their advisory practice and their venture firm.

Manifold brings advisory, venture capital, and incubation under one roof

The result is Manifold, a new holding company that combines advisory, venture investing, and incubation. Digital Intent is now Manifold Advisory; investing takes place under the Manifold Ventures umbrella; and incubation and acceleration work will take place in Manifold Studios.

The firm’s advisory practice has insight into what types of opportunities enterprises are looking for, and what the future of various industries might look like. That helps inform due diligence for potential investments and studio products.

The ventures group, meanwhile, examines hundreds of deals per year, and the pattern recognition therein helps the advisory group provide better insights.

Manifold hopes to provide an advisory edge in new, digital-informed business models. To this end, the company says it has long prioritized hiring operators with legitimate startup experience.

“In the modern economy, all companies must disrupt to survive,” said Dwyer. “However, many companies who know how to operate a known business model don’t know how to build a new one.” 

According to Manifold, traditional consultancies are more adept at working within known business models, and lack experience with nascent models. The firm’s more entrepreneurial team can deliver operating expertise, capital, and connections with companies at all stages of maturity.

The firm has a team of nearly 50 experts in advisory, data sciences, design, engineering, marketing, ventures, and incubation. Manifold also draws on a network of advisory partners to support clients.

“We deliver growth by pulling together experienced entrepreneurs, senior consultants, technology experts, accomplished venture capitalists, and experienced coaches,” explained John Sviokla, senior partner of Manifold Advisory. “Put another way, we are a team of professionals who have successfully started, built, and grown organizations before. So we know what works, and what does not.”

The Big Three strategy firms launched their own startup incubators and corporate investment divisions in the mid-2010s: Fuel (McKinsey), BCG Ventures, and Bain Innovation Exchange.