Q&A: Allegion Ventures president focuses on fostering innovation

Keywords Manufacturing

qa_martens.jpgRob Martens was appointed in March to lead security-products company Allegion Plc’s newly created $50 million venture capital fund, Allegion Ventures. The fund will invest in early-stage companies focused on innovative technologies and products in the security field. Martens also serves as Allegion’s futurist and vice president of strategy and partnerships.

What is Allegion Ventures?

Allegion Ventures is a $50 million venture capital fund. We focus on people and asset flow. We tend to invest in next-generation, emerging technologies, looking for interesting business models, interesting technology, maybe a peek around the corner. We invest in companies that are looking for more than just capital. We feel like there’s a lot of capital out there. So we want to find a good cultural fit where we can feel like we can add some type of unique value.

What type of companies are you considering for funding?

Check size for us is anywhere between $250,000 all the way up to $5 million or more. So, we work with companies that are seed series all the way through series C. We’ll work with someone who may have an idea and maybe some intellectual property, but they might not even have a physical product yet, all the way through people who are in the process of adding more customers.

Will you look for Indiana companies to invest in?

Obviously, we’re based in Indy, so lots of opportunity here. And, quite frankly, an interesting and really vibrant tech community here, but we’re also a global business, so we look everywhere. We’re in Europe, we’re in Canada, we’re in China, we’re all over the place. The good news is, from an Indy perspective, we find what we see here to be very competitive.

Your other job for Allegion is futurist. What do you do?

I focus on next-generation technology, process, interesting companies, people. It’s interesting—I think a lot of people look at the futurist moniker and say, ‘Well, you predict things.’ And it’s like, no, we look at trends and what we think the impact of those trends will be over time in our specific domain of expertise. We do make predictions on certain things, but what it’s really about is discovery, and that’s where you see a real synergy [of] why a futurist is running a $50 million venture fund. It’s because both of these things are really about discovery.

Why did you want to be part of Allegion Ventures?

I think it’s necessary. [Allegion has] been manufacturing in Indy for over 100 years. I think it’s important to not only water and take care of that reputation that you have, but I think it’s equally important to demonstrate to people that we’re interested in being around for another 100. Not to be cliche when I say that, but to really demonstrate that we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, and we’re going to experiment and we’re going to innovate at a different pace than you might expect.

Allegion Ventures was announced in March. What progress have you made so far?

Since March, we’ve spoken to well over 150 entrepreneurs, founders, companies about what they’re doing, about what their capital needs will be, what their plans are. We have what I would call an incredibly robust pipeline. We’re in the process right now of looking at, “What’s our first official Allegion Ventures investment going to be?”•

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