Versant Ventures invests in early-stage life sciences companies and has put money into Minnesota firms.
A Silicon Valley venture capital firm that specializes in early-stage medical device and biotech companies is planning to open a Twin Cities office next month.
Versant Ventures has been an active investor in Minnesota and other Midwest companies for the past five years, and the firm said it plans to maintain the pace of its activity through a $500 million fund.
In recent years, it has been challenging for Minnesota entrepreneurs to get promising ideas backed by investors. In 2010, venture capital investments in the state reached the lowest amount in 15 years of record keeping.
Since then, venture funding has improved, boosted by large deals in software and renewable chemistry -- though the number of active firms remains far lower than during the peak years more than a decade ago.
Dan Carr, CEO of the Collaborative, a group that links entrepreneurs with investors, said Versant's decision indicates the strength of the entrepreneurial community in Minnesota.
"The fact that they wanted to open here is a testament to the opportunity here," Carr said.
Versant has funded local medical device firms Lutonix, Zyga Technology and Respicardia, as well as health care technology business RedBrick Health. Lutonix, which makes drug-coated balloon catheters, was acquired last year by New Jersey-based medical technology firm C.R. Bard for $225 million.
Versant, founded in 1999, has $1.6 billion under management. It currently has offices in Menlo Park, Newport Beach and San Francisco, Calif.
Kirk Nielsen, a Versant managing director who has been based in Newport Beach, said he believes Minnesota is a great place to build companies.
"Our opening of an office there is a sign of our long-term commitment to the region," Nielsen said in an e-mail.
Nielsen, a Minnesota native, will be the only investment professional in the Twin Cities office. Before joining Versant, he was a sales representative for Medtronic's Cardiac Rhythm Management division.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712