Get to Know: Craig Ibsen

Posted on November 9, 2021 at 5:12 PM by Ashley Hunt

Get to Know: Craig Ibsen

Craig Ibsen is a Managing Partner at Next Level Ventures. 

Craig has over 25 years of investment, entrepreneurial and senior management experience in the US and globally and is the founder and Managing Partner of Next Level Ventures, the largest strategic investment firm in Iowa. Craig leads the management of three funds today. With his deep roots in technology, startups and long-standing relationships with strategic investors, Craig has established the first and largest investment firm managing credit union assets today. He holds an MBA from Drake University and a BA from Luther College.

What is your focus in terms of where you invest?

I invest at Seed, Series A and occasionally later stage.

What is a company that you invested in that is an example of that focus?

Mazen Animal Health is a great example.

I saw the founder at an Ag Startup Engine meeting and immediately fell in love with the idea. I asked the folks at Ag Startup Engine to let me know when they were going to start raising money. When they did, we led the seed round. Today the company is doing a series A and we are excited to participate. It is a big idea with a big market. It is super exciting to see a team with talent swing for the fence.

Which new trend in VC are you most excited to see?

We are seeing more and more female founders starting disruptive businesses and have backed several. It is overdue but super exciting to see.

What brought you to Next Level Ventures?

I started the firm back in 2013 with a dream to start an investment firm here in Iowa. Today we manage $350M.

Our unique differentiation is we manage more credit union money by far than anyone else in the country.

What is a lesson you learned the hard way?

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify, diversify, diversify!

What is one piece of advice a brand-new startup should know?

It is all about the team. Figure out your blind spots and hire/partner with folks that complement those weaknesses.

What would you tell yourself at the beginning of your career?

Don’t forget to smell the roses along the way. A great career is a long and sometimes winding path. Take time to enjoy it, humbly admit and learn from your mistakes and enjoy and build on the personal relationships you will develop along the way. In the end you will remember less the successes and failures but you will treasure the relationships.

What are you reading right now?

I have read Fred Wilson’s blog for years and find it insightful for both founders and VC’s. I also love the Kauffman Foundation’s work and a recent blog about investing with conviction I found spot on!

What’s next for Next Level Ventures?

We have moved to new larger offices, are expanding our team with talented folks, and are looking to invest in remarkable people with disruptive ideas!

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