Funding Innovative Solutions: ManchesterStory Group
"Help will always be given…to those who ask for it."
For Jason Gross, vice president and head of platform at ManchesterStory Group, this phrase isn’t just a memorable quote from the “Harry Potter” franchise, but a reflection of the mentality Iowa’s business leaders have adopted in their support of the state’s finance and insurance startups. As a venture capital firm, ManchesterStory is among several Iowa-based organizations investing in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and, by extension, its future. Jason shares about ManchesterStory Group’s focus on insurtech, fintech and healthtech companies, and why Iowa is the place where innovation thrives.
Q: Tell us about your career journey. What led you to ManchesterStory Group?
Jason Gross (JG): Many in the venture capital space get their start working in finance, but my career began in politics. I worked on several presidential and congressional campaigns before moving to the finance and insurance space. During my 20 years of experience working with Iowa’s insurance companies, I worked in operations, IT and eventually corporate strategy leading innovation efforts. The opportunity to adopt the latest insurtech solutions and invest in early-stage companies is what ultimately attracted me to ManchesterStory. In my current role, I work directly with investors to identify opportunities that align with their business needs and investment goals and gain unique insight into how industries are evolving.
Q: What is ManchesterStory Group known for?
JG: We’re a venture capital firm that primarily invests in early-stage insurtech companies, however, we’re also branching out to companies with innovation in financial services and healthcare. On average, ManchesterStory evaluates more than one thousand deals each year to invest in around ten, which speaks to growth and opportunities within these industries.
Q: What other benefits has the company realized by maintaining its headquarters in Iowa?
JG: We have such an accessible network in Des Moines, which enables us to make smart investment decisions. If we’re unfamiliar with a product or need to vet an idea, we have people within our network who we can contact and ask questions. And industry leaders are committed to industry growth and share a desire to help. Startup founders come from across the globe to participate in programs such as the Global Insurance Accelerator because they can’t get access to leaders elsewhere the way that they can in Iowa.
Not only that, we also have a strong talent pipeline from Iowa’s colleges and universities. We have hosted interns from the University of Iowa, Drake University and Iowa State University. They have shared sentiments like, “I wanted to go west – somewhere ‘cool’ – but now I’ve changed my mind and see the opportunity right here.” The sense of community is what sets Iowa apart and people don’t understand until they experience it.
Q: What appeals to you about living and working in Iowa?
JG: Growing up in Iowa, I always thought I would leave. After traveling for both leisure and work, I have yet to find a place where I would rather live. I’m able to afford a nice home and enjoy a seven-minute commute to work. The benefits of living in Iowa are endless - it's affordable, the commute times are short, we have ample job opportunities, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and a lot more. This unique blend we offer gives me great hope and expectations for our state’s future as more people take a closer look at Iowa.
Q: What’s next on the horizon for ManchesterStory Group?
JG: There are a lot of market headwinds for those starting a business right now. Regardless, we’re continuing to be bullish on those opportunities. We want to partner with founders who are changing the insurtech, fintech and healthtech industries and invest in new and exciting technologies. It’s time that we redefine the finance and insurance industry and push people to think about the capabilities and opportunities within these sectors. There is a purpose behind what we are trying to accomplish here in Iowa and I’m happy to be part of that story.