A new venture capital fund called Character is launching in Milwaukee, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The fund’s executive officers are Eli Blee-Goldman and John Zeratsky.

John Zeratsky

OpenGov president David Reeves is an investor in the fund, Reeves said Thursday in an interview for the Milwaukee Business Journal podcast. Zeratsky declined to comment and Blee-Goldman did not respond to a request for comment.

Reeves and Zeratsky are both Wisconsin natives who spent years working for technology companies in Silicon Valley before recently moving to Milwaukee. Zeratsky explained his plans for the fund during a recent breakfast meeting, Reeves said.

“(Zeratsky) said he was starting a venture fund, and he didn’t see any reason why Milwaukee couldn’t be a place where companies and startups and innovation was funded,” Reeves said. “He’s starting a fund to prove that we can ultimately be an alternative to Silicon Valley or other places to fund and incubate startups across the country.”

Eli Blee-Goldman

Zeratsky is a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus who was formerly a designer at Google and YouTube, and a design partner at Google Ventures (GV). He personally supported many of GV’s most successful investments, including Slack, One Medical Group, Blue Bottle Coffee and Digit, according to his personal website.

Reeves, who is originally from Milwaukee, moved back in 2020 after more than two decades living and working as an enterprise software company executive in California and Boston. His company, OpenGov, opened an office in Walker’s Point last year and recently announced plans to hire 100 employees there within three years.

Blee-Goldman is a Milwaukee-based venture capitalist, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was previously a general partner at Capital Midwest Fund, a Mequon-based venture capital firm. Blee-Goldman served on the board of some of the fund’s portfolio companies, including ThirdPartyTrust, a Chicago-based risk management platform, and AIQ Solutions, a Madison-based medical software company.

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