CompanyFirst is an "Emerging Brand Accelerator" that invests in and works closely with passionate entrepreneurs to help them build great consumer-focused companies and brands.
Jason has over two decades of experience spanning operations, technology, venture capital, and private equity. Jason is the founder of CompanyFirst, a venture capital firm focused on investing in and building emerging consumer brands and companies. Before CompanyFirst, Jason was the fund manager at CircleUp in San Francisco, through which he invested in dozens of consumer ventures. Prior to CircleUp, Jason spent over eight years at Winona Capital Management, a consumer-focused private equity firm in Chicago with over $300 million under management. Before Winona, Jason worked at venture capital firm Opus Capital in Silicon Valley and was a founder or early employee at several high-tech start-ups in Denver including BoldTech Systems, a “Deloitte Tech Fast 50” and “Inc. 500” company that was acquired by Perficient (NASDAQ PRFT). Prior to his entrepreneurial ventures, Jason spent over five years at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) where he was a project manager and software engineer. Jason graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with an MBA and holds a BSBA and MAS from the University of Denver, where he was an alumni scholar and graduated summa cum laude.
Jason’s Midwest roots set the guiding principles at CompanyFirst, which can basically be summed up as treat others as you would want them to treat you. Fanatical about entrepreneurship, Jason relishes the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and help emerging companies…whether that includes thinking through strategic options, financial planning, improving operations, implementing technology, or just pounding the pavement at trade shows. Jason and his family live in the Chicago area where his free time is spent coaching a variety of youth sports and volunteering at the University of Chicago as a mentor, coach, and judge in their business plan competitions and start-up accelerator / incubator programs.
Jeff has over twenty years of sales and executive manufacturing experience with both public and privately held organizations including over 10 years of working with Private Equity sponsors. Before founding CompanyFirst, Jeff was President & CEO of Fort Dearborn Company (www.fortdearborn.com), a leading supplier of packaging and label solutions with 15 manufacturing facilities and 1,700 employees. Fort Dearborn works with many of the world’s most recognizable consumer companies and brands such as Unilever, Nestle, KraftHeinz, and Coke. Under Jeff’s leadership, Fort Dearborn grew significantly and expanded its capabilities through capital investment and strategic acquisitions, enabling the company to match its customers’ evolving needs, provide growth opportunities for employees, and maximize return to investors. Prior to becoming CEO, Jeff was Fort Dearborn’s Sr. Vice President of Sales. Before joining Fort Dearborn, Jeff spent 10 years with RR Donnelley. During his tenure with RR Donnelley (and its acquired entities Moore Wallace and Wallace Computer Services) he served in various sales and sales management roles of increasing responsibility.
Jeff received an MBA from DePaul University in Entrepreneurship and a BS in Marketing from Northern Illinois University. Passionate about building great businesses, Jeff embraces the opportunity to help emerging companies and brands navigate both the strategic and day-to-day challenges all businesses face. However, Jeff also understands the critical balance of providing value added support to management without compromising their unique ability to create value for their customers and support the people who deliver that value. Jeff and his family are from and currently reside in the Chicago area. In his free time, Jeff enjoys attending his kids’ sporting events, cooking, and traveling with his family.
Deanna joined CompanyFirst in 2019 as part of the Chicago Booth Venture Capital/Private Equity Lab. Deanna is currently pursuing her MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and holds a BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. Deanna has a wide variety of experience in consulting, private equity, financial services, and operations. She began her career as a consultant at KPMG where she facilitated efficiency development and innovation of financial data processes for Fortune 500 companies. Afterward, Deanna joined TPG, a private equity firm with +$100B assets under management. At TPG, Deanna worked on financial reporting and operations before converting to a senior advisor to lead the redesign of the Holdings reporting platform.
Outside of work and school, you can typically spot Deanna teaching classes at CorePower Yoga or exploring the diverse Chicago restaurant scene.
Grant joined CompanyFirst in 2019 as part of the Chicago Booth Venture Capital/Private Equity Lab. Grant is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. While an undergrad at the U of C, Grant was part of the Fronen (banana-based ice cream) team that won the College New Venture Challenge business plan competition and went through the Polsky Center Summer Accelerator. Grant has also worked in consulting in a number of industries.
We partner with entrepreneurs and work tirelessly to help them build a more valuable company. Fairly easy to say, but very difficult to do...and we love every minute of it.
CompanyFirst is honored to have the following as strategic advisors to our Firm and Fund:
Chris is the general partner of CJM Ventures and is a Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where he teaches courses on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and private equity. Chris was previously a Managing Director at Madison Dearborn Partners where he oversaw more than $2 billion of equity investments in the industrial, consumer, and energy sectors.
Michael is a Parter at Zenfinity Capital, an investment firm started by Kevin Easler (the co-founder of Sprouts Farmers Market) to identify, finance, and develop the growth of promising better for your businesses in retail, food, and beverage. Michael has been an investor for more than 15 years and has completed over 40 private transactions, working primarily with high net worth families.
Nick is an executive at PLZ Aeroscience. PLZ was founded in 1939 with the invention of Plastic Auto Glaze Polish. An innovator in commercializing aerosol technology, PLZ is a leading manufacturer of specialty aerosol and liquid products. PLZ has thrived under multiple generations of Ferring leadership and produced over four billion cans of industrial and consumer products.
Todd spent over three decades in leadership positions at Cargill, recently retiring as the head of the Cargill’s global protein and salt businesses. Todd was a member of the Cargill Board of Directors, oversaw some of Cargill’s largest acquisitions, and was a member of the Cargill Leadership Team, the executive group in charge of Cargill’s strategic direction, growth, and capital allocation.
It has been our honor and pleasure to work with and for some fantastic companies and entrepreneurs throughout our careers. The following are some examples of our team's collective experience. The list below can be filtered by current CompanyFirst partners vs. prior experiences. The list can also be filtered by industry.
Please reach out to us with any questions, ideas, or opportunities. The best way to reach us is via email, we will do our best to respond as quickly as possible.
625 W Adams 19th Floor
Chicago, IL 60661