Chris McGowan is the General Partner of CJM Ventures (“CJMV”), a Chicago growth equity and private equity investment firm.
McGowan’s private equity career began 29 years ago with AEA Investors in New York City, after earning an undergraduate degree in theoretical mathematics from Columbia University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and following two years of mergers and acquisitions training at Morgan Stanley.
After completing an MBA at Harvard Business School, he joined Madison Dearborn Partners (“MDP”) in Chicago, where he co-headed their basic industries practice for the last five years of his 12-year career there. At MDP, he oversaw more than $2 billion of equity investments focused on buyouts and growth equity globally in the industrial, consumer, and energy & power sectors. He continues to serve on the Board of prior MDP portfolio company Boise Cascade (former Chairman of Audit Committee, NYSE: BCC) and formerly served on or advised the boards of Smurfit Kappa Group (LN: SKG), BWAY Holdings, FirstWind, US Power Generating, OPENLANE, The Illinois Venture Capital Association, and others.
In 2011, with the help of MDP leadership and mentors, McGowan formed CJMV, an investment firm focused on management buyouts of and growth equity investments in companies located near Chicago and London. CJMV's current portfolio includes OPTO International, an Illinois-based manufacturer of retail shelving and display systems; Cedar Capital, a Chicago-based asset management firm; and Ingenica Solutions, a UK-based health care information technology company. CJMV’s former portfolio companies include Autism Home Support Services (“AHSS”), the largest provider in Illinois of home-based therapy for children on the autism spectrum. He is also a current Board member of 8th Light, Author Capital Partners, BigStep Cloud, Consumer Ventures, Innovare, Just Hot Tubs, Kinzie Capital, Leadership Lyceum, MetalSoft, Salem Cyber and is a Board observer for Psycle London. He was formerly a Board member of Kenna Security (acquired by Cisco), Rise Interactive (acquired by Quad), Simple Mills (recapitalized by Vestar), SonarMed (acquired by Medtronic) and Spikeball.
Since Spring 2012, McGowan has taught at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (“Booth”), and currently serves there as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, and as an Investor in Residence and Faculty Advisor to Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In the Fall of 2023, he begins his 13th year teaching Booth’s Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge (“SPITC”) and his 11th year teaching Booth’s Private Equity / Venture Capital Lab. He is also conducting the 9th year of the Booth Private Equity Case Challenge (f.k.a. Oxford-Chicago Global Private Equity Challenge).
McGowan is an active angel investor and currently serves as Chairman of the Limited Partner Advisory Committee for Hyde Park Venture Partners Fund I (and a member of their Fund II, Fund III and Opportunity Fund’s Boards), and as Chairman of the Advisory Board for Valley Growth Ventures. He is former member of Hyde Park Angels’ Board of Directors and Portfolio Advisory Board. His angel investments include Aero Design Labs, Agent.ai, AIM Clinics, Alnair Therapeutics, AuditSight, Awakened Foods, BallotReady, Blueprint, Book+Main, Branch Messenger, Brilliant, Catalytic, Chowbus, Clearcover, Clyde, Codeverse, Cohesion, Colony Display, DAOHQ, Dispatch, EVA Automation, ExplORer, Farmers Fridge, FarmLogs, Fillow, FourKites, Frank, GeoFeedia, Havoc Shield, Hologram, Human Predictions, Kaizen Health, Klover, LandscapeHub, Lightpoint Medical, LivNow Relocation, Luxury Garage Sale, Made In Cookware, Market Wagon, Markit, MAX Analytical, MetalSoft Cloud, Nanograph, nOCD, Noirefy, NuCurrent, Occasion, Ocient, Pacha Soap, Packback, Pangea, ParkWhiz/Arrive, PartySlate, Polyphotonix, PopularPays, Provi, Resonado, Rheaply, ShipBob, Sifter, Stacked, StreamLink, Stroma Vision, Techstars, Tenacity Cloud, ThinkCerca, TonDone, TractorZoom, TransparentC, Truss, TurboAppeal, Vertex, Woodlawn Sheer and YCharts.
McGowan married his high school and college sweetheart, Sandy, and they have three children: one attending Walter Payton College Prep, and two former graduates of the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools (“Lab”). At Lab, McGowan served for nine years on its Board of Directors including four years leading Lab’s Development Committee (two as Chair, two as Co-Chair), including oversight for Lab+, the School’s $80 million capital campaign. He is also a former Trustee for the Court Theatre at the University of Chicago. McGowan recently completed his fifth year as President of Friends of Walter Payton College Prep (and former Chair, Annual Fund), and serves on the SHSAA Board of Trustees for Stuyvesant High School, where he attended with Sandy in New York City.