Clayco’s Treehouse Adventures: Chasing innovation

clayco treehouse

by Dan Rafter

Mike Latiner points to design-build company Clayco’s belief in innovation as the guiding force that led the Chicago-based firm to launch its Treehouse Adventures business incubator earlier this year.

Real estate and design-build company Clayco has already made a big impact in Chicago. Last year, the company moved its headquarters from its long-time base in St. Louis to Chicago. Now the company is again making an impact in its new home city, launching Treehouse Adventures in Chicago, a private investment firm designed to provide financial backing to start-up companies.

In the late fall of this year, Clayco provided Treehouse Adventures with its own office space at the company’s Chicago headquarters at 35 E. Upper Wacker Drive. The partners running the investment firm will work here alongside the entrepreneurs that Treehouse Adventures is funding.

For Latiner, president of Treehouse Adventures, Treehouse Adventures is all about Clayco’s continued desire to evolve.

“Innovation is the catalyst for Treehouse,” Latiner told Midwest Real Estate News during an interview. “It’s all about finding ways in which Clayco can continue to be innovative. Our mandate is for Treehouse Adventures, as the investment arm of Clayco, to continue that culture.”

Bob Clark, chairman and chief executive officer of Clayco, said that Treehouse Adventures is Clayco’s way of boosting the odds that entrepreneurs with innovative ideas receive the help they need to bring these ideas to the marketplace.

clayco treehouse2“Treehouse Adventures feeds my entrepreneurial appetite,” Clark said, in a written statement. “It’s a great opportunity for us to work with cutting-edge companies in all fields, and I value associating my company and my employees with people who are turning creative concepts into new businesses.”

Treehouse Adventures has already made its first investment, providing financial backing to Ventana, a Chicago-based building-enclosure company that designs and installs glass curtain-wall facade systems.

And while Clayco provided Ventana with the money the firm needs, Treehouse Adventures is supplying much more than just financial backing, Latiner said. Treehouse Adventures is providing Ventana with with back-office support, office space and accounting expertise.

In short, Treehouse Adventures is taking care of the nuts-and-bolts part of running a business, freeing Ventana’s big thinkers to concentrate on fine-tuning their products and business model.

“We wanted them to be able to focus on serving their clients and finding new business,” Latiner said.

And so far? Things are going well for Ventana. During the company’s first six months with Treehouse Adventures, Ventana has bested every benchmark for success that it and Treehouse had set, Latiner said.

Today, Treehouse Adventures is actively seeking businesses to support. Latiner said companies are reaching out to Treehouse, too, pitching themselves and their services.

“We have this wonderful collaborative space on the 14th floor right now,” Latiner said. “We have people from different disciplines working side-by-side and looking at different problems, working to solve these problems. They all look at these problems through their own specific lenses and experiences. It fosters the spirit of innovation. So many interesting things can come from that.”

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