Family Dinner Recap: Allison Lechnir, Partner at Hyde Park Venture Partners

Event Recaps
Nadia Bidarian
Jun 5, 2024

The Chicago startup scene is brimming with talented founders and eager customers, but it's missing one crucial element: early stage capital. Northwestern alumna Allison Lechnir is on a mission to change that.

Lechnir, a Partner at Hyde Park Venture Partners, spoke to residents at The Garage during Family Dinner on May 14 about the Chicago venture ecosystem and what it takes to become a venture-backed company.

Following Lechnir’s graduation from Northwestern with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering, she worked in healthcare consulting at Accenture.

"My claim to fame there [at Accenture], my first step towards what I’m doing now, is that I helped to fix back in 2013," Lechnir said.

Lechnir’s experience in healthcare consulting sparked a passion for finding solutions where the government can better use technology for its citizens. Faced with three potential career paths to solve this problem—returning to consulting, working for the government, or diving into startups—Lechnir chose the startup route.

"What you’ll hear in none of this story is that I knew I was going to be a venture capital partner,” Lechnir said. “I did not know I was going to be a venture capital partner until like two years ago, three years ago."

Hyde Park Venture Partners is an early stage venture capital firm focusing on mid-continent technology startups in cities like Chicago, Atlanta and Toronto.

The impetus for founding Hyde Park Venture Partners back in 2012 came from a realization of the lack of resources faced by Chicago founders.

"[The founders of Hyde Park] realized that a lot of founders were getting started in Chicago, and trying to raise money and realizing that they have to go to the coast to raise money,” Lechnir said. “They were being told, ‘You can’t raise money in Chicago.’ And you couldn’t. There wasn’t seed stage capital in Chicago."

Still, not all companies are suited for venture capital, Lechnir said.

Lechnir speaking to Residents at The Garage.

“Venture capital is built for people who want to build billion dollar businesses,” Lechnir said. “It’s not the next three years of your life. It’s the next 10 to 15 years of your life, solving this one problem maniacally.”

Hyde Park Venture Partners evaluates around numerous startups a year, investing in very few. Although Lechnir estimates that around many are able to be venture-backed, the math of venture capital necessitates that she and her partners pick from this group the startups that resonate most with them.

Lechnir also shared insights from her own experience as a founder in graduate school, where she joined a research team who developed a machine learning model to identify police officers at risk of adverse interactions with the public. Lechnir called her founder experience a “fail.”

"I was the wrong founder for it. I had no background in policing whatsoever,” Lechnir said. “I was the wrong founder for the team, as in I had never met them before. We didn’t have a long-standing relationship building with each other."

Learning from her personal experience as a founder, Lechnir offered advice for startups looking to connect with her firm.

In the initial conversation between a partner like herself and a startup, Lechnir said that founders should talk about three things: Who they are, their personal motivation for building the startup, and finally, what they have accomplished thus far.

“I start with you as a person. Why are you building this?” Lechnir said. “I am looking for this very strong ‘why.’”

About the Author

Nadia Bidarian ’26 is a Journalism, Data Science, and Cognitive Science student from Redondo Beach, California. She is a student aide at The Garage who works on alumni programming, events and other projects for The Garage.