How Michael Ferro and Merrick Ventures Created a Tech Boom in Chicago

Before 2010, Michael Ferro was probably best known for his internet software company, Click Commerce. Michael Ferro founded Click Commerce when he was only 28 years old. Click Commerce was a highly successful supply-chain software company that put Michael Ferro on the map in the tech world. He earned a number of different recognitions, including being named to the Forbes “Tech’s 100 Highest Roller” list, winning Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology award, and much more. Michael Ferro’s training was in software architecture, so he was very hands-on in the development and day-to-day operations of the company.


Michael Ferro sold Click Commerce to Illinois Tool Works Inc. in late 2006 for $292 million in cash. He was not even close to being done though. Instead he decided he wanted to invest in local technology startups in the Chicago area. He assembled some of the biggest and brightest investors in the Chicago who wanted to invest their money in startups that were doing big things with big data, content aggregation, and more.


Merrick Ventures LLC is the private equity firm Michael Ferro founded that would facilitate these transactions. Merrick Ventures was named after the town of the same name that Michael Ferro grew up in. Its board members included John Canning, Lester Crown, James Farrell, Andrew McKenna Sr., Richard Notebaert, J.B. Pritzker, Christopher Reyes, John Sandner, Michael Tang, Bruce White, and Miles White. According to one report, board members invested three million dollars or more in various funding efforts.


Merrick Ventures LLC invested in a number of different startups and companies. One of its most successful investments was Merge Healthcare Inc., a publicly traded medical software company, which Merrick returned to profitability. Michael Ferro was named the chairman of the company and served in that role from 2008-2015. In his time as chairman, Merge Healthcare Inc. turned into a billion dollar enterprise, and it was acquired by IBM in 2015.


One of the reasons why IBM wanted to buy Merge Healthcare was because of Merge’s patent portfolio, which included AI medical imaging technology that Michael Ferro had developed. This AI medical imaging technology could be used with IBM’s Watson Health platform, which only could read text files at the time, to deliver a well-rounded software solution to healthcare providers.


Today, Michael Ferro is still the CEO of Merrick Ventures, and the private equity firm is in business to fund startups and established companies that are doing innovative things in Chicago and beyond.



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