IVCA Profile: Rocco Martino, Recipient of the 2021 Fellows Award at the upcoming IVCA Awards Dinner

November 24, 2021

It’s that time of year, to reflect back upon the many successes and honor those who have worked toward that success. Kirkland & Ellis LLP will present the annual IVCA Awards Dinner, taking place on Monday, December 6th, 2021, starting at 5:30pm at the Four Seasons in Chicago. The honors conferred will include the Venture Capital Portfolio Company of the Year, the Private Equity Portfolio Company of the Year, the Richard J. Daley Award and the Fellows Award.
The Fellows Award – which recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to the Private Equity profession and to the Illinois Venture Capital Association. – will be presented to Rocco Martino, Founder and Managing Director of OceanM19 (OM19), a single-family Private Equity investment office. Prior to OM19, Mr. Martino co-founded LaSalle Capital and continues to serve as their Operating Advisor.
Rocco Martino received his Bachelors of Business Administration from Notre Dame University and his MBA from Loyola University of Chicago, and is a Certified Public Accountant. Before co-founding LaSalle Capital in 2004, Mr. Martino worked at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Chicago during his early career. In 1989, he joined the predecessor to LaSalle and co-organized Funds I and II of LaSalle Capital, LP ($330M assets under management).
Mr. Martino currently sits on the Board of Directors of Precision Products Group, Inc., and PRC Holdco, LLC (“Revco Solutions”). He formerly sat on the Board of Directors of NGC US Holdings, LLC (“National Gift Card”), Simplex Aerospace, National Metalwares LP, Avantech Testing Services, the Academy of Healing Arts LLC, Collection Associates, LLC, DeIorio, Impex Global, Ott-Lite Technologies, Inc. (“Ott-Lite”), Rain Creek, and Wm Wright LP.
Mr. Martino is also Chairman of the Edward/Elmhurst Healthcare System Board of Trustees, and for his former alma maters is a member of Loyola University of Chicago Board of Trustees and Notre Dame’s IDEA Center Advisory Council. In addition, he is the Chairman of the Advisory Council for Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business, a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. Rocco Martino joined the IVCA in 2008, and has served on the Board since 2014. During the crucial pandemic period between January of 2020 and June of 2021, he served as the Board Chair.
In honoring Mr. Martino, current Chair of the IVCA Board Jennifer Sterns said, “Rocco has also been a very able leader of the IVCA’s PAC, where he currently serves as its Vice Chairman.  Rocco supports both of his alma maters, serving on Advisory Councils for both Notre Dame and Loyola University, as well as his local community, where he is currently the Chairman of the Edward/Elmhurst Healthcare System’s Board of Trustees. In short, Rocco serves as a role model to us all regarding how to put our talents to work in all aspects of our lives.”
The IVCA got the opportunity to talk to Rocco Martino about his extraordinary career, in the following Q&A profile.
IVCA: What originally drew you to spend your time with IVCA?  How has your engagement level evolved over time? How has this benefitted you personally or professionally?
Rocco Martino: Originally, I knew nothing about the IVCA. [Executive Director] Maura O’Hara invited me to get involved at a luncheon many years ago. Little did I know then that I would receive more out of my involvement than I would give.
I had no idea how much assistance the IVCA provided to our members in education, networking, advocating on our behalf on important legislative matters and providing scholarships for underrepresented groups who work in Venture Capital and Private Equity industries. 
Overall, the IVCA has opened my eyes to better ways of investing and promoting the virtues of Venture Capital and Private Equity to help companies grow and create jobs. My experience has been very rewarding.  
IVCA: You’ve been a board member of the IVCA for several years, and have served as Chair during a crucial period from January to June of 2021. What do you think defines the challenges of the pandemic era as you were sitting in that Chair?
Martino: The challenges of leading the IVCA during the height of the pandemic was certainly not part of how Maura described the IVCA Chair position. Uncertainly surrounding the health of our community and inability to meet in person put the mission and financial stability at risk. We knew we had no choice but to move the organization forward. Our delivery of support and communication to the member community just had to be different.
For example, we replaced in-person luncheon meetings with state legislators with Zoom meetings to discuss our mission and express our voice on important and pending legislation. These virtual meetings were way more effective than I would have guessed initially, and will probably continue in some hybrid fashion in the future.
Recently, we were able to reach an important agreement with the treasurer’s office governing investment activities with the State of Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund (ILGIF). Further, we were courageous in our decision to hold the IVCA Scholars golf outing in person and to hold last year’s annual Awards Dinner virtually. We had many educational webcasts covering hot topics in our industries, and we continued to provide minorities and people of color internships under the Scholars program.
Overall, we can be proud we moved the mission forward during that time. 
IVCA: You recently founded OceanM19 as a single family investment office after many years as a co-founder and partner at LaSalle Capital. What was behind the decision to create OceanM19, and what will be the guiding philosophy in operating the new endeavor?
Martino: My family’s decision to create OceanM19 after close to 30 years at LaSalle Capital was based upon a few exciting factors. One, we purposely built a succession plan at LaSalle, and we were fortunate to have developed and surrounded ourselves with young and talented investors who were ready to lead … this is something I’m particularly proud of.
Second, I was really looking forward to working with my wife Roxanne and my son Dan to build a unique family office with a full suite of alternative investing expertise. Roxanne retired five years ago as Founder/CEO & Investment Chairperson of Aurora Investment Management LLC after 28 years. Aurora provided portfolio solutions through hedge funds and investment management to investors worldwide. Dan was previously an analysis working with a multi-strategy hedge fund, and was part of a team that launched pre-distressed real estate opportunity funds.
The combined work experiences of our family provides a wealth of expertise that enables us to make more collaborative and informed investment decisions. Our mission is to build a collegial investment environment that encourages a culture of excellence, partnership, respect and integrity. We’ve had a lot of fun so far.
IVCA: You are currently sitting and have sat within many companies on the Board of Directors. What is a common governing characteristic that you think you contribute to these Boards, even though the products and services are diverse?
Martino: I believe there are basic tenets within successfully run businesses no matter how diverse the products or services are. I believe it is important for a Board to find the right CEO who can communicate the goals of the organization to execute the management team and the workforce. There needs to be a clear and realistic strategic plan that both the CEO and the Board can sign off on, and actual results should be measured against this strategic plan so there is accountability established. 
The executive team should be provided with incentives to invest their own capital and receive profit interest so everyone’s interests are aligned to increase shareholder value. While unique product and services models can help a company be successful, it is people that make a company successful.
IVCA: You give back to both universities you attended by sitting on a advisory council at Notre Dame and the Board of Trustees at Loyola of Chicago. In your opinion, how does academia best work hand-in-hand with business and finance to grow together?
Martino: I believe that business and academia form an important partnership by addressing today’s most pressing challenges by engaging business and non-profit leaders’ expertise to develop best practices with the talent, education and research provided by colleges and universities. This collaboration enables business to profit with social good in mind.
IVCA: As the Chairman the Edward/Elmhurst Heathcare System Board of Trustees, what has been the biggest challenge before the Board, perhaps common to all Healthcare Boards, in the era of the pandemic?
Martino: There are and were many challenges that confronted the Edward/Elmhurst hospital system and hospitals across the country during the pandemic. The most significant challenge, in my opinion, was the safety and health of all the doctors, nurses, staff and patients during COVID. Early on during the pandemic our Board charged management, without cost constraints, to obtain as much PPE equipment, masks and disinfectant wipes that was available anywhere around the world. We had to protect our patients and employees at all costs. We recently mandated vaccines for everyone working within the system, to protect our patients and our workers. 
Another challenge was coordinating our hospitals resources to properly care for COVID patients without having a full understanding of the virus. We established a huge committee of doctors, nurses and employees to help develop best practices. For example, we were calling hospitals all over the world to determine known successful treatments and drug methodologies in the early stages. 
The cost of the pandemic on hospital systems around the country has been enormous. For example, non- essential surgeries and related stays in hospitals ground to a halt dramatically, reducing revenues. And retention incentives had to be provided for nurses and staff due to their health insecurities, further stressing the bottom line. So yes, there were many issues.  
IVCA: As the 2021 recipient of the Fellows Award, what does it mean to you personally to be recognized by your peers in the Venture Capital and Private Equity industries, especially as you served as an officer of the IVCA?
Martino: I am honored and thrilled to be a recipient of the Fellows Award. I’m grateful and proud to have been helpful in a small way to enhance the mission of the IVCA during a period of adversity. It’s been an unbelievable experience to have served with so many talented members of the Venture Capital and Private Equity community.
Kirkand & Ellis LLP presents The 2021 IVCA Awards Dinner on Monday, December 6th, 2021, beginning at 5:30pm, at The Four Seasons, 120 East Delaware, Chicago. For more information, including tickets, click here.