UW Building $20M Fund to Back University Startups, Following the “Utah Model”
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federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, which can help researchers refine prototypes and generate proof-of-concept data that angel and venture investors want to see before they will write checks, she said.
By getting students involved, this fund will have an educational mission along with an economic development goal of spinning out more companies from UW research, Rhoads says.
She wasn’t yet ready to say precisely where the money is coming from, other than it is from private sources—venture capitalists, wealthy individuals, and foundations. There will be an advisory committee to the Husky fund composed of senior executives, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs “with great track records,” Rhoads says.
The UW already has a fund that’s supposed to help startup ideas cross the infamous “funding gap,” where basic research grants tail off, yet angel and venture investors aren’t yet ready to tread. The UW has a Commercialization Gap Fund to serve a similar purpose, although those grants are worth just $50,000 for a year, plus another $50,000 worth of other services and resources. The Husky fund will seek to put more horsepower behind companies, by typically making investments of $250,000 to $500,000, Rhoads says.
I got the impression that many of the details are still being worked out, so things could change a bit by the time this program is up and running. But Rhoads was definitely confident enough to start talking publicly that it will happen.
“This is a turning point for the UW, in its decision to really start getting behind more of its entrepreneurial faculty,” Rhoads says.