Wayne State University has launched a new pre-seed fund supporting student-run tech startups, the first of its kind in Detroit. The Warrior Fund, which is made possible through a grant from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, will be administered by the tech transfer office and Blackstone Launch Pad.
A total of $25,000 is available for startups, which Andrew Olson, commercialization principal with the tech transfer office, hopes to award $2,500 or $5,000 at a time. The fund will announce its first investment recipient in a few weeks.
“It’s great to have resources, but the ability to write checks is what really knocks down barriers,” Olson says. “Students have the ability to practically live on air. They can do more with less.”
Olson says the students will be coached on how to put together a venture pitch. A panel of WSU advisors, local and regional VCs, and community leaders will then judge their ideas. One of the rules of the Warrior Fund is that students aren’t told no—they’re either told yes or not yet. Student startups wouldn’t be allowed to use the funding to pay off salaries or debt. The startups also must be established businesses that have registered with the state and have tax identification numbers.
“It’s all about paving the road forward,” Olson adds. “We want startups to use the money on prototyping or to hire a developer to build a mobile app. We want this money to be need-to-have funding, not nice-to-have.”
The ultimate goal, Olson says, is that the companies who receive funding will stay in Detroit long-term.
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