U-M Student Funds Talk About First 2014 Acquisition, New Investment

In April, the Wolverine Venture Fund, which is managed by students from the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and Ross School of Business, announced that one of its portfolio companies, Silverpop, has been acquired by IBM. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Erik Gordon, faculty managing director for the Wolverine Fund, says Silverpop is the fund’s fourth exit and its first this year. The Wolverine Fund invested in the Atlanta-based software company, which specializes in marketing automation and personalization services, back in 2000, a time Gordon describes as the height of the dot-com craze.

Gordon says Silverpop has survived two disasters—the dot-com bust in the early 2000s and the financial crisis in 2008. “There were times when we were worried about them, but they made it,” he adds. “At the top level, Silverpop stuck to the purpose of a new style of marketing. Underneath that, they pivoted, and now they offer a soup-to-nuts platform. Fourteen years in digital marketing is like 200 years in any other field.”

Gordon says the Wolverine Fund is particularly interested in two sectors these days: big data for healthcare, and molecular diagnostics. “We’re also looking for a play in the Internet of Things,” he says.

Also last month, the university’s Social Venture Fund said it had participated in a bridge financing round for Powerhouse Dynamics, a company focused on cloud-based enterprise energy and asset management.

The Social Venture fund makes early-stage investments of up to $100,000 and looks for companies that are sustainable, innovative, and attuned to the social impact of its business while delivering financial returns. The fund is managed by Uday Rajan and about 30 graduate students from the Ross School of Business.

Powerhouse Dynamics’ SiteSage platform is an asset management system for small commercial facilities, and it also helps business owners track energy consumption. Pilot systems have been deployed at food chains, including Arby’s, Chili’s, and Texas Roadhouse.

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