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.

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9 responses to “UW Building $20M Fund to Back University Startups, Following the “Utah Model””

  1. Linden has made a huge difference. UW’s tech transfer office was a real fixer-upper when she took over two years ago. The improvements have been remarkable.

    To see the agenda for Wednesday’s UW CSE Industrial Affiliates meeting, visit http://www.cs.washington.edu/affiliates/meetings/agenda1011.html

    To see Thursday’s recruiting fair, visit http://news.cs.washington.edu/2010/10/28/got-jobs/

  2. Ron Howell says:

    This fund is going to be a game-changer: (a) there’s going to be competition for the students to participate and the best will become even better (b) I fully expect that the fund will not be reviewing disclosures as much as turning new ideas into well thought out business opportunities (c) it’s going to strengthen the ties between the investor community and UW (even though the ideas do not have to be exclusively UW). There are a number of details to get filled in, but I am confident this is going to be the start of something exciting and profitable as measured by many metrics.

  3. This is an amazing step toward increasing the probability that an academic idea becomes a company and that company brings innovation and jobs to the Seattle market. Having worked as a volunteer for the C4C and as a Husky alumni, I am excited about yet another game changing idea from Linden and her team and proud to see the UW continue to strengthen its position as an innovation leader in and out of the classroom and lab.

  4. Colin Hutchinson says:

    Good to see Ron Howell’s endorsement here- I’m curious how this works with/alongside WRF Capital? If it is completely separate, then why?

  5. In addition to the focus on opportunities for business school students, I would like to encourage the Husky Bridge to extend its reach to international affiliates through UW’s Global Citizens program. International student ventures can leverage UW’s resources and encourage responsible trade.

  6. The Northwest Energy Angels looks forward to seeing companies from the Husky Fund present company investment opportunities to us when they are ready. I’m sure our NWEA member and Entrepreneur in Residence at the Center for Commerciallization, Gino Borland, will also be alerting us to clean tech companies developing in the Husky Fund. We are also very much appreciative of NWEA advisor, Rick LeFaivre,’s work to keep us connected to the Center and its emerging technology. We look forward to more companies like Energ2 being developed through the Husky Fund.