New W Fund Officially Launches, Will Invest in Washington-Based Start-ups
SEATTLE – (June 13, 2012) – The Washington state economy received a welcome boost today with the launch of a university-focused venture fund that aims to invest nearly $20 million over the next four years in promising start-ups spinning out of the University of Washington and other research institutions across the state. The W Fund, which officially closed on May 31, was announced today by the Fund’s managing directors.
Investors in the W Fund include leading venture capital firms and law firms, well-known entrepreneurs of technology and life science companies, and the Washington Research Foundation. The University of Washington is investing private, donated money and the W Fund is also leveraging federal stimulus monies garnered with support from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
The W Fund’s managing directors include Steve Singh, chairman and CEO at Concur; Troy Cichos, administrative partner at Madrona Capital; Rudy Gadre, former general counsel for Facebook and an active angel investor; John Gardner, dean of academic affairs at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and former vice president of Advancement and External Affairs at Washington State University; Paul Jenny, vice provost for planning and budgeting at UW; and the W Fund’s General Manager Linden Rhoads, vice provost for commercialization at UW and a serial technology entrepreneur.
“Business leaders have a responsibility to engage with the community to help drive Washington’s innovation economy and job growth engine,” said Singh, an early supporter and member of the W Fund’s managing directors and investment committee. “By helping spin out additional companies and supporting student programs, the W Fund will advance the University of Washington’s core educational mission while further distinguishing the UW as a leader in developing future entrepreneurs.”
In cooperation with the UW Foster School of Business’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the W Fund also will invite 25 students each year at the University of Washington to serve as Student Venture Associates. In this role, students will become actively involved in the operations and investment analysis of a venture fund while working side-by-side with experienced business leaders and investment professionals. In addition, the W Fund also plans to invite students from the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic at the UW School of Law to assist W Fund legal counsel in performing diligence on investment and corporate documents.
W Fund decisions will be made by an investment committee that includes top executives from leading venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest such as Tom Alberg and Greg Gottesman at Madrona Venture Group, Steve Gillis at ARCH Venture Partners, Lucinda Stewart and Chad Waite at OVP Venture Partners, and Ron Howell and Luciana Simoncini at WRF Capital. The Fund is expected to invest in 20 or more start-ups between 2012 and 2016.
“Access to earliest-stage capital is a gate to compelling opportunities. The W Fund should help the most-promising research and student generated start-ups clear that hurdle, and gain traction more quickly,” said Linden Rhoads. “It’s gratifying to see our region’s investment community come together to leverage Washington’s research strength.”The W Fund is expected to help advance the UW’s Commercialization Initiative, which aims to double the number of new companies created at the university over the next three years. Earlier this year, the university launched a business incubator within Fluke Hall that provides on-campus lab and office space to student researchers working on new innovations. Under the guidance of UW President Michael Young, the university plans to steadily increase its focus on commercialization, with the goal of attracting leading researchers to its program.
“The W Fund is a trailblazing model that will fuel the university’s education and research mission,” said UW President Michael Young. “This creative new fund set up by this group of innovative private investors will serve as a catalyst to help the university fulfill its broader missions and create even greater opportunities for the State of Washington.”
In addition to its potential to produce economic gain for its investors, the W Fund will serve multiple beneficial objectives. The W Fund is expected to support commercialization of technologies developed as the product of research at UW and other universities and research institutions in Washington. The early funding of promising technology-based start-up companies is expected to grow the state economy, by spurring the creation of jobs and tax revenue, and attracting investment capital into Washington. More information on the fund can be viewed at www.TheWFund.com.