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Universities Re-imagine Alumni Engagement With Angel Networks, Crowdfunding

November 13, 2014

Over the last several years, universities have been forced to reimagine ways that they engage with alumni beyond the traditional method of fundraising via alumni donations. These universities and their alumni associations want to increase alumni involvement and facilitate interactions between their high-achieving alumni, faculty, and students. Over this same time span, many universities have increased the size and scope of their entrepreneurship curricula and degree programs. These two trends have started to merge as there has been a rise in the number of alumni angel networks that connect the talents and capital of alumni with faculty and students looking to launch an entrepreneurial venture.

In 2012, approximately 40 alumni angel networks were affiliated directly with a university or alumni association. The number continues to grow as groups affiliated with Boston College, Dartmouth College, and Virginia Tech University recently launched angel networks that connect high-worth alumni with student-led startups.  University of Southern California (USC) alumni recently founded GenYrator, a for-profit equity crowdfunding platform to spur investment by accredited alumni investors into USC student-led startups.

Boston College & Dartmouth College
In mid-September, a 40-member group of Dartmouth College alums announced the creation of the Green D Founders Fund, an early stage venture fund that will launch startups connected with the Ivy League school. Its founders intend on raising between $1 million to $2 million in capital for the Green D Founders Fund to support up to 18 investments. In addition to capital, the fund will connect Dartmouth entrepreneurs with resources and mentors. Read the announcement…

Although, Dartmouth College has no direct involvement with the fund, the Wall Street Journal reports that university officials welcomed the addition to its efforts to promote entrepreneurship. It is the second venture fund to back Dartmouth startups – the first was the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network. Over the last decade, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network has supported more than 400 Dartmouth connected startups.

The Green D Founders Fund will be advised by the Boston-based Launch Angels, who also recently announced the creation of the Launch Angels University Fund for Boston College (BC) Alumni. Targeting a portfolio between $1 million to 2 million, the fund will invest in approximately 10 to 15 promising, scalable seed-stage companies that have connections to BC. The fund’s advisory investment committee is comprised of BC alumni who will review and make recommendations on the investments. Similar to the Green D Founders Fund, Launch Angels will connect entrepreneurs with resources and mentors. Read the announcement…

Virginia Tech University
Virginia Tech’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently announced the creation of the VT Investor Network, an angel network that invests in and supports promising startups from which a founder, board member, or active investor is a Virginia Tech graduate, student, or faculty member. The fund will facilitate early stage investments between $250,000 and $1 million per company. In addition to capital, the VT Investor Network and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will provide recipients with access to resources both within and outside of the university.

The group is intended to grow to over 100 investors and will work with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to provide students with experimental learning opportunities and hands-on experience in working with entrepreneurs and investors to learn the innovation and entrepreneurial process. Virginia Tech MBA students will perform the deal screening and due diligence process. Read the announcement…

University of Southern California
USC alumni recently founded GenYrator, a for-profit equity crowdfunding platform to spur investment by alumni into USC student-led startups. Similar to the recently announced alumni angel networks, GenYrator will provide students with access to a community of USC alumni accredited investors. In addition to providing them with access to accredited investors, the web-based portal will also connect students with access to resources and mentorship to help guide their entrepreneurial venture.  Read the announcement….

USC also unveiled a donation-based crowdfunding platform to help faculty, staff and students secure financial support for their projects. Ignite USC will target small investments in numerous types of projects including supporting basic research and proof-of-concept funding that may allow a potential entrepreneur to take the next step towards creating a commercially viable product, technology or service. The site also enables USC alumni and the public to target donations in support of endeavors that are important to them. Read the announcement…

California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginiahigher ed, crowdfunding, capital