Rowan Innovation Fund Grows to $25 Million | rowan today

Continuing Rowan University’s commitment to a robust South Jersey economy, the Rowan University Foundation expanded its venture capital fund in August to $25 million.

The Rowan Innovation Venture Fund (RIVF), which was launched with $5 million in 2014 to seed visionary start-up ideas, has received an additional $20 million to support an evolving pipeline of companies inside and out of the Rowan University community.

Since 2015, the RIVF has created 14 South Jersey-based and regional startups, many of which were started by university students and professors.

“We have invested approximately $4.3 million since the Fund’s inception,” said RIVF Managing Director Ernest Holtzheimer ’12, MBA ’13. “I work closely with our Advisory Board to determine if an opportunity meets the Fund’s investment criteria. Even if we do not initially approve an investment, we often offer resources available through the Fund and the University to provide companies with advice and information that can help them prepare for outside investment, whether through the Funds or other investors in our network. ”

While much of this investment has been in businesses founded by Rowan students, faculty, or alumni, the Fund’s broader mission supports a key University goal – economic development beyond the campus.

“At $25 million, the RIVF is one of the largest venture capital funds from a public university in the region,” said Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand. “As Rowan grows, part of our mission must be to support innovators with the ideas and the ability to launch businesses, create jobs and improve our community.”

Houshmand noted that the expansion of the RIVF coincides with a push to make Rowan more entrepreneurial, including, in the past year alone, partnering with Virtua Health to create a dynamic, transformational academic health system that will drive innovation. , research and clinical care. The institution is also launching the Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine, a first for New Jersey, and created the School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship within the Rohrer College of Business. (Last fall The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine named Rowan’s entrepreneurship program among the top 50 in the United States)

A range of support options

As the RIVF invests up to $500,000 in scalable businesses, it is poised to dramatically increase the number of businesses it supports, including small start-ups that need less capital to grow. to start up.

To date, the Fund has provided more than $2.4 million to life sciences companies, more than $1.2 million to software and mobile applications companies, some $450,000 to telecommunications startups and $150,000 to food and beverage entrepreneurs.

The first recipients include:

  • HALF DAY Tonics (originally called Topos Teas), a company founded by two Rohrer College of Business alumni that produces a line of healthy tea beverages and is today sold at more than 1,400 U.S. retailers, including Target and Publix stores;
  • Express Cells, a Philadelphia-based company that uses CRISPR DNA-editing technology to create cell lines to improve drug development and biological research; and
  • MRIMatha health sciences company co-founded by Rowan’s faculty that, among other things, provides physicians with essential information on life-saving procedures such as radiation therapy and surgical therapies for brain cancer.

HALFDAY Tonics co-founder Mike Lombardo, who started the company with his Rohrer College of Commerce classmate Kayvon Jahanbakhsh, said RIVF seed funding of $75,000 was essential to get started.

“Being able to say that our university has committed $75,000 gave us a lot of credibility and made it easier to pitch to investors,” Lombardo said.

Ultimately, he said, he and Jahanbakhsh raised about $1 million in first-round funding for HALFDAY, a line of drinks with low sugar and beneficial prebiotics.

RIVF and Rowan University Foundation board member Anthony Calabrese ’78 said the Fund invests in promising companies in exchange for equity and, upon a liquidity event, such as an offering initial public or a sale, all monies earned by the Fund are reinvested to support more businesses. .

“Our goal is to support innovation at Rowan and help attract researchers, professors and students interested in developing a product or service to market,” Calabrese said.

Dr Eric Liguori, founding director of the Rowan School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said that by expanding the RIVF, Rowan has become more committed to the region’s economic future.

“The RIVF gets students, faculty, and community members with great, scalable business ideas off the ground,” Liguori said. “With $25 million, we will be able to fund a lot more.”

Venture Capital Scholarship Program

In addition to providing seed funding, the RIVF is creating a scholarship program for students to learn how venture capital funding works. With plans to begin in the spring semester of 2023, students from all majors could soon apply to be accepted into the scholarship program, an opportunity that will be especially valuable for those seeking careers in finance or the capital field. risk as well as for students who might wish to explore their own entrepreneurial ventures.

“This is an important opportunity for students wishing to gain hands-on experience in innovation, entrepreneurship and investment by supporting the Fund’s operations,” said Holtzheimer.

Apply now

The RIVF accepts and reviews applications on a rolling basis and encourages interested parties to apply online.

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