DETROIT – When the next breakthrough technology is conceived on a university campus, pondered over in a late-night study session or discovered in a laboratory, its inventor will have a better reason to stay connected to the Detroit area.
The Warrior Fund, a new pre-seed investment fund launched this month at Wayne State University with backing from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MIIE), is poised to spur innovation among Wayne State University students.
The fund aims to support student start-ups and nurture novel technologies created at Wayne State. It will attract student entrepreneurs of varying backgrounds and empower them to build bold ideas and explore technology-based business opportunities. The $25,000 fund will invite WSU student teams to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges. The result will be five to 10 teams of students being awarded up to $5,000 in startup capital.
Potential student entrepreneurs will be guided by a Warrior Fund committee that includes Andrew Olson, commercialization principal at WSU; Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator of the Blackstone LaunchPad at WSU; and William Volz, professor of business law and ethics at WSU’s School of Business Administration and executive director of WSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad. They, along with guest “investors” from the regional venture capital community and other WSU advisors and community leaders, will advise student teams by guiding them through a practice pitch session before they formally present their ideas.
The practice sessions will offer student teams valuable information not only for pitching their ideas for the Warrior Fund, but also for searching for future opportunities. “We’re getting talented young people prepared to pitch to the venture capital community and seek additional funding,” says Agee.
“There are many resources available for entrepreneurs, but having the ability to provide funds and knock down barriers is the most important of all,” Olson says. “Student entrepreneurs are gifted at doing more with less, and it is critical that we leverage this can-do attitude while helping start companies that can thrive and grow right here in Detroit.”
The idea to provide a localized entrepreneurship resource to young innovators grew from a collaboration between WSU’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the Blackstone LaunchPad at WSU. The Blackstone LaunchPad, the result of a partnership between the Blackstone Charitable foundation and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, focuses on teaching students how to translate their ideas into business opportunities.
“Participating in the Warrior Fund will give students knowledge that will help make their businesses more successful in the future,” Volz says. “This is a great opportunity for our students who have great ideas but need some help getting started.”