CU Ventures, a new program and entity born out of the Batterman School of Business, looks to capitalize on new opportunities developed by Concordia faculty, staff, alumni, students, and partners.
What is a university if not a hot bed of new ideas? Concordia University Wisconsin & Ann Arbor is certainly no exception. The research conducted and brilliant minds at work on both campuses and with their partners are a frequent source of groundbreaking thought and innovation.
Sometimes, those new ideas result in genuine entrepreneurial opportunities. Helping to turn those opportunities into real-world business enterprises, and growing them with capital, mentoring, and other resources, is where CU Ventures comes in.
When a university employee or student develops a marketable idea using university resources, the idea—the “intellectual property”—belongs to that school. It’s up to the school to help then inventor, then, to figure out how to help take it to market. A university, however, is not in the best position to launch and grow a business. A partnership with CU Ventures will give the developer of the idea access to financial resources and expertise to help get the business going.
Ultimately, it’s mutually beneficial for the university and the entrepreneur, said Curt Gielow, Executive Vice President for CU Ventures.
“The inventor gets backing and support; the university, through CU Ventures, retains a financial stake in the new company,” Gielow explained. “It’s a win-win.”
“Universities are under increasing financial pressure, so they need to explore alternative revenue models and better leverage their intellectual capital, while also serving the needs of faculty, students and alumni,” said Dr. Daniel Sem, president of CU Ventures and dean of the Batterman School of Business. “That’s what this is about—and I am beyond excited to be part of forming this! I am also grateful that Concordia has proven to be a uniquely innovative and entrepreneurial university, to embrace something like this.”
Ready for Launch
Much like any other fledgling business, CU Ventures is still in the start-up stage. Gielow, as Executive Vice President, is in charge of fundraising and idea cultivation. The initial fundraising goal has yet to be met, though there are already several potential opportunities under consideration for the program.
“Currently we have at least six ventures in the works that CU Ventures has equity in, two of which I’m aggressively working on right now,” Gielow said. “They’ve come from faculty members, both of them from the School of Pharmacy.” A third venture, Estrigenix Therapeutics, was recently ranked second in the statewide Governor’s Business Plan Competition.
He’s also busy working at what he calls “friend-raising”: networking, talking up the program, getting the word out to people who might be able to help in various ways.
“I’ll talk to anybody, have coffee with anybody, I’ll just talk it up,” Gielow said. “Some people might focus on one entity or another that we’re bringing forth. Others might say they want to help the university by helping CU Ventures.”
The vision eventually includes making support from CU Ventures available to entrepreneurial alumni, as well, Gielow said.
“Because I believe that if somebody graduates from Concordia, and they get the entrepreneurial itch, and now they’re starting something, wouldn’t it be nice if they had the opportunity to go back home to their alma mater and get a little help with their venture?”
Heading the CU Ventures leadership group is a team of experienced academics and business leaders. The Rev. Dr. Roy Peterson, President of the Concordia Foundation, serves as Chairman of the Board (CU Ventures operates as a subsidiary of the foundation).
Sem, who is also a professor of both business and pharmaceutical sciences, brings an extensive business background to the mix. Before coming to Concordia, he co-founded Triad Therapeutics, which ranked in the top 10 biotech startups in the U.S. by Drug Discovery Today and was later acquired by Novartis for $60 million. He has since cofounded several other companies and is part of Milwaukee Venture Partners and Winnow Fund (investment committee observer).
“Having done my undergraduate and graduate work at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison, I saw the tremendous value that UW Research Foundation and WARF provided those institutions in commercializing discovery and innovation,” Sem commented. “CU Ventures, born only this last year, is modeled after those iconic institutions, with a similar mission, but with more of a focus on commercialization and new entity formation and growth, rather than licensing. My background in venture capital and starting companies probably gives me that unique bias, and hopefully a useful perspective that is often lacking in universities.”
As executive vice president, Gielow has a long history of leadership at Concordia, in business, and in public service. He has been a Wisconsin state representative, served as mayor of Mequon, was the founding partner of Gielow Associates, was the founding Executive Dean of the CUW School of Pharmacy, and served five fruitful years as the Campus CEO at Concordia University Ann Arbor. He now describes himself, along with Dr. Sem, as the primary “worker bee” at CU Ventures.
What that means, bottom line, is that if you’re a CUWAA student, faculty, alumni or staff member with a great idea—or a someone interested in helping solidify Concordia’s future with a tax-deductible contribution—he’s the one you want to call.
“I’ve talked to people running similar programs at other schools, and what I often hear is, ‘We have money, we just need ideas,’” Gielow said. “That’s not the case here. We have ideas in the pipeline ready to go. Once we get fully funded, it’s full speed ahead.”
If you are interested in learning more about or helping to fund CU Ventures, contact Curt Gielow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at email@example.com or 262-243-4380.
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