Electrical and Computer Engineering

WIMS Seminar

Creating Venture Capital Backed Companies Based on University Research

Mr. Tony Grover
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Mr. Tony Grover,
Managing Director,
RPM Ventures,
Ann Arbor, MI

The highly publicized success of Stanford University spinout Google, coupled with industry shifting leading-edge innovative research towards government funded projects, has fueled interest in the commercialization of University research. Investigators based at Midwest institutions, whether tenured faculty or PhD candidates, with aspirations of commercializing research face many challenges in this process. Unlike the Bay Area (Stanford, Berkeley) or Boston (MIT), there aren’t large numbers of University colleagues who have experience starting companies, there aren’t opportunities for regular interaction with Venture Capitalists, and the area is missing ecosystem elements and infrastructure that support and encourage entrepreneurship.

While hurdles exist, there are many activities that are directly under an Investigator’s control that can be completed during the research process from as early as the initial grant phase that will increase the chances of successfully raising Venture Capital funds and attracting world class entrepreneurial talent. Many of these aspects can take what some see as a geographic disadvantage and instead create the foundation of a successfully Venture Capital backed company.

This seminar will provide insights into: 1) key activities and considerations during the research process for an Investigator interested in commercializing his/her research, 2) background on Venture Capitalists and what constitutes a “VC-backable” opportunity, 3) details on the Venture Capital investment process, and 4) expectations Venture Capitalists have of their portfolio companies, founders, and management and how those expectations affect the Investigator founders.

Tony is managing director of RPM Ventures, a seed and early-stage venture capital firm based in Ann Arbor, MI. At RPM, Tony is involved on the boards of FLX Micro, a developer of advanced MEMS sensors based upon silicon carbide microfabrication; Nextumi, provider of an online content sharing platform powered by unique genetic algorithms; VizionWare, designer and manufacturer of digital interconnect cables based on novel EMI reduction technology for digital audio/video entertainment; and Mobius Microsystems, a leader in CMOS system-on-chip technology with a focus on integration of semiconductor components onto a single chip. Tony was co-founder of Promotum, an Internet-based marketing company that obtained seed capital from a joint venture between Intel Corporation and SAP. He was responsible for day-to-day operations and technical development. Tony also serves on the advisory boards of the University of Michigan Frankel Commercialization Fund and the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative (MUCI) Challenge Fund, a pre-seed fund that provides awards to commercialization projects at Michigan Universities. Tony received finance, engineering and manufacturing experience serving as a business and cost analyst with Intel Corporation and as a manufacturing engineer for Cummins Engine Company. He holds a B.S. in ME from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in IE from Purdue University, and an MBA from Northwestern University.

Sponsored by

WIMS ERC Seminar Series