$20 Million NYU Venture Capital Fund To Support Student Startups

As the much-buzzed about Diaspora, an NYU student-led project created to offer a privacy-oriented Facebook alternative, continues to take shape, NYU seems to have perfectly timed their move to offer support to similar startups. This school year marks the beginning of the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, a $20 million fund designed “to spur the commercialization of technologies developed at NYU and to provide seed funding for startup companies based on those technologies.” I sat down with Frank Rimalovski (pictured), Managing Director of the NYU Venture Fund, to learn more about the program and what exactly it’s doing to encourage entrepreneurship at NYU.

Rimalovski told me NYU has been highly successful with technology transfer — external licensing of patented technologies discovered by students and professors at NYU — and believes there is potential for those students to create their own startups. However, the infrastructure and support necessary hasn’t existed in the past. So, the Venture Fund was created to enable student and faculty-led startups to see the light of day. He hopes the Venture Fund will “create a whole generation of Dennis Crowleys.”

Through the Venture Fund, Frank believes NYU will be a more attractive place for both students and faculty to come, which will make the university better, which will attract more excellent students and faculty — generating a “virtuous circle.”

A section of NYU’s website will be developed as a hub for students interested in entrepreneurship (it is currently a basic information page, but the full version should be ready by Thanksgiving), highlighting success stories of NYU startups; promising research; a way to apply to the Venture Fund; a listing of entrepreneurship courses offered; and various blogs, newsletters, and resources available at NYU and in NYC. A mentorship program is in the works to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with experienced ones who can guide and coach them through the process of getting their startup off the ground.

One issue I brought up was the geographic separation of NYU-Poly in Brooklyn and the School of Medicine in Midtown from the Washington Square Campus. Rimalovski recognizes the problem — the launch of the Technological Venture Competition was the first step in bringing the schools together.

Most impressive, in my opinion, is Rimalovski’s goal to connect NYU’s entrepreneurship-focused clubs, such as Tech@NYU and Stern’s EEG, so they can share ideas and resources as well as collaborate on programs. Tech@NYU’s founder Trevor Owens has been granted a fellowship with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), which has given him funding to create cross-school initiatives to promote and teach entrepreneurship.

While the first investments from the Venture Fund won’t begin until 2011, people have already begun to reach out to Rimalovski about their ideas. So if you’ve got an idea for a startup, be sure to get in touch with him ASAP — his contact info can be found in the NYU Public Directory here. He is also looking for feedback on the program and NYU Entrepreneurship site — let him know if there’s anything you’d like to see in the future!

Frank Rimalovski can be found on Twitter at @rimalovski.

For more information on the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, check out NYU’s Innovation Venture Fund press release.

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