ANN ARBOR — Venture capitalists will have more direct, regular access to University of Michigan startups when the Michigan Venture Capital Association opens a collaboration office at UM Tech Transfer’s Venture Accelerator, officials from MVCA and Tech Transfer have announced.
The organizations have a long history of collaboration. With state support, MVCA members have invested in many UM startups, including HandyLab and Histosonics. MVCA has 200 members from 80 firms. Many of them are come from out-of-state, and office space at the university will be particularly useful for them, said Manisha Tayal, MVCA associate director.
“Our members will get to use this office space adjacent to UM Tech Transfer to facilitate more interaction with university technologies and deal flow,” Tayal said. “It will also benefit UM Tech Transfer and their university startups, who now will have more access to our venture capitalists and angel investors.”
The new office is part of a new visitor reception area that will open in July.
Tayal and Kenneth Nisbet, executive director of UM Tech Transfer, announced the partnership at the Entrepreneurs Engage “unConference” last week. At the event, more than 200 entrepreneurs, investors and other venture partners discussed their vision for the next wave of Michigan’s entrepreneurial expansion using interactive conversations on topics proposed by attendees.
Gov. Rick Snyder addressed the gathering, complimenting UM for its contribution to the economic vitality of the region and state. A new ethos has begun to emerge here since he came back to Ann Arbor in 1997 to establish a venture capital firm, he said.
“Back then, most of the community didn’t know what a venture fund was,” Snyder said. “We hadn’t built the culture, and now it is emerging. It’s an attitude of being positive and moving toward the future together, realizing that we’re not islands. We’re a team, and we can help reinvent Michigan and reinvent America.”
Held at the UM North Campus Research Complex, the event also celebrated the progress the region has made since Pfizer vacated that very space less than five years ago. The complex is now home to UM Tech Transfer, its Venture Accelerator for startups born from UM research, the UM Business Engagement Center, and a host of interdisciplinary research groups and institutes, many in health-related fields.
Tech Transfer’s Venture Accelerator is about to get its 18th tenant, Austin, Tex.-based Ambiq, developer of ultra-low power microcontrollers. The company is opening a satellite office here to maintain closer relationships to UM research and other resources.
“We have maintained a close relationship with our faculty co-founders, and the office at the Venture Accelerator gives our co-founders a place to assist us with advanced research for the company,” said Ambiq CEO Scott Hanson. “This research will include circuit design activities for future Ambiq products and we expect to employ circuit designers in Ann Arbor in the long term.”
Ambiq spun out of research by David Blaauw and Dennis Sylvester, professors in Michigan’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. It will move into the accelerator in July, pending approval by the U-M Board of Regents.
“The Venture Accelerator was an experiment, and I’d say it’s been a grand success. We expected to reach planned capacity within about three years, so we’re a year ahead of schedule,” Nisbet said. “We’re very proud of the work being done to create exciting U-M startups that are generating jobs and economic opportunity.”
3D Biomatrix was one of the Venture Accelerator’s first tenants in early 2011. The firm makes three-dimensional hanging drop well plates that mimic the body better than today’s flat cell-growing surfaces like Petri dishes. It has been manufacturing and selling products out of the accelerator for the past six months. The technology, spun out of research by UM engineering professors Nicholas Kotov and Shuichi Takayama, helps to advance research on cancer, stem cell therapies and drug discovery.
“Besides having top of the line facilities, the accelerator is very flexible with our needs as a tenant. Tech Transfer’s Venture Center also actively helps with industry connections,” said 3D Biomatrix CEO Laura Schrader. “All of these factors are tremendously helpful to spinout companies like ours.”
During the past decade, 92 UM startups have been created. Many of them have had continued success, with follow-on venture funding and lucrative acquisitions resulting in continued job growth.