Boosted by a $250,000 federal grant, four Triangle Universities are forming the Triangle Venture Alliance which plans to work with alumni in funding startups. The alliance is the second major boost to emerging ventures in the Triangle in two days, NCSU having announced a new $1M fund and accelerator as well on Tuesday.

Duke disclosed the Triangle Venture Alliance, noting that its Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative had landed a $250,000 federal grant to provide seed funding. The grant came through the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“Seed Fund Support grants provide funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that provide equity-based investments in early-stage, innovation-based, startups that have high growth potential but that often struggle to secure funding early in their lifecycles,” the Commerce Department said in announcing a series of grants in early February.

Participating with Duke are UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and N.C. Central University.

The group aims to attract “innovation funding” by forming a network of “cooperating angel groups.”

While institutional venture capital funding rose last year in the Triangle and across North Carolina to levels not seen since the “dot com” boom daysmore than a decade ago, angel funding remains essential for startups. While angel funds such as Triangle Angels continue to do deals, the major universities are taking on more active roles in assisting ideas being spun out by internal research efforts or by alumni.

Triangle’s startup community is already booming. A report in January cited the region as being No. 1 for startups outside of Silicon Valley.

NCSU, for example, announced its new “Acceleration Fund” with a $1 million gift from alumnus Chip Andrews.

Duke launched its own angel network in 2015, and the Triangle Venture Alliance will be “modeled” on the Duke plan, the university said.

The Duke Angel Network includes more than 60 investors and has already made seven deals after reviewing more than 80. Of the investments, several are in the Triangle.

The Duke Innovation Fund can invest alongside the Duke Angels..

“Among the Triangle’s greatest resources is the innovation created by our universities — innovation that will power the knowledge economy of the coming decades,” said Eric Toone, vice provost and director of the Duke I&E. “The Triangle Venture Alliance unleashes that potential by attracting seed-stage capital that will advance those innovations toward market, enable follow-on investment, and help build a vibrant and powerful startup ecosystem.”

Added Judith Cone, vice chancellor for commercialization and economic development at UNC-CH: “The region includes multiple world-class universities, an educated and ambitious population, and a remarkably high standard of living,” said Cone. “The region is more than primed for rapid growth, and entrepreneurship will play a central role in that development.”

Noted Al Rebar, vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at NCSU: “The Triangle Venture Alliance will enable the Triangle universities to provide high-quality investment opportunities to our alumni and seed-stage capital to our startup companies.”

The alliance will included shared office support and due diligence. Toone also said he expects members to make joint investments.

Blackstone support

Helping fuel the joint Triangle effort is the Blackstone Entrepreneurship Network, which has been very active in working with the startup community over the past four years.

“The creation of the TVA continues and builds upon the cooperation between the schools developed through the Blackstone Entrepreneurship Network and demonstrates the deep commitment of all four institutions to entrepreneurship and the region,” said Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, which is the funder of BEN.

“We are excited to see this support for the region’s growing entrepreneurial community as it amplifies our Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network investment. The TVA will complement our program by providing an important source of capital to the next high-growth businesses of the region.”
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Source: 4 universities form Triangle Venture Alliance to fund startups :: Editor’s Blog at WRAL TechWire