Musician and entrepreneur Paul Anthony Troiano wants to make it rain for student entrepreneurs at the University of Oregon.
Troiano — the founder of Rumblefish, a music technology company that handles music licensing for video makers around the globe — has committed more than $300,000 to start the Paul Anthony Troiano RAINMaker Fund. It will provide seed money for student entrepreneurs.
Troiano founded his company in a UO dorm room in 1996, and he’s never forgotten both the difficulties that he encountered and the help that he received at a critical time from the then-dean of the Lundquist College of Business.
“Learning how to build a business while going to school was a real challenge,” Troiano told the university in announcing his donation. “As a student entrepreneur, resources, guidance and coaching were hard to find and you felt like the only available option was to go it alone.”
As he struggled to find resources, a key person in the development of his company stepped in at a critical time. Phil Romero, head of the business school, made a $5,000 investment in Rumblefish.
Today, Rumblefish has more than 75 million songs licensed and a global client list that includes YouTube, adidas and every major U.S. television network.
Troiano recently sold the company to SESAC, a Nashville-based performance rights company held by Rizvi Traverse, a private investment firm. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Rizvi Traverse says it typically invests “from $25 million to over $1 billion” in established companies in “high-growth, high potential industries.”
Troiano, who will continue to head Rumblefish as chief executive officer for its new owners, decided it was time to pay Romero’s investment forward. He is hoping that the $300,000 he is donating will be only the start, and that other donors will join him.
“I encountered a lot of friction in my experience as a student-entrepreneur,” he said.
“I’d like the RAINMaker Fund to play a part in removing that friction, and I encourage other alumni to make additional contributions to the fund in order to magnify the impact for student-entrepreneurs.”
In 2015, the fund, which will operate within the framework of the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network in Eugene, will be providing $5,000 in seed funding — the same amount Romero invested in Troiano — to up to five student entrepreneurs to help launch their companies.
The students — mostly juniors, seniors and graduate students — also will receive coaching, mentoring and other help.
“These aren’t grants designed for students who are solely book smart, there are plenty of incentives to have a great (grade-point average),” Troiano said. “The RAINMaker Fund rewards and encourages student-entrepreneurs who demonstrate true entrepreneurial talent by proactively starting a business.”
Joe Maruschak, a successful entrepreneur who now heads the RAIN business accelerator in Eugene, described the RAINMaker Fund and Troiano’s commitment, as “super important.”
“One of the things a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem needs is people ‘giving back,’ ” Maruschak said. “The RAINMaker fund is a great example of how to give back, and I hope that others follow that example.
“For the recipients, I think it is fantastic. At that point in a career, an individual is faced with a choice, get a ‘real job’ or pursue a crazy idea that might change the world. Most of those ideas are crazy and won’t work, but a few will.
“Programs like the RAINMaker fund make it possible for people to explore the possibility of that world-changing idea. We need more wild and world changing ideas. We need more programs that encourage those that are willing, to try to make that idea a reality.”
“The RAINMaker Fund will offer promising students the resources they need to jump start their careers as entrepreneurs,” said Patrick Jones, associate vice president for research and innovation at the university.
A selection committee will evaluate applications on a variety of factors, including the soundness of the concept, scalability and ability to launch, as well as the quality of the founding team and their willingness to participate in local activities that advance new companies.
Grants can be used for a broad variety of purposes, including creating prototype designs, renting co-working space, and supporting an individual or a team.
Up to five awards will be made prior to June 1. Applications will be assessed through two rounds of applications. The deadline for the first round is Jan. 16; for the second, April 17.