Drexel University is getting into early-stage venture capital. The school announced Monday the creation of “Drexel Ventures,” a new program designed to incubate and fund new technologies developed by faculty, students and alumni.
The goal is to do a better job of transforming chalkboard ideas into marketable products.
“This initiative will ensure that the Drexel community continues to fuel innovations in Greater Philadelphia and beyond for decades to come,” Drexel President John Fry said in a statement.
Drexel has moved hard into entrepreneurship in recent months. In January, the university announced the formation of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship.
The new Drexel Ventures initiative comes as part of the school’s strategic plan to create an “innovation nexus” at its University City campus. The aim is to boost the local economy by keeping local innovations local.
“This is very important to us,” Fry told reporters Monday. “Too much talent has fled the greater Philadelphia region for Boston and San Francisco. It’s sort of heartbreaking.”
The school thinks Drexel Ventures can help mend that heartbreak.
Part incubator, part commercial fast-tracking program, it also includes seed funding for Drexel ideas that might become viable businesses.
“We’re not venture capitalists. We don’t want to replicate what venture capitalists are already doing. We don’t have the expertise and we don’t have the capital,” said Fry, explaining the program’s early-stage approach.
“What we do have is a part of the market pre-venture capital that’s not being served,” Fry added. “What we’re trying to do, basically, is get into that space.”
Fry says there’s no details yet on how much that will cost. He says the school is in the early stages of identifying an endowment for the program of roughly $10 million to $20 million.
The school has already identified $600,000 for a similar proof-of-concept program around entrepreneurial ideas in the bioengineering department. The five winners of that contest will each take home $50,000 to $100,000 in funding later this month.
The forthcoming Drexel Ventures program is envisioned as a “one-stop shop” for both early-stage startups and outside investors. Fry says it will play a key role in securing Drexel’s place as an innovation hotspot for the Philadelphia region.