The University of Missouri System wants to invest in entrepreneurs and startups, and it wants to cultivate that venture capital in Missouri.
On Thursday, the UM System Board of Curators voted to allocate money from the university’s general pool — with a $5 million cap — to the Accelerator Fund, run by the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia. The accelerator will provide money and mentoring to startups in Missouri.
The Accelerator Fund was one item on the agenda for the curators’ two-day fall meeting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The curators also discussed retirement benefits, audit reports and the financial status report for the 2015 fiscal year.
UM System President Tim Wolfe, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, General Counsel Steve Owens and Board of Curators student representative Tracy Mulderig joined the public meeting.
The $5 million makes up 0.3 percent of the UM System’s general pool, which includes the university’s cash and reserves. The money will not be a direct investment into companies themselves but into the Accelerator Fund, meant to help startups get off the ground.
“The problem is that there’s something called the ‘valley of death,'” said Hank Foley, UM executive vice president of academic affairs, research and development. “The valley of death is … that gap between that new company and pre-revenue, and where it needs to get to, essentially as an entity that can gather capital.”
The accelerator would bring together funding and expertise to help entrepreneurs overcome the valley of death so their companies can generate profit.
“All of this aligns with our strategic planning, both in terms of leveraging system resources to support campus strengths but also to try and drive up entrepreneurship, innovation, job growth,” Foley said.