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Posted on Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

University of Michigan begins $25M 'breakthrough' startups initiative

By Kellie Woodhouse

Startups, get ready.

University of Michigan's initiative to invest $25 million of its $7.8 billion endowment into its own startups has officially begun.

The U-M Board of Regents on Thursday gave the nod to President Mary Sue Coleman's initiative and, according to Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Slottow, the investing process can begin immediately.


Timothy Slottow

Coleman announced the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups initiative in early October, much to the glee of the Michigan venture capital industry, which has been lobbying the university to fund entrepreneurial companies for years.

During the regents meeting Slottow praised U-M's investment office for "really working through this breakthrough project and fund" and said the school will "start investing as soon as we can."

He highlighted that the program was the first of its kind.

Such a program "really doesn't exist in any other universities," he said.

In a memo to regents, Slottow said the MINTS program will not only hopefully yield competitive investment results, but will also make university startups more visible.

In early October, Coleman said that U-M actually lost out on significant investment returns by not investing in its own startups sooner.

“Analysis shows that if we had, in fact, invested in these startups, the returns would have been healthy, the returns would have been competitive with our VC portfolio,” she said. “Simply put, University of Michigan startups are a good financial opportunity."

The university produces an exceptionally high number of entrepreneurial companies each year. The Tech Transfer Office, the university entity that commercializes intellectual property created by faculty members, facilitated 11 startup companies in fiscal 2011, 10 startups in fiscal 2010 and eight in fiscal 2009.

In the last 11 years. the office has spawned a total of 104 startups.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Erick Bzovi

Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

this is only the beginning!


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Potential or real conflict of interest between university educational goals/research and "big" money business. Probably best to start slow, especially since such a program "really doesn't exist in any other universities" . You might wonder why, is it because all the other universities just "don't get it". Personally I hope it works out and will be expanded.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Why only $25 million of its $7.8 billion endowment? I thought that U of M had some real smart students and faculty, in fact they have a whole group working on technology transfer? Why not more, Venture Capitalist get an extremely high rate of return when they invest in the right companies? This could reduce the cost of school and provide a lot more money for other things the school needs. Come on U of M, jump in with both feet!

The Picker

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

Way to go ! This is great news ! One of these ventures is going to strike gold ( another Google / Microsoft / Cisco ect. ) and the Michigan taxpayers will be able to reap their just rewards as shareholders, in the form of true public education, regardless of their financial station in life. This is when government works.