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$1M grant to drive regional economic growth

October 06, 2010

Gov. Jan Brewer awarded ASU a $1 million grant to establish Venture Catalyst at ASU, a new entrepreneurial assistance initiative to help faculty, students and companies launch new startups or accelerate existing ventures.

The $1 million grant will allow the new Venture Catalyst to double the number of entrepreneurs ASU can serve, change the focus from large group training to one-on-one mentoring, and help create jobs in Arizona by more quickly bringing university research to market application.

“Helping these small businesses grow from discovery to commercialization will fuel job creation and economic expansion,” Brewer said. “Venture Catalyst brings opportunities to connect entrepreneurs, mentors, capital and intellectual property and market research – all to advance Arizona-based innovation.”

Venture Catalyst is launching at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, where entrepreneurship experts will offer investor connections, intellectual property consulting, educational workshops, and one-on-one mentoring opportunities with established entrepreneurs and seasoned business executives. 

“Universities are uniquely able to drive job creation and economic growth by generating and commercializing scientific breakthroughs,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Venture Catalyst is the capstone on the pyramid of entrepreneurial programs and resources we have developed to aid and speed that process at Arizona State University.”

An engine of growth for Greater Phoenix

Large research universities are engines of economic growth.  Their unique assets –including intellectual capital, advanced facilities and student talent – are particularly important contributors toward the development of regional economic ecosystems where innovation-based firms can thrive.

As the only research university in metropolitan Phoenix, ASU is channeling new and growing enterprises directly into the community and advancing Arizona economic development. In fiscal year 2010, Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), ASU’s technology venturing arm, received a record 187 invention disclosures.  These inventions will provide the technology inventory for the next generation of new ASU-based ventures.

“With the growth of ASU’s research enterprise to almost $350 million in sponsored project research awards this past year, Venture Catalyst is being launched to accelerate venture development of faculty inventions and capture the entrepreneurial energy of ASU’s researchers,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., ASU’s senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development. “The robust platform of services offered by Venture Catalyst will ensure new faculty and student entrepreneurs meet success, not roadblocks, with their startups or early-stage ventures.”

A comprehensive suite of services

Venture Catalyst’s core offering is a personalized roadmap to help entrepreneurs determine the steps needed to advance from idea to market launch. The process begins with an online application and continues with an information gathering phone interview. Once the roadmap is complete, the in-house Venture Catalyst team and an extensive mentor network can be engaged to provide the tailored business services recommended in the assessment.

Students and faculty starting with early-stage venture ideas or general business startup questions can also take advantage of the program’s experienced mentors during “entrepreneur office hours,” offered to students and faculty on all ASU campuses on a rotating schedule.

“Venture Catalyst will wrap around great ideas a comprehensive suite of services that includes everything from advisers and mentors, to market research and competitive analysis, to introductions to capital sources,” said Augustine Cheng, AzTE’s managing director and chief legal officer. “Every service is customized to the specific needs of each company and entrepreneur.”

“Venture Catalyst helps innovators and entrepreneurs build their enterprise around solid market fundamentals,” said Julia Rosen, ASU associate vice president for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “ASU entrepreneurs can tap Venture Catalyst as a resource offering all of the counsel, wisdom and guidance necessary to accelerate the successful commercialization of their ideas.”

Experienced leadership

Venture Catalyst is currently managed by Charlie Lewis, a commercialization expert with more than two decades of experience as an entrepreneur and general partner for two Arizona venture capital funds. Lewis co-founded a software company after graduating from ASU and has firsthand experience with the types of challenges new ventures face.

“We want to remove a lot of the gating factors entrepreneurs deal with when trying to launch a new venture,” said Lewis, vice president of venture development at AzTE. “We don’t want ASU innovators to get bogged down in questions like: ‘How do I form my corporation or LLC? Where do I find financing?’ We’re here to help students and researchers navigate through these formational considerations.”

The Venture Catalyst advisory board is led by Tom Cain, co-founder and special general partner of Sail Venture Partners. Cain was formerly CEO of Distributed Architects International (DAI), a company he founded in Tempe while a student at ASU. Other advisory board members include successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other investors.

Venture Catalyst is jointly run by ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and AzTE. To maximize the support and resources offered to entrepreneurs, Venture Catalyst will also collaborate with other organizations, such as MIT Enterprise Forum through its Venture Ready program.   

Charlie Lewis, AzTE
(480) 884-1993

Media contact:
Derek Sarley
(480) 884-1564