Already a perennial leader in start-up formation, the University of Utah’s Technology Commercialization Office recently began employing crowdfunding to help build even more value in their spin outs. The office has entered an exclusive agreement with New York-based crowdfunding platform RocketHub and created a new crowdfunding web portal called University Tech Vault.
The program kicked off on January 1 with four university-specific crowdfunding campaigns, and the Tech Vault is open to any university that wants to post its crowdfunding campaigns. According to Matthew H. Gardner, a TCO business development associate, approximately 10 additional universities have expressed an interest so far.
Gardner says the crowdfunding model can provide immediate feedback and a funding “lift,” ultimately advancing more technologies more quickly — and rapidly determining a project’s viability. “We help a great number of companies get to market; however, the money a company could raise through the University Tech Vault can be extremely helpful to new business ventures that might not otherwise attract funding,” he says.
RocketHub’s co-founder Alon Hillel-Tuch expects a major impact from the linkage with the university. “This partnership is helping to drive further crowdfunding innovation,” he says.
Gardner acknowledges the many unknowns still surrounding crowdfunding with the SEC continues to delay implementing rules for non-accredited investors, and that’s one big reason the university affiliated with RocketHub. “They are at the forefront in these new developments, and their role in working closely with the SEC and with the investment and commercial sector in this process will help ensure the process goes well,” Gardner notes. If the SEC rules are encouraging, crowdfunding “could augment or even replace the role these companies are currently dependent on angel investment to play,” he adds.