The CSU Fund I LLC — a private equity investment fund formed by Colorado State University and CSU Ventures — has put money into its first company and is examining a half-dozen others for possible investment.
The fund, which closed March 31 and has about $3 million in it from both individuals and investment funds, is designed to invest in early-stage companies associated with the university. The fund’s first investment is in Prieto Battery Inc., developed by Amy Prieto, a CSU chemistry professor. The company has developed nano-based batteries that are up to 1,000 times more powerful and last 10 times longer than traditional batteries; CSU says the technology "could revolutionize the military, automobile and health care industries.”
"We’re actively looking at four others [companies], and two others are on deck,” said Mark Wdowik, president and CEO of CSU Management Corp., which manages the fund, and executive fund director for CSU Fund I. "The fund is really geared toward return on investment for investors who put money into the fund. We do a thorough analysis; we’re not in a hurry to deploy money quickly.
"It can be a research partner, a licensee, a spinout company from Colorado State, or part of a proactive joint venture that the university has pieced together to commercialize the technology,” Wdowik said of companies that will be considered for investment.
"We’re not looking for a one-trick pony, not just the megahits,” he said. "We’re looking for companies that have a chance for significant exits.”
No state money is involved in the fund. The fund also will try to help companies get money from venture capital firms, angel investors and private equity companies. CSU Fund also will work with federal agencies, such as the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, to find money for companies.
Wdowik said VCs on both coasts "are being squeezed out, because there are so many VCs. They’re coming to Colorado. They see CSU as untapped territory.”