University of California Is Putting Money Into an Alumni VC Fund

September 12, 2016, 4:49 PM UTC
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In this photo taken Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, late light falls on Sproul Hall behind the Sather Gate on the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif. This famously liberal college town is known as the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, but speech isn’t the only thing that’s free here. Whether you’re strolling the redwood-shaded University of California, Berkeley, campus, or slipping across the Oakland border for a dose of Golden State history, you can exercise your limbs and your intellect without giving your wallet a workout. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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The University of California is giving its student entrepreneurs a big endorsement.

During a scheduled public meeting of its regents’ finance committee on Friday, the school revealed that it has invested into the House Fund, a young $6 million fund. The fund, established by UC Berkeley alumnus Jeremy Fiance, focuses on very early stage startups founded by UC Berkeley alumni.

“We couldn’t be more excited to work with the University of California,” Fiance told Fortune via email. “This partnership enables us to align with the one of the world’s top university systems, collaborate to strengthen its ecosystem, and equip our startups with its tremendous resources, while still operating like a startup to support Berkeley founders and help them build the foundations for great businesses.”

The investment into the House Fund is part of UC Ventures, an initiative from the University of California to invest $25 million from its endowment into small local funds focused on companies affiliated with its university campuses across California. Though terms of the investment were not shared, it should be no more than $3 million, according to UC Ventures’ website.

Fiance also announced during Friday’s meeting that two UC Berkeley alumni and successful entrepreneurs are joining his fund as part-time partners. Jason Wang, co-founder and CEO of food delivery app Caviar (acquired by Square for $100 million), and Brett Wilson, founder and CEO of TubeMogul, a publicly traded advertising software company, will help advise the fund’s portfolio companies, as well as help vet new potential investments.

“TubeMogul wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Berkeley—we started the company on campus,” said Wilson in a statement. “I look forward to mentoring the next generation of Berkeley founders as part of The House Fund.”

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Fiance came up with the idea for the fund while a student at UC Berkeley. He ventured into entrepreneurship himself but quickly realized that his university’s startup community lacked a unified community, a strong culture that encourages students to pursue entrepreneurship, and a clear path and resources to make that possible. While still a student, he helped start Free Ventures, which provides student entrepreneurs with regular guidance and even academic credits so they don’t feel like they’re sidelining their studies. He’s also involving fellow alumni: some of the investors in his fund are UC Berkeley graduates.

Though he prefers not to turn into a competition with age-old rival Stanford on the other side of the Bay Area, it’s hard not to compare the two. Stanford’s brand is strongly associated with startups, and local investors and entrepreneurs flock to the school to help guide students interested in entrepreneurship and technology. The school even has its own startup accelerator program.

Two weeks ago, Fiance helped unveil an additional piece of his vision for UC Berkeley’s startup community: The House, a new office space near the university campus. In the 7,000 square-foot space, students, alumni, and faculty will be able to access various startup resources. The new center is funded by a $2 million philanthropic fund, and managed by another UC Berkeley alumnus, Cameron Baradar. Fiance’s venture capital fund will also contribute some of its carry, or profits, to fund The House as a way to continue to reinvest into UC Berkeley’s startup community.

Of course, Fiance and his fund still need to show returns, and as Forbes pointed out in April, university-focused funds only work if they do, regardless of the level of school spirit.

Fiance plans to invest in about 50 companies out of his $6 million and has already invested in several, including Lily (a drone with a camera), Instant eSports (a news site for competitive gaming), and Superhuman (an upcoming email service).

Fiance declined to disclose how many investments he’s made so far.

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