The secret ingredient to building a robust investment fund for startups might just be Badger pride. That’s the idea behind a new venture capital fund called Bascom Ventures, anyway.
The 10-week-old endeavor is fundraising from University of Wisconsin alumni to create a pool of millions of dollars to go toward startups with UW alumni at the helm. The fund’s managing partner, Greg Baker, said that the idea is to keep alums connected with their alma mater.
He characterized it as “an opportunity to follow what other Badgers are doing,” as well as an opportunity to simply give a promising venture a boost.
“(Badgers) like helping each other,” he said.
He said that aspect of Wisconsin culture is why he’s confident Bascom Ventures will outstrip other alumni funds that exist around the U.S. Indeed, the premise of an alumni-centered venture capital fund is nothing new. Bascom Ventures is part of Launch Angels Management, a private equity firm that manages other such funds at elite colleges and universities like Dartmouth, MIT and Yale.
The company’s lead manager, Mike Collins, is a former Madisonian, as is Baker.
Baker has already found some solid support for Bascom Ventures. Through advertising on and searching through LinkedIn, he’s found 50 people who signed on to invest since the fund launched this spring. Thousands of others have signed on not as investors, but as mentors or advisors for startups. The target, he said, is to sign on 99 new partners to invest in the fund and invest in 15-25 new companies every year.
Yet the University of Wisconsin is a top-tier school for business and entrepreneurship, Baker asserted, pointing to reports that it produces some of the most Fortune 500 CEOs of any institution. He said that particularly in the fields of computer science and biotechnology, he sees a lot of promising startups coming from the school’s alums.
Building a successful portfolio with those companies is a major priority for Baker. The people who have signed on to the project may be motivated by school pride, but making money is still the bottom line.
“There’s a segment of the world that’s driven by their investments in social impact,” he acknowledged. “And there will be a segment of partners that will be OK with a slightly smaller return. But it’s such a small group that I won’t be counting on that.”
For now, the fund is still raising capital. However, Baker predicts that the fund will make begin choosing the first companies for its portfolio this month.