Innovation and Investors Will Converge at U.Va. for Second Annual Venture Summit

March 19, 2010

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Marian Anderfuren:

March 19, 2010 — The University of Virginia, which last year hosted a summit that brought together venture capitalists representing nearly $20 billion in active capital funds, will hold its Second Annual Venture Summit on March 25 and 26.

"The University of Virginia has rapidly become a global destination for technology-based venture creation," Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, said. "The U.Va. Venture Summit is a unique event that attracts the nation's leading investors to collaborate directly with thought-leaders in frontier research being done at U.Va.

"This collaboration is essential to our collective efforts to stimulate innovation, which produces economic growth, jobs and social good."
Among the guests will be Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., a former governor, entrepreneur and investor; and U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Charlottesville.

A panel of prominent venture capitalists will offer a "window on the future" of technology investing. J. Stephan Dolezalek of VantagePoint Venture Partners will lead the panel in discussing the innovation expected to produce significant economic and social gains in the clean tech, biotechnology and information technology industries.

Panelists also include leading venture capitalists A.G.W. "Jack" Biddle III of Novak Biddle Venture Partners, J. Sanford "Sandy" Miller of Institutional Venture Partners and Robert Paull of Lux Capital, as well as Frank Levinson, experienced entrepreneur and founder of Small World Group. A founding partner in the U.Va. Venture Summit, Chuck Newhall of New Enterprise Associates, who is regarded as one of the visionary creators of the U.S. venture capital industry, will also participate in the summit.

More than 100 venture capitalists in attendance will also see presentations from four U.Va. start-ups and five student entrepreneur teams, with live feedback from experienced investors Kathryne Carr of Tall Oaks Capital Partners, Kevin Greene of Valhalla Partners, Adair B. Newhall of Domain Associates and Carl Showalter of Opus Capital. A number of networking sessions will offer opportunities for innovators and investors to build relationships.

The summit, Skalak said, is an illustration of how universities, and U.Va. in particular, have become the primary engine of innovation, based on the fundamental research produced at university laboratories.

Robert F. Bruner, dean of U.Va.'s Darden School of Business, said such entrepreneurial activity is critical to economic recovery.

"As the difficulties of recovery from the recent economic crisis show, our ability to restore growth and create jobs depends vitally on entrepreneurs and the invention of new products and services," he said. "This summit goes right to the heart of that challenge and is the kind of contribution to recovery that a university is ideally suited to make."

Another concern, said Carl Zeithaml, dean of U.Va.'s McIntire School of Commerce, is America's standing as a driver of innovation.

"We face serious and growing challenges," he said. "The strategic application of venture capital will be essential to building new firms and developing cutting-edge technologies.

"The Second Annual U.Va. Venture Summit promises to be an outstanding event, bringing together the academic and business arenas to examine these challenges, identify creative solutions and explore ways in which academia and venture capitalists can work together to bring about those solutions."

Warner will participate via videoconference in a special session, titled "Government Policy, Entrepreneurship and the Financing of Innovation," on March 25 at 10:30 a.m. in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. 

The event, sponsored by the Darden School and its Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will begin with a discussion between Warner and Bruner. A panel of academic experts will further explore the implications of government policy for venture capital firms and their portfolio companies, as well as the promotion of innovation.

"Since joining Congress, I've focused on bipartisan efforts to revive the economy by updating our oversight of Wall Street and supporting our small businesses," Warner said. "U.Va.'s Venture Summit and this special session on venture capital can play a valuable role in the ongoing discussion about how we design effective and workable 'rules of the road' as we move forward."

Perriello will kick off the summit via videoconference, joining a panel discussion on energy on March 25 at 9 a.m. in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.

"The central and southern Virginia region is ripe with potential to become the clean energy capital of the nation," Perriello said. "We have farmers, entrepreneurs and researchers who are ready to collaborate and develop U.S. energy independence. The U.Va. Venture Summit offers a unique opportunity for venture capitalists to explore the potential of this burgeoning industry in Virginia, and help turn that vision into reality."

The future of energy will be a theme of the summit, which will include presentations by U.Va. thought-leaders on "Design Thinking for a Clean Tech Future" as well as "Biotech: The Systems Approach" and "Computer Science Foundations of Future Software Advances." These presentations and a subsequent venture panel discussion will be held on March 25 at 1 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.

All six of the U.Va.-based start-up companies that were presented at the 2009 summit found funding, Skalak said. In addition, WellAWARE Systems, a company whose technological roots are at U.Va., recently received $7.5 million of growth capital from Valhalla Partners, who attended last year's summit, and .406 Ventures to further develop its monitoring system for the elderly. "Multidisciplinary translational research involving many departments at U.Va. has resulted in a high success rate for commercialization," said Robin A. Felder, U.Va. professor of pathology who directed the development of the technology.

The U.Va. Patent Foundation commercializes approximately 60 new U.Va. technologies each year through deals with industry, including many start-ups.

"Today, we're working with more and more U.Va. researchers who are starting their own companies, which is a great way to help bring these exciting new technologies to the marketplace," Miette H. Michie, executive director and CEO of the foundation, said.

"These faculty-entrepreneurs are not only advancing U.Va. discoveries, they are also contributing a significant number of local jobs, stimulating the local economy and growing Charlottesville's high-tech business community."

Following presentations by four U.Va. start-ups, students representing the Darden School, the McIntire School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine will pitch five entrepreneurial concepts in a session beginning at 9 a.m. on March 26 at Darden, room 50.

Brianne M. Warner, a first-year Darden student, is looking forward to pitching Dobro Media, a new model for journalism conceived by John J. Dowd, a Darden executive MBA student. She and Dowd will work on the concept this summer in Darden's Batten Incubator.

"The summit is a sweet opportunity for students to meet venture capitalists, pitch their ideas and learn more about other start-ups," Warner said.

All sessions are free and open to the public, and registration is required. For information, online registration and the schedule, visit the Venture Summit Web site.