AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has announced the formation of a new venture fund to support innovation and entrepreneurship by its faculty, students and alumni as well as the commercialization of technologies developed as the result of university research.
The Maroon Venture Partners Fund I LP is another step in the university’s broad strategy to increase entrepreneurial activities and job creation in the Pioneer Valley. Daily operations will be overseen by Charles Johnson, associate director of the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst. Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has named the fund’s five-person investment committee that includes Johnson as well as university alumni with extensive investment and entrepreneurial operating experience.
Subbaswamy observed, “UMass Amherst, as the Commonwealth’s flagship, plays a crucial role in the state’s innovation economy. Our research in fields such as applied life sciences, advanced manufacturing, food science, big data and climate science are internationally recognized. The ingenuity and expertise of our faculty and students, as well as our alumni, provide fertile opportunities for private and university investment to jointly enrich our economic future.”
Johnson said, “We expect the fund to be a significant catalyst for entrepreneurship throughout the UMass Amherst community, and it also provides great opportunities for student engagement.” He noted that the fund’s investment committee will serve on a volunteer basis and amounts that would otherwise be paid as compensation to the fund’s managers will be donated to UMass Amherst.
The fund is a for-profit, return-on-investment driven venture fund that is expected to make about 12 to 15 early stage investments in UMass Amherst-linked companies. It has raised $1.5 million to date including $1 million committed by alumnus Paul Manning of Charlottesville, Va., and $500,000 invested by the university. Additional investments are being accepted through June 15. Individuals interested in supporting the fund will have the option of investing for their own accounts or donating funds to UMass Amherst for the university to invest in the fund.
UMass Amherst will provide bookkeeping and other back-office support through a services agreement, and KPMG LLP, an audit, tax and advisory firm, will provide pro bono tax advice.
Johnson, who joined UMass Amherst in 2015, brings extensive financial and legal experience to managing the fund. Previously, he was a partner at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston and a member of the firm’s executive committee. He also served as chair of the firm’s business and technology practice and has more than 30 years of experience as a business lawyer. At Isenberg, he also serves as a clinical associate professor, teaching classes on entrepreneurial finance and startups.