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Triangle University Angel Networks Making First Joint Investment

By Allan Maurer, NC Biotech Writer

Angel investor networks from the Triangle’s major research universities will make their first joint investment in a medical products firm this week.

So said Joe Sinsheimer, managing director of NCSU’s Wolfpack Investor Network (WIN) in the opening mini-keynote, on angel investment in academia, at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase in Durham.

Sinsheimer said WIN’s $420,000 part of the medical products company investment closes Friday, May 12. It represents “a new level of group cooperation,” among North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, he said.

The WIN program at NCSU is only six months old and includes alumni, parents of NCSU students, and friends of the university.

NCSU has a long history of ag biotech development in animal feed, sweet potatoes, milk and more, Sinsheimer noted. “Part of the motivation of what we are doing is to connect on-campus talent with off-campus talent. “

Universities are getting into the investment business because of pressures to innovate faster, said Sinsheimer. “In this economy we’re part of, universities can’t stand still. There is more entrepreneurial talent on campus than ever and we need to help them succeed.”

Sinshemier said NCSU’s chancellor told him that half of the people the university tries to recruit ask, “What are you going to do to help me with my startup?”

One of the goals of the university angel networks is “trying to work together,” Sinshemier said. “We don’t have a great history of that.”

He said WIN is on pace to look at 120 opportunities a year, 25 percent from on campus and the other 75 percent from the university’s alumni base.

WIN currently has 52 investors and a goal of reaching 150. Sinsheimer has a meeting Friday with a large group of potential investors on the Raleigh campus.

In a second mini keynote, Jason Ornstein provided an update on SynShark, a Greensboro company developing a technology to grow and extract a valuable shark oil from tobacco plants. The Biotech Center has bootstrapped the company with loan support.

Read more about the event, and the top prize winners in the entrepreneurial "pitch" contest, here.

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